What headlines are likely to work in 2011
A legend in advertising, David Ogilvy, said “On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sell your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money.”
Another master copywriter, John Caples (a creator of the classic “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano”) said: “What decides whether or not you stop a moment and look at an advertisement, or even read a little of it? The headlines”.
In his classic, Breakthrough Advertising, Gene Schwartz says: “You have only one glance of the reader’s eye to stop him. He is preoccupied he is not looking for your product or your message — the span of his attention will admit only one thought to penetrate his indifference during that glance.”
Using powerful headlines is important to your click-throughs, conversions and sales. The question is what headlines are likely to work in 2011 and what ones you should stay away from…
Every time I’m in a bookshop I go to my favourite sections in the store looking for latest titles. I have a simple rule, if a book keeps my interest for at least two minutes, I will buy it. Usually, I know within the first sixty seconds or so whether the book is of any value to me. I simply read the title and subtitle and see who the author is.
Then I read the short description on the back cover, quickly scan the testimonials and endorsements. If I’m still interested I will scan the contents page and pick a few pages at random to see whether the theme and core message is consistent with the title and the brief description on the back cover.
If it is and I’m still interested I will read the author’s profile to determine his/her credibility. Now I have never consciously thought about this process before until today but here’s the thing… what starts the process is the title.
If the title (headline) is of no interest then chances of me going through it again are slim.
Claude Hopkins, a copywriting master, wrote this in his all time classic, Scientific Advertising, “Headlines on ads [or titles on books] are like headlines on news items. Nobody reads a whole newspaper. One is interested in financial news, one in political, one in society, one in cookery, one in sports, etc. There are whole pages in any newspaper which we may never scan at all. Yet other people might turn directly to those pages. We pick out what we wish to read by headlines, and we don’t want those headlines misleading.”
Truth is that we pick out what we wish to read by headlines and, as Mr. Hopkins commented, we don’t want those headlines misleading. It’s fair to say that unless your headlines are spot on you will struggle to make lots of sales in 2011 and beyond. So, how can you figure what are the best headlines for you to use in your ads and sales letters?
Dick Benson says it best: “There are two rules – and two rules only – in direct marketing. Rule 1: Test Everything. Rule 2: See Rule 1.” So, really, there is no way of knowing which headlines will work for any particular market. However, there is a way to find out what headlines are very likely to improve your sales and online results, and that’s what I want to share with you today.
Gene Schwartz says: just like “memorizing theories won’t make you a scientist, or studying charts won’t make you a market wizard, or rewriting somebody else’s headlines won’t make you a copy writer. What will work? Innovation, of course. Continuous, repeated innovation. A steady stream of new ideas—fresh new solutions to new problems. Created—not by the impossible route of memory— but by analysis.”
I think you need to thoroughly analyse your product, market and competitors before you even put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and start working on your headlines… let’s see how you could do that.
Analyse your product
You need to dissect your product to understand what benefits (both tangible and otherwise) it offers to a prospective client. You need to do this even if you think you know the product inside out. Even if you have created the product from scratch yourself. There are no shortcuts here. You simply need to do your homework by taking your product under a microscope, so to speak, and noting every feature, every little detail down. You might think this is a very time consuming and you’re right. It is. Probably way more than you think. That’s why you hire a copywriter to do this for you!
Analyse the market
You need to figure what single overwhelming desire exists today in the hearts and minds of millions of people who are actively seeking to satisfy it at this very moment. And understand how your product or service satisfies that desire better, faster and cheaper than anything else out there. It is very unlikely that your product will have all three, however, if you can help your clients achieve an outcome that’s important to them, and you can do it faster or cheaper or better then you might have a winner. You should also figure how many other products have been presented to your target audience before yours? That determines your market’s level of sophistication and what offers they no longer respond to.
Analyse the Competition
Your competition might be totally out of tune with the market. Chances are they all parrot the same thing. Make the same promises. Offer the same benefits. Use the same advertising mediums to attract clients. However, if you’re good, then you might find a few gold nuggets by studying and researching the offers, claims and promises made by your competition. That may give you some insight into what works with the market or how your offer and copywriting need to be different.
As Gene Schwartz says the “headline is the bridge between your prospect and your product. It touches your prospect at the point of awareness that he has arrived at today.”
By studying the market and your competition you should better understand what your prospect’s point of awareness is right now. Remember, unless you’re a true pioneer, your prospect has already seen similar offers to yours. If he is aware of your product and knows what such a product can do for him then your headline can focus on your product. If he has absolutely no idea of what your product is about, if he knows very little about it, but has a strong desire to remove a pain or achieve a goal then your headline should focus on that desire.
Remember, if your headline misses the point the rest of your message is near irrelevant!