7 Copywriting Tips for Subject Lines, Headlines and Direct Mail Teasers
Here's a little known fact even my husband doesn't know about me. At one time, I was debating about whether to become a poet or a mathematician.
I like words because of the images they conjure up. The noble thoughts they instill. And all they can imply ... but leave unstated. The poetic power of words fascinates me.
At the same time, I love the reliability of math. The fact that 2 + 2 always equals 4. The way Pythagorean's theorem always pans out. And the simple truth that when a=b and b=c, then a=c.
So as a direct response writer, I've found a career that's the perfect blend of poetry and math. I use words to influence my readers to click, call or come-in-the-door. At the same time, I'm generating response that's mathematically measurable and accountable. There are also times I use simple math to explain what and how I write. For example:
A subject line is a headline (a = b)
A headline is a teaser (b = c)
Therefore, a subject line is a teaser ( a = c)
Yes, subject lines, headlines and direct mail teasers all do basically the same thing: engage readership that generates action. Try these tips for writing them.
Numbers. Use numbers written as figures to attract the eye and add instant credibility that encourages readership. How about using a subject line touting "Save 27% — One Day Only" or a headline promising "7 Tips for Tastier Tomatoes"?
New(s). The words "new" and "news" appeal to more than just early adopters. Place them at the beginning of your subject line, headline or teaser, and you immediately draw attention to the timeliness of your message. I recently received an email from a favorite coffee purveyor with the subject line, "Breaking News! Limited time offer on your favorite blend."
Narrative. People love stories. We are drawn to headlines and teasers that leave us wondering, "What happened next?" That's one of the reasons John Caples' famous headline worked so well and for so long: "They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano. But When I Started to Play —". How can you create a similar cliff-hanger to increase readership?
Exclusivity. Everyone likes to feel special. That's why phrases like "Preferred Customer" and "Exclusively for Our Best Customers" are so powerful. It's also why Ann Taylor sent me an email that began, "Be the First to Shop & Save on These New Fall Fashions."
Questions. Ask a question, and you create intrigue and immediate involvement. Here are a few examples. "Ready to save on car insurance?" The obvious answer is YES. Or how about the direct mail teaser, "Do you know the cheapest day of the week for air travel? Answer inside." A recent email subject line for Amy Africa's blog asked, "Are you a race horse or a rocking horse?" I had to open it to find out.
Verbs. Verbs are action words that build a reader's momentum. Pair them with a strong benefit and you've got a winner. "Cut your grocery bill in 3 easy steps." "Delete this email and your grandchildren will hate you." "Study less and jump to the top of the class." "Save 39% One Day Only." You get the idea.
Urgency. I just got back from a "Final Markdown" sale at a favorite designer boutique. Unlike the first two markdowns that were advertised weeks ahead, this one was not announced until the day of the event. You knew about it ahead of time only if you got an inside tip from a salesperson. The doors opened at 10:00 a.m. and when I arrived at 10:17, the store was packed and the dressing rooms were filled. The sense of urgency in the air reminded me of the direct mail teaser I've used many times: "LAST CHANCE!"
Pat Friesen is a former poet who now writes for direct mail, email, blogs, catalogs, the Web, and other direct response media. She's also a sought-after copy coach, workshop presenter and columnist for Target Marketing magazine. Contact Pat at (913) 341-1211 and email@example.com.