Creative: Strategies for a Great Headline
As a copywriter, I'm often asked which headline techniques work best for getting an envelope opened or a landing page read. Because the importance of the headline can't be overstated, it's not surprising this subject has been explored endlessly.
John Caples uncovered 29 formulas for writing headlines in his classic "Tested Advertising Methods," Gene Schwartz presented 38 ways to make headlines great in "Breakthrough Advertising" and Victor Schwab analyzed 100 headline constructions in "How to Write a Good Advertisement."
While the matter of envelope headlines won't be settled here (or anywhere else for that matter), we can nevertheless examine six classic techniques that continue to work today.
1. Use a News Element
The promise of timeliness or news targets the key concerns of your prospect and draws her in. News-oriented headlines sound less promotional and thus more credible in your prospect's mind.
Example: Bank Accounting & Finance, a B-to-B publication covering regulations and standards in its niche, used this outer envelope (OE) teaser:
How you can stay on top of new regulations … new reporting issues … new strategies … in less time … with better results
Try it FREE … inside.
Using the word "free" removes the risk. The teaser combines being up-to-date with the added benefits of saving time and enhanced performance. This kind of umbrella headline doesn't restrict you to a single benefit.
2. Use a Provocative Question or Outrageous Statement
Some marketers hesitate to use this technique because they fear the wrong question could turn away prospects. While this is a concern, it need not stop you from finding an appropriate question or concern that stirs up strongly held beliefs and convictions in your prospect.
Example: Copywriter Lea Pierce used this envelope teaser for The Nation, the left-leaning political magazine: