It doesn’t matter whether it’s online or offline one of the BIG SECRETS to marketing success lies in your ability to attract attention with your headline.

If the headline doesn’t stop them in their tracks and make them want to read, well, it’s over. No sale.

So what’s the secret to writing a wining headline?

Not a simple answer, I’m sure you’ll agree. And not an answer you can give in a sentence or two.

Because it IS complex… there are many facets to a cracking headline.

It never ceases to amaze me how even intelligent people look for the quick fix and want to solve the most difficult thing with a simple, “one click” answer.

With any headline many factors contribute to its success. To be clear – no one thing necessarily makes it fail or succeed.

That said, there are certain things you MUST do that contribute to the headline being a winner. To help, here are “6 Quick and Easy to Tips to Writing Attention Grabbing Headlines!”.

Quick and Easy Tip #1: Attract attention by offering a benefit to the reader. The benefit must be immediately clear to the reader otherwise you run the risk of losing them (that’s why we say no business names or logos in your headline).

Remember too, the benefit must be believable. And if you make a BIG promise it must be backed up by BIG proof. Your headline must tell the reader why they should be interested…

Repeat this mantra… WIIFM (what’s in it for me)… and make it integral to your headline.

Quick and Easy Tip #2: Use emotion in your headline. Inflict pain if you can. Twist the knife a little. Why? All buying decisions are based on emotion first (and justified with logic afterwards).

The main human emotions: love, pride, greed (or gain), fear, guilt, duty, ego (or self improvement).

If your headline hasn’t hit at least ONE of these, chances are it will fail. It might be stating the obvious but… just make sure the emotion you use is relevant to your market and product (eg if you are selling weight loss you probably won’t try to push the greed gland, will you?).

And don’t fall into the trap of thinking, because you sell B2B, this principle doesn’t apply. Business owners and leaders may have external drivers (ie for the company rather than like a consumer for themselves) but buying is still an emotional decision.

Here are 11 emotional appeals you can use:

To make/save money
To protect yourself/company
To do your part for the world
To be strong, fit and healthy, and look good
To escape pain/worry/fear
To safe guard your future and that of the company
To be “first” or get “one up” on a competitor

Quick and Easy Tip #3: Never present your product or service in a headline but present reasons why the buyer should be interested in it. You are selling the RESULT of your product or service, not the actual thing. If you try and sell the “thing” you will be just selling. But if you present a solution or result (remember WIIFM), this is what they are buying.

NOTE: there are exceptions to this – when your product is branded and easily recognised eg Coke, Apple then the product sells itself.

As Gene Swartz says in his iconic book Breakthrough Advertising (p.16) if “… the customer knows of your product – knows what it does – knows he wants it… your headline… need state little more except the name of your product and a bargain price.”

So a headline which states, “Save $500 Off Apple Ipad this Christmas” is likely to be more successful than something like “This Amazing Computer on a Page Saves You Time, Effort and Money this Christmas”.

Just remember, unless you’re Apple or Coca Cola stick with a WIIFM headline.

Quick and Easy Tip #4: Arouse curiosity. Human beings are curious beings… so whenever you can, build curiosity into a headline. Now if you add self interest to curiosity, you are onto something!!

One of my favourite headlines, by the great John Carlton, does both beautifully:

“Amazing Secret Discovered by One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards to Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks and Slices… and Can Slash Up to 10 Strokes from Your Game Overnight”)

Note curiosity: amazing secret discovered by one-legged golfer (really? How the heck??) married to the self interest (Slash Up to 10 Strokes from Your Game Overnight).

It’s a powerful formula!

And yes, the principle holds true in the B2B space. You may have to massage the language to suit the market, but the PRINCIPLE remains.

Quick and Easy Tip #5: Use proven words to add power to your headline. Some examples:

And on it goes.

Quick and Easy Tip #6: Novelty is Key.
NEW and INTERESTING STUFF WORKS because NOVELTY makes the brain release dopamine… and as you’re probably aware dopamine is the “happy chemical” in the brain.

When people are happy/feel good they are more likely to pay attention and respond… so make your headlines NEW or at least give them a new and interesting twist.

Note to self: The principles outlined here are media agnostic. The key thing is you are selling to a human with emotions who makes a buying decision based on those emotions first, before using logic to justify the decision to self and colleagues.

Use at least one or all of the proven headline writing techniques.

Good luck, happy headline writing!

To your success,
Steve Plummer