How to Write Headlines:
Killer Info on Writing Your Headline
So Your Product or Service Copy Gets Read

The first thing that anyone should know when they get your web site, or read you ad, or see or hear your ad, is

WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?

You must let the reader, viewer or listener know, right from the start, What's in it for her.

It has to be compelling, capturing, and grab the attention of your visitor, reader....

And it has to specifically target your prospect.

If you're at a party and you want to talk to Joe, who's across the room, you don't say, "Hey You! Over There." You don't say, "Hey Mary!" You don't say, "Hey Diddle Diddle" or anything else that's just cute or clever.

You say, "Joe!" Directly to Joe. Or you walk over to Joe and tap him on the shoulder and say, "Hi Joe. How have you been?" You want to talk to Joe, so you target Joe.

If you're a building contractor, you don't want to call attention from Ballerinas, unless it's to build a new dance hall for them.

If you're a web site designer, you don't call out to Microsoft to redo their web site.

If you're a building contractor, you call out to people or businesses who plan on building something soon.

If you're a web site designer, you call out to business owners who aren't already online. (Okay, so you can talk to others who are online but their site sucks, too.)

After You Know Who You Want to Talk to...

So you should know who you want to talk to. If not, decide now before you go on. It's really that important. Who is your target audience? That's who you want to talk to.

See, your headline gets read 5-6 times more frequently than the rest of your copy.

Okay, so you know who you want to talk to. Now you have to say something meaningful to that person or that group of people, your target audience.

What's meaningful to each group of people is different.

Let's say that your product is Widgets. Your target audience is other business owners who should have the upgraded widgets you've just developed. You have a very targeted list of widget owners.

There's at least two dozen types of headlines that you could write. So how do you pick the best type? How do you pick out what you're going to write for your headline.

You know who you're talking to. You know your audience. You know your product.

I should get into "goals" here because what you're looking to accomplish in the next 6-24 months could start right here with this letter. But to keep things simple, just look at what you want to accomplish - to sell your widgets in sufficient quantity to remain viable.

So, let's just start off with the absolute, very best, strongest and most profitable headline there is.

Keep in mind that the headline is the ad for the ad. Claude Hopkins, the father of Scientific Advertising, said, "We pick out what we wish to read by headlines."

The purpose of the headline is to get the reader interested enough to read the rest of the body copy. Right? Right.

The best headline for your ad - whether on paper or online - is a phone call or other personal contact! Yep. You talk to the person first. Then after they've expressed some interest, you just tell them that the special report will be mailed to them ASAP, or you direct them to the special report on your web site after you've gotten their email address.

You get their email address so you can give them the web address, http://www.yourdomain.com/report.html right in the email to make it easier to get to it. All they have to do then is to click on the link. (Or you can use a short URL and track clicks.)

Now, granted, it's really not that simple. You have to create enough curiosity and motivation for the person to actually go to your web site or open your envelope.

Here's sort of a sample script:

"Hello, may I talk to John (Owner's name)?" Then once John is on the line, John, this is Chuck from Widgets, Inc. You own a widget right now, is that right? (Yes)

"Can I give you some free information on how to increase your profitability with your widget?" (Yes)

"Do you have an email address? Or should I send the information snail mail? The info is free online." (Here's my email address)

"Okay, I'll get that email off to you ASAP. Thanks and have a great day, John."

That contact is the absolute best headline you'll ever have. That contact serves as the ad to your ad.

See, you have this great report on how to increase production and profitability with the typical widget, and add into it about new ways to benefit with your new widget.

So that's the best headline you'll ever have. Though almost no copywriting expert would agree that that is indeed a headline, it serves the purpose of a headline. There's no duplication, except for the report, but you also get their email address in the process. And that means that you can market your widgets to them whenever you want forever. Free of any additional charge.


Let's say that you don't want to do that. You don't want to write a special report, you don't want to talk to people or have anyone on your staff talk to your prospects. Let's say that you just want to write an ad or sales letter and mail that off, or email that off.

Other Headline Alternatives

There's a lot of information on headlines. Headlines in copywriting are the single most important aspect of your copy. They're that powerful.

Here's a short course on writing headlines. We'll start it off with a principle that I sort of unintentionally invented. It's called the O-SUUUK-R Principle.

O is the Offer and the R is the Result, the Big Benefit of your product or service. The letters in between relate directly to either the Offer or the Result.

S means that your headline must be Specific. It must relate to a specific offer or to a specific result or benefit. The headline can't be vague or ambiguous.

U means that the Offer or the Result must be Unique to your product or service.

U means that the Offer or Result must be Useful to your target audience. It's got to be something meaningful, something that they want.

U means that the Offer or Result must convey a sense of Urgency. It's practically got to reach out, grab them by the shirt and say, "Handle this now!" Urgent.

C means that the Offer or Result itself must create a strong Curiosity within the reader. "You mean this is really possible?" or "Wow. Really? How?"

K means that the Offer or Result itself will impart some Knowledge that the reader really wants. Or there should be some promise of Knowledge gained that the person wants, and that when applied, the knowledge will produce a result that the person wants badly.

Now, your headline must contain at least 3 of the SUUUK part, and those three or more from the SUUUK part must relate directly to the Offer or the Result. The best headlines would contain all 6 parts and relate to the offer or the result. Really good ones contain 4 or more.

Notice that the elements relate to either the result, the big benefit, or the offer.

People Buy The Big Promise, or The Result

They don't buy your product or service. People don't buy a drill because they want a drill. They buy a drill because the want, now or in the future, a hole. Or they buy the drill because of the feeling of accomplishment that is the final product that they're after.

Get that good and solid through your mind. People buy the result, the big promise that they want, or the feeling of attaining the result. Not your product or service.

So what does the headline do? It's been answered already above, but you headline grabs your reader's attention, targets him or her by saying something meaningful to him or her, and it creates some curiosity in your reader. It can make a promise for some big benefit, it can make an offer, it can challenge the reader in some way, it can introduce some really compelling concept or idea, it can be something newsworthy.

Good headlines are NEVER cute or clever. Period. Cute or clever headlines just do not pull. They're not profitable. So know that, too.

Some Proven Types of Headlines

Through time there have been literally millions of tests done to find out what types of headlines pull the best response. Below you'll find some of those types. (I'll just keep going until I can't think of another one...)

Begin your headline with something that sounds like an announcement. At Last!, Introducing... Presenting... Just Released... Now... New... You know, anything that sounds something like news.

Make Your Big Promise in Your Headline. Remember that people buy because they want a result. Make your headline have your big promise in it - and guarantee it! "How You Can Lose 8-12 Pounds SAFELY Every Month (And Keep it Off) Until You hit You Ideal Weight - GUARANTEED!" or "You can Burn Disease and Sickness out of your body, using nothing more than the palm of your hand - Guaranteed or You Pay Nothing!"

Feature Your Offer in your headline. Feature your price, your newly reduced price, your easy payment plan. Some copywriters really like to focus on this one. It really can be a powerful tool in your headline, especially when you word your offer correctly. They spend days or weeks crafting the perfect offer in headline form. When you get it right, you'll sell your stuff like crazy.

Use a FREE Offer in your headline. Free is a powerful word in advertising. Though the Internet has caused it to lose some credibility, FREE can still be a strong puller for you. You just have to offer the right thing free to the right people. And word it properly. That's where testing comes in. (Actually, testing should always be a strong factor in every bit of advertising and promotion that you do.)

Free information. A free booklet or special report. Something free with purchase (bonus). Free sample of your product. Free trial period... Something free that really does have some inherent value in it and that will directly contribute to the sales of your product or service. Don't flub on this one. There's got to be value in the free thing that will help sell your product or service.

Start your headline with 'How To'. There's literally tens of thousands of how to reports and books available. Why? Because they sell! People will always want to know how to (something). You can use the How To type of headline to start a story (people love good story, especially when they can learn something valuable from it). You can be specific in the How To, like How to Write Killer Headlines.

You can drop the word to and just use How I Write Headlines that Pull 14% And More. How you can retire early and live the life you've always dreamed of. How some people never lose money in the stock market... Or substitute How with Why. Why some people almost never lose money in the markets. Why you can earn $800 a day while you sit in your boat and fish.

You can ask an intriguing question. "Do you make these common mistakes in English?" "What are the 5 lost secrets to Success?" Or you can turn this one into a Quiz-Type of headline that quizzes your readers. "What's you Financial IQ? Take this simple test and find out"

Use a Testimonial-type of Headline. "I made $3,000 in one week after I used Mark's Power Pages." Mary Hetterfield, Fulton, Ga. Or some other letter that attests results that have been gotten with your product or service.

Use a Short Headline to Directly Call Out to Your Audience. "BallBusters!" "Waiters!" "Got Herpes?" "Attention Writers:" "Architects!" "Moms - Look"

You can Warn People NOT to Buy, at least until they read your ad or talk to you. "Don't hire anyone to Design Your Web Site until You Visit www.sherus.com"

Give Reasons and Use Specific Numbers.
"7 Reasons Why Your Management Staff Could Be Better."
"22 Ways to Increase Profits in Your Home Business"
"The 19 Power Principles of Marketing that You Won't Learn at Harvard Business School"
"11 Reasons You Should Give 2 or 3 things away FREE in Every Offer You Make!"

I think you get the idea now.


Which Type of Headline Should YOU Use?

Which type of headline you use is completely up to you. Just make sure that you incorporate the O-SUUUCK-R Principle into the headlines that you write.

Remember that the purpose of a headline is to get your audience to read your ad. Your headline is the ad for your ad. The most powerful type of headline is personal contact of some sort. After that, remember that people buy the result, the big benefit, not the product or service. So build your headline and your offer and your letter around the big promise. Got it?

How to Get GREAT at Writing Headlines

Practice. For each ad, write at least a hundred headlines. Go ahead and print off this page or just the parts with the types of headlines. Practice writing each type of headline that's listed, and each of the variations. There's a lot to get you started on your way to writing great headlines.

The way to get really really good is to write 5,000 headlines and more. The sooner you get that done, the sooner you will become great at writing headlines. The power of the Headline can not be under stated. They're really that imperative to the success of your ad, your web site, your copy.

Chet Holmes, a 25 year martial artist and master marketer and business builder, teaches that you get great at each action by doing that one action over and over. You don't get great by doing 5,000 things 10 times each. You get great by doing 10 things 5,000 times each. That's the secret of getting great.


Links for This Section:
| The Copywriting Tutorials Index |
| What is Copywriting? | The Basics | The Emotions |
| The Headline | Lead or Hook | The Body |
| Building Benefits | Subheads | Why You? |
| Building Credibility | The Withdraw | The Close |
| Creating Urgency | The Guarantee | The P.S. |
| The Order Form |

© 2008 by Russell Burnham. All Rights Reserved.
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Any unauthorized translation or duplication in any means electronic
or physical will begin the process of recovering damages. How to write headlines.