Article writing tips, techniques, strategies

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Barely-Breathing Headline

You have two seconds to get all you want from your Classified Ad and this lies in your headline. Your headline will get people to read further and click, sign up, order, register, subscribe, or take action that eventually leads to a sale. Knowing this as fact, if you had just two seconds to seize everything you’ve ever wanted in sales, would you know what to write?

Most of us would not. Skillful writers or wordsmiths hold the real power in sales. They are the speechwriters, journalists, novelists, advertising copywriters and the like. And if we had one at our beck and call, we might submit our barely breathing headlines and watch as they perform open heart surgery by merely changing some of our words.

People are moved by words; poets have known this for centuries. Certain phrases or words create strong mental pictures in our minds. Mentally we are always busy. We never stop thinking even in sleep. If you can raise a question with your headline that drives your reader to look for the answer, then you’re going to get them to read the body of your copy.

It’s not the product or service that inspires the customer’s desire for it. Rather it’s the anticipation, the feeling that they will experience as a result of owning it. Therefore, stop describing all the wonderful features. Instead paint a mental picture of how their life will change once they have the benefit of using it.

Campbell Soup gave us a simple mental image with, “Mmm mm good”. That mental image has worked for millions of buyers. Avis convinces us “We try harder” so when we think of renting a car, we first think Avis. I know many guys who only wear Levi jeans and in particular “501 Blues”. Wendy’s tells us it’s okay to be square. These are all mental images that endure.

Someone coined the phrase ‘sell the sizzle, not the steak’; a great example of mental imaging. If you’re not advertising a mental image, you probably have a barely-breathing headline. It matters little how grand the text of the ad is, no one will get that far. In simple math -- you lose 10 to 100 times the cost of your product in the time you spend creating your headline.

Do You Make These Mistakes In English? Here’s a title that offers a direct challenge. The hook is in the word “these” and it compels you to investigate. Do I make these mistakes you might ask yourself? And if so, there seems to be a promise of help if you do. Eliminating the word “these” would not force a reader to inquire further.

Compare these two headlines for appeal -- We’ll Help You Make More Money or, We’ll Help You Pay Your Rent. The lesson here is the magnetic use of the specific. A monthly obligation is fixed and distinct in the mind. “More Money” is just too general.

“Free” is, of course, a rather trite and moss-covered word. Yet no one has come up with a substitute for it that is equally as strong or less blatant. It still works for virtually everyone, but if you are aiming at professional or more affluent prospects you might think of replacing it with “complementary”.

Each day we are subjected to hundreds of ads on television, billboards, store fronts, and just about anywhere we turn. Ad agencies refer to this continual rush of advertising as “noise”. Small wonder we have become immune to advertising. The only ones we take particular interest in are the ones that rise above the “noise”. Many do this with comedy.

David Ogilvy will be best remembered for his famous Rolls Royce copy: At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in the new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock”. Notice that a long headline that really says something is much, much better than a short headline that says nothing.

Incidentally, when engineers back at the Rolls Royce factory read Ogilvy’s copy, their response was: “We really must do something about that darn clock”.

© 2005 Esther Smith

Smith publishes a syndicated weekly Newsletter. She is a Profit Masters Team Director: and sells Webucation from her website: and coaches anyone wishing financial independence with a home business.


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