The headline is what makes the first impression on your reader and will determine whether he/she will continue reading the body copy.
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Most advertisements created by both small business owners and advertising agencies don't get the attention of prospects for three basic reasons.
1) the headline doesn't capture the reader's attention or spark their interest.
2) the headline is vague – it doesn't tell the reader who you are and what you are selling.
3) it lacks the "what's in it for me?" factor; there is no promise or benefit for the reader to continue reading.
Some of the best headlines I have seen to date capture the reader's attention, tell the reader what the ad is about, who its target demographic is as well as promises a benefit. The four headlines below are examples that the spark interest of a reader, tell the reader what the company is selling and makes a promise to the reader.
1. Winter 2010 Collection Jimmy Choo Boots – 25% off Sale for the Next 10 Days. This headline goes directly to the heart of the reader – no hype, no fluff, or no wittiness. If you're a woman who loves fashion, you know that Jimmy Choo boots rarely go on sale, so this headline would definitely spark your interest.
2. They Laughed When I Sat Down at The Piano - But When I Started to Play! – This headline has a strong emotional hook. It has been tested time and again by copywriters and has been voted one of the best headlines of all time. I agree. In fact, the first I read it, it struck an emotional nerve as it brought me back to my childhood.
3. How to Swim with the Sharks without Being Eaten Alive. How to headlines are short and concise. In my copywriting experience, I think that "How to" headlines work the best because they clearly explain what is to follow in the body copy.
4. Often a Bridesmaid - Never a Bride! The statement headline tells it like the way it is. No hyperbole, no bull, no sugar coating. In fact, the statement headline usually does make a huge impact on people, especially the one above – like for single women.
The headlines above may seem kind of boring or generic at first, but let me ask you question; Have you ever been in a situation where you felt uncomfortable, frustrated, or intimidated - in school with the most competitive people, at work and involved in a team project you didn't understand or at a party with people who intimidated you?
If so, I bet that headline #3 would get your attention. You would continue reading the ad because you would want to know how to increase your self-confidence and strength in any of these situations. With that said, the headline accomplished the goal of having you read through the entire sales copy.
To get started, page through several different publications and rip out all of the advertisements with headlines that grab your attention. Put your favorite headlines into a folder and label it "swipe file." Use this swipe file to write different variations of headlines. If you get stuck and need help, headline generator software is available to help find the right hot buttons and emotional triggers.