Extra! Extra! We can’t stress this enough!
Whether you’re writing a blog post, an article, a display ad, a landing page, or any marketing copy for that matter, the headline is one of the most important factors in marketing, and also the factor most business overlook.
Too many times, headlines are tacked on as an afterthought—something to stick on top after we’ve written the piece—when in fact, it should be the part we labor on the hardest, because it accomplishes the most important task… capturing your reader’s attention long enough to compel him to read further.
“Why Should I Read This?”
Think about the above phrase for a moment. Isn’t this something that runs through the back of your mind every day as you read the paper, check your email, cruise articles online, or look for something to watch on TV?
Compelling headlines magnetically draw you to click on a link, open an envelope, pick a channel, or select anything to read for that matter—and they’re magnetic when they mean something to you personally.
Think about that from your reader’s perspective. With thousands of marketing messages thrown at us on a daily basis from a variety of mediums, we get pretty choosy about what we’ll spend our time on—so here are a few tricks I learned for making the most out of each headline.
Use Dominant Emotion: When you can “get into your reader’s head,” all kinds of possibilities come up. If you know your reader well enough to understand where he’s coming from, and can empathize with him on solving his problems, the emotions that drive him to make decisions become apparent to you. Distill this down to the one driving emotion that might compel him to seek your solution. Is he afraid? Angry? Frustrated? How can you capitalize on that.
Incorporate the “4 U’s” Ultra-Specificity, Uniqueness, Usefulness and Urgency: Your headline should grab attention by piquing the reader’s interest with a big, bold idea or compelling promise (benefit), but dig a little deeper. Is it specific enough to paint a clear picture? Is your benefit truly useful to your prospect? Are you using a unique angle? Does it imply urgency? Be critical and score your headlines against these 4 elements…strong headlines should have a minimum of 3 out of 4. If you get a 2, keep working.
Never Write the Headline First: Great headlines are most often created from the “wreckage of your writing.” Your thought processes evolve as you put words to paper—so do the bulk of your writing first, and let attention-grabbing ideas percolate from there.
Brainstorm Several Headlines at Once: I usually write out five or six headlines and play with the word combinations until the right one pops out. This is a good exercise, because the “rejects” can often make good subheads.
Practice makes perfect, and if you make using this checklist a habit before composing headlines, I think you’ll see a big improvement. At the very least, make sure you critique your headlines with the 4 U’s strategy (I have them written out on a post-it note taped to my computer screen).