It’s every freelance copywriter’s nightmare: A reader is scanning through a magazine, comes upon the page containing your advertisement, and keeps right on going without noticing your carefully-crafted words.
The average American is bombarded with approximately 10,000 ads, sales letters and other marketing messages every day. So, if for no other reason than to be able to function in life, our minds “filter out” over 99% of those messages that appear to offer no personal benefit.
The freelance copywriter’s main tool to cut through this filtering is the simple headline. A powerful headline must appeal to a person’s self interest just long enough to cause that scanning reader to say, “maybe there is something here that could benefit me.”
Here are some of the things a headline must do to be effective:
- Grab the reader’s interest and attention. Readers have their “what’s in it for me?” radar turned on at all times. Don’t fly below this radar with cute, clever wordplays or headlines that are intended to make the reader “think.” Get right to the point and announce that you are here to solve a problem or help them bring about a needed change.
- Target a Specific Audience. Despite that legendary salesman who makes his living selling freezers to Eskimos, you are far better off targeting a specific, identifiable group of people who want, need and can afford what you are offering. When you design your message for a specific target audience, they know they belong to that group and will identify with your offering. As for others not inside that group, well unless you ARE that legendary salesman, you weren’t going to get their business anyway.
- Pull Readers Into Your Copy there are three ways to get readers to continue reading your ad: Appeal to their needs, appeal to their needs and appeal to their needs. Find out why people buy your product or service. Do they need a financially secure retirement? Do they want to improve their love life? Do they want career advancement? The appeal you use is the REASON you give them to buy. To find out more about how to appeal to readers’ interests, check out my article How to Tap Into Your Readers' Deepest Needs. Just click this link to check it out.
- Make A Promise. your headline MUST promise something. The promise must be to either solve a problem or bring about a change. People want to improve their lives, their careers, their marriages or even their status among the neighbors (those pesky Joneses are soooo hard to keep up with). You might want to check out another article I’ve written called, 10 Steps to Writing a Powerful USP, to help you craft this message.
One of the greatest copywriters of all time was John Caples. On the subject of headlines he said, “If you can come up with a good headline, you are almost sure to have a good ad. But even the greatest writer can’t save an ad with a poor headline.”