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Copywriting 101: How To Nail A Killer Headline

What’s So Important About Copywriting?

Copywriting is an integral part of your marketing process. It is your 24 hour salesperson that works for you rain, hail or shine.

The power of marketing can be seen in the fact that good marketing can sell bad products, but it is difficult to sell a good product with bad marketing. I am in no way advocating you make or sell bad products, it is simply to illustrate a point.

What This Copywriting Series Is All About

This series will focus on copywriting and its principles, which can be applied to salesletters, direct response, landing pages and squeeze pages. But don’t limit yourself to using the advice for just those avenues – start applying it to all your streams of communication to your prospects and watch your profits soar.

So to kick off this Copywriting 101 series we are going to start with arguably the most important aspect of copywriting – the headline. This will be a two part series on headlines. This assumes you have done your market research and you know your market.

So let’s get started.

Why Is The Headline So Important?

You can have the most perfectly executed body copy (all the paragraphs under the headline) in the world, the best product, the most amazing offer and price, but no one will ever know about it if they don’t get past your headline. If your headline doesn’t cut through the clutter, grab the attention of your reader and make them read the introductory paragraph then it has failed.

The goal of a headline.

Your headline should accomplish three things:

  1. Catch the full attention of your intended audience
  2. Suck them into the ad
  3. Entice them to read the opening paragraph

Pay attention to that first point and note the words “intended audience”. If you keep this in mind, this will help you understand that you want to tell your target audience straight away what you have for them, and that it is OK not to appeal to everyone. This will help you get away from writing those cutesy curiosity driven headlines, which are the lowest form of headline.

You see it’s not about getting as many people as possible to read your salescopy. It is about getting as many of your target audience to read your ad. Let’s use an example to illustrate this important point.

Say I am writing copy for a weight loss product and I use a general curiosity headline such as “Learn Special Information Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You” – This type of headline may intrigue readers to read more, but once they find out it is related to weight loss, and if they are not interested, they will probably stop reading.

However, what you have risked doing by not being specific in your headline is missing out on potentially speaking to your target audience, all the people interested in weight loss. If I am interested in weight loss, the previous mentioned headline may not appeal to me, it may a little bit, but it certainly doesn’t come right out and speak to me as someone who is interested in weight loss.

But if I just came straight out and said something like “Discover The Secrets Your Doctor Doesn’t Know That Can Lead to Major Weight Loss.” This headline polarizes people. If you are not interested in weight loss you will probably not read this article and that is OK, because you are not the intended audience for this salesletter. But what I have done is to ensure that when people interested in weight loss are scanning through the headlines and ads that they are exposed to on a daily basis, that I have let them know that there could potentially be something of interest for them in what follows.

If you can speak to your intended audience in your headline and make it specific to them, then you will do better than most people who write boring general headlines.

Take Your Headlines To The Next Level

I previously spoke about good headlines speaking to their intended audience. Some of the most famous headlines combine a knock out punch of shouting to their target audience, putting in a killer hook and then throwing in some curiosity to suck people in. In fact, some of the best headlines and copy are so well written and intriguing that even if you are not the target audience you find yourself reading them.

I find some of John Carlton’s salesletters like this. They are so well crafted and written and the headline is so strong that I find myself drawn to read them. No wonder they absolutely crushed it with their intended audience.

Let’s look at one of John Carlton’s most famous and subsequently ripped off headlines.

Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards To Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks  and Slices… And Can Slash Up To 10 Strokes From Your Game Almost Overnight!

Straight away this is an ad for golfers. I am told of the benefits for my golfing game such as adding to my drive and cutting 10 strokes from my game. I am told that these benefits can happen almost instantly. And there is possibly the most famous hook ever used in a headline – I am told these are the secrets of a one legged golfer! What the! Seriously what struggling golfer in their right mind would not be at least a little interested in this headline?

I don’t play golf, but I find this headline pretty intriguing. And all this is done in under two lines of text. Pretty powerful stuff.

Finding The Hook

I have spoken about this before and discussed how Carlton goes digging for the “hooks” for his ads. You see the people in the thick of it are often so caught up in things or have been involved with things for so long that the “story” is no longer a big deal to them. That is exactly what happened with this ad.

Carlton was interviewing the inventor of the program, trying to find out more about the program and doing research for the copy. The inventor did not even think to mention that the idea for the program came from a one-legged golfer. In his mind that was old news and not a big deal. But this off the cuff comment stopped Carlton dead in his tracks, and as he says when you find yourself going “what!? Hold up, back up and say that again” you know you have found your hook.

Next article, we will talk more about headlines and go through some tried and true formats that you can use for your salescopy.

Click here to read part two of this series.

Yaro Starak

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