6. Use the Imperative Voice
Headlines written in the imperative voice are also known as command headlines, because they tell the reader to do something. A light bulb manufacturer ran an ad with the headline "Stop Burning Profits."
My favorite B-to-B ad of all time was for a fireproofing compound. The ad was printed on a sheet of paper treated with the compound and bound into the magazine. The ad had a coupon, the headline read "Try Burning This Coupon," and the visual was a hand holding a lit match. If you put a match to the ad it burned, but if you took it away, the fire immediately stopped.
7. State a Benefit
Although many practitioners say the purpose of the headline is to gain attention and lure the prospect into the body copy, many readers never get past the headline. To appeal to them, you can put a complete benefit in the headline that makes clear what the product does. For a firm manufacturing color measurement systems for the automotive industry, the ad headline read: "Color Control from Bumper to Bumper."
8. Be Uncreative
Ad agencies, as indicated in the headline list reprinted at the beginning of this column, strive to be creative. But if you offer a product or service in short supply, you are better off being straightforward and clear, rather than clever or funny. The late B-to-B ad man Scotty Sawyer once said that if he were writing an ad for boilers and was only permitted one word in the headline, that word would be "Boilers" in 72-point type.
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.