If you’re running a small business, you need basic copywriting skills because you’re trying to get attention and persuade people all day long. In other words, you’re writing copy: email subject lines, tweets, Facebook updates, proposals, and blog titles…
Whatever you’re writing, your headline contains the most important words. The headline either grabs someone’s attention, or it doesn’t. Some copywriters spend more time on the headline than they do on the copy.
Here’s some good news. Once you discover easy ways to write headlines, all your writing becomes easier, because you’ve learned to put yourself in your audience’s shoes.
The advertising master, David Ogilvy, said of headlines:
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
Ogilvy is amazing. Two more great Ogilvy quotes to keep in mind when you’re writing headlines:
“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.”
Headlines work well when they’re NEWS: think of your headline as the headline in a newspaper. The Mail Online does a wonderful job with headlines. If you find that Tip 5, “add emotion” is a challenge, read the Mail Online.
“If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”
Your headlines must be clear, so read them aloud: Tip 5.
Let’s look at our headline tips…
1. Remember WIIFM: “what’s in it for me?”
WIIFM: “what’s in it for me?” is an old copywriting acronym. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Think about your ideal customer (or your email recipient, your blog’s readers, etc.) Everyone wants to know what’s in it for them.
WIIFM must be obvious in the headline. Avoid being too “creative,” because you risk confusing your audience.
If you’re stuck on WIIFM, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can help. You’ll see that sex is a primal need: sex truly does sell. Scan the hierarchy. You’ll figure out WIIFM very quickly.
2. Research, research, and then research some more.
When you need to write important copy, spend half your time on research. This relates to WIIFM. Not only does your headline need to make totally clear what’s in for them, ideally it also speaks to them on a level that’s relevant, right now.
3. Write LOTS of headlines.
I like to sit down (or lie on the floor) and come up with ten headlines.
When you focus deeply, your subconscious mind will get in on the act. You’ll find that an hour later, or early next morning, completely new ideas will come to mind.
The more headlines you write, the more likely it is you’ll hit on something good.
4. Add emotion.
How do you add emotion? You make your audience FEEL something.
Test your headlines on the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer, when you think you’ve done it.
For inspiration, take a look at these classic headlines.
5. Read it aloud. (To someone else, if possible.)
Yes, read your headline aloud, firstly just so you can hear it. You’ll be surprised that this makes a difference. Some headlines seem OK, until you read them aloud.
Then read your headline aloud to someone else. Just ask whether the the headline makes sense to them. Would the ad catch their attention?
So, there you have it. Keep these headline copywriting tips in mind, not only for your next ad, but for everything you write which needs to grab attention.