Headline Bait to Grab Prospects Hook, Line and Sinker
While general advertisers are more apt to cast a wide net and see what, if anything, they come up with, direct marketers prefer to use the right bait to catch the desired fish. That’s why the pros, the ones who succeed more often than not, spend significant time studying the fish: what they like to eat, when they like to eat and any other data they can gather to get a bite. And just as a fisherman can’t hook a shark with corn niblets, a mailer certainly can’t make a sale with the wrong headline.
In any direct marketing effort, the headline is the bait. It either sucks a prospect in and encourages him to continue reading, or fails to entice and thus, loses the sale. The headline is a mailing’s first line of attack, and a marketer should devote significant thought and time to its creation.
Here’s a glimpse at the two-step process I employ for writing effective, interest-catching headlines. With practice, anyone with a mind for marketing can master it.
• Do the homework. The right headline will set the stage for the rest of the mail package by condensing everything into a single platform from which to build. To begin the process, I study background materials. This includes any written materials, past or present controls, competitors’ info, etc. Then as I read, I take notes, mark good ideas and jot down headline ideas so I don’t forget them later. As I go through this exercise, my aim is to get to the center of the issue. What does the product or service do that’s new and/or different? How does it help the user? Why should it be coveted?
• Stand it against the 12 rules. Once I have six to 10 solid headline ideas, I’ll run each idea through this 12-rule gauntlet—the silver bullets of powerful, attention-getting headlines—to come up with a winner.
Is it …
1) … short? Six to 10 words is ideal.
2) … punchy and powerful? Your words should be bold and vibrant.
3) … specific? Use numbers, names, places, etc.—no bland generalities.
4) … relying on too-big or hard-to-understand words? Keep it simple.
5) … a question? Never use one. You can’t control a prospect’s answer, and they may stop reading.
6) … big and bold? Do this whenever appropriate.
7) … compelling and captivating? Raise the stakes with your copy.
8) … capturing the entire essence of the main benefit? That also includes sub-benefits, as well, in 10 words or less.
9) … easy to digest? This makes for an instant connection with the prospect.
10) … funny? Avoid humor, it mostly doesn’t work.
11) … positive? Staying upbeat nearly always will outpull negative copy.
12) … promote product benefits? Answer the prospect’s question, “What’s in it for me?”
Stephen Kimball is the owner of Stephen Kimball DM Copywriting, based near Salt Lake City. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (801) 796-7234. Or visit him at www.skcopywriting.com