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Headlines That Pull, Persuade And Propel!

By Expert Author: Stephen Simmons

When writing direct response copy, there are a few things that can maximize the responsiveness of your message. The first and most important element that can turn any website, salesletter or ad into an action-generating mechanism is the headline.
A headline is meant to do two vital things.
First, it needs to grab your reader's attention. Realize that people surfing the web are click-happy. They tend to scan web pages quickly, even many of them simultaneously. Your site is but a blur. So, your headline must be prominent and effective enough to stop them.
Second, your headline needs pull the reader into the copy and compel her into reading further. To do that, it must cater to a specific emotion or a relevant condition -- one to which the reader can easily associate. Here's a list of "triggers," coupled with actual examples I used in the past:
Curiosity ("Revealed! Closely Guarded Secrets For ...")
Mystery ("The Five Biggest Mistakes to Avoid By ...")
Fear ("Over 98.4% of People End up Broke When ...")
Pain ("Suffering From Needless Back Pain? Then ...")
Convenience ("How to Increase Your Chances With ...")
Envy ("How Fellow Marketer Pummels Competitors By ...")
Jealousy ("They All Laughed When ... Until I ...")
Sloth ("Slash Your Learning Curve By 57% When ...")
Love, Lust ("Make Her Fall in Love With You With ...")
Shock ("Finally Exposed! Get The Dirty Truth On ...")
Greed ("Boost Your Income By More Than 317% When ...")
Pride, Power, Ego ("Make Fellow Workers Squirm With ...")
Assurance ("... In Less Than 60 Days, Guaranteed!")
Immortality ("Reverse The Aging Process With ...")
Anger ("Banks Are Ripping You Off! Here's Why ...")
By the way, most of these headlines were enormously successful for my clients, not because they were tested and tweaked (and most of them were), but because they were actually stolen from other, equally successful ads or salesletters. All "great" copywriters do this. They steal. They recycle. They copy. They model. They swipe.
And they adapt.
Of course, they must not be copied literally. (There's a big difference between plagiarism and modelling.) But they can be easily adapted to fit the market, the offer and the message. I have a large swipe file that contains copies of ads, websites, direct mail pieces and salesletters I come across. I then turn them into templates or "fill-in-the-blanks" formulas.
Study and model successful copywriting as much as you can. Dan Kennedy, my mentor and a hugely successful copywriter, teaches his students this exercise: buy tabloids, such as The National Enquirer, on a regular basis. Of course, the publication may be questionable for some, and it may not necessarily fit with your style or cater to your market.
But here's the reason why.
Ad space in tabloids is excruciatingly expensive. If an ad is repeated in more than two issues, preferably copy-intense ads or full-page advertorials, common sense tells you that the ad is profitable. Rip out the ad and put it into your swipe file. (If you don't have one, a shortcut is to copy someone else's, or swipe from proven list of successful headlines.)
Then, copy the headlines into a document. They can be easily converted into "fill-in-the-blanks" formulas. And believe me, they work well with almost all markets. I've tried these types of headlines on both low-end and high-end clients, from simple $10 products to six-figure investment opportunities. And they worked quite effectively in both situations.
The cosmetics of a headline is equally important if not more so. The type must be bold, large and prominently placed, even written in a different font or typestyle. It must "scream" at your readers. Don't worry if it's too harsh or too long. (My experience tells me that the longer headlines pull the most, even for professional clients or in conservative situations.)
Specificity is also quite important. The more specific you are with your headline, the better the response will be. Use odd, non-rounded numbers because they are more believable and pull more than even, rounded numbers. (In its commercials, Ivory Soap used to say it's "99.44% pure." Of course, that number is more believable than "100%.")
Whenever possible, be quantifiable, measurable and time-bound. For example, you're promoting some "how-to" marketing program. Don't say, "increase your income" or "make money fast." Words like "income" and "fast" are vague. Be specific. Say, "How six simple sales strategies helped me stumble onto an unexpected $5,431.96 windfall -- in less than 27 hours!"
The bigger the numbers are, the greater the impact is. If you say "five times more," replace it with "500%" (or better yet, "517%" or "483%"). Don't say "one year," say "364 days." The brain thinks in pictures, not numbers or words. Both "terms may mean the same thing, but one looks bigger.


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