When you scan the morning paper, how do you decide which articles to read and which to ignore? I bet it's the headlines. A great headline hooks you in and keeps you reading. A ho-hum headline will, at best, get a polite "so what?"
It's the same with the headline in your sales or marketing piece. It has to promise your reader something she needs or wants, and create such excitement and curiosity in her that she just can't avoid reading on. It doesn't matter how punchy or grabby the rest of your copy is, if your headline doesn't get her attention quickly (within 3 seconds) she's gone, maybe forever.
Here are a few ideas to help you craft attention- getting headlines:
The format you use depends on your product or service and the target market you're writing for. Think about which approach is most likely to appeal to them.
- Build your headline around your biggest benefit. Show how your product or service can solve a problem for the reader.
- Create a mystery with the headline so that you arouse curiosity and make the reader want to read on to find the solution.
- Use figures or statistics. Odd numbers work better than even. Percentages are also good.
- Rephrase a well-known saying or quote.
- Ask a question the answer to which points to, guess what? Your product or service.
An idea I picked up from master copywriter Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero is to set a timer for 20 minutes and brainstorm on paper as many different headlines as you can. Don't stop to edit or evaluate. Use the format suggestions above to light your creative spark. Go all out. Dump all your ideas on the page, no matter how wacky they may seem. When the timer goes off at 20 minutes, stop. Go back and review them. Discard the ones that are irrelevant. Then take your time to play around with the rest, tweaking and combining until you come up with one that stops you in your tracks.
To see excellent examples of good headlines that pull you in, you need look no further than the papers and magazines at the supermarket checkout counter. Prevention magazine is particularly good, as is Reader's Digest. And the National Enquirer, whether you like it or not, certainly has a way of coming up with headlines that get your attention.
Happy headline hunting!
Copyright 2005 Maggie Dennison