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Why Headline Formulas Don't Work

By Expert Author: Russell Foster

The headlines you write are more important than anything else, right? Wrong! What matters most is the approach you take before your headline. Then what comes after your headline must engage your readers and be relevant to them.
Can headline formulas be a shortcut to successful headlines?
No.
They won't work if you want to make a fortune with your sales letter. Any A level copywriter worth their salt creates a new headline from scratch. They don't copy - they invent.
How do they do that?
They stand on the shoulders of giants. In other words they study the sales letters that have made millions. They know this sparks off their creative ideas. These proven sales letters are known as 'swipe files.' All top notch copywriters have a swipe file of winning sales letters.
Clayton Makepeace says: "Every professional copywriter keeps a swipe file - a collection of proven direct response promotions - and for good reason. Building a swipe file is easily one of the most powerful things you can do to advance your career as a copywriter. "
He's not alone. Another freelance copywriter, Sean McCool has this to say:
"The best copywriters use swipe files. If you want to be one of them, this is a fundamental technique you must use to improve your copy. It's also one of the easiest things you'll do as a copywriter to build your knowledge and skill."
If you use formulas you may get good results from time to time, but don't count on them for long term success. As far as I'm aware no successful ad or letter that was a control for many years was based on a formulaic headline. Okay, I know there are always exceptions to every rule.
Here's one of them.
"They laughed when I sat down at the piano" formula. The writer knocked off his own headline a year later and had success with it.
But why take a risk on breaking the rules?
Some copywriters write twenty to thirty headlines before deciding on the best one. Others write hundreds of bullets or fascinations to jump start their creative process. Others feed their minds with research and understanding their prospects and then intuit a headline.
Which is best?
They all are!
It's just a matter of which suits your style. Now, let's add a new twist to this. The top writers today know about the six lead categories and choose the one most appropriate to their audience. These categories start with being very direct. A company like Apple can be very direct in their approach because they are well known. Then they move to being very indirect.
Like an unknown product called Blue Ocean Strategy. This is because you're unaware of what it is. So a formulaic approach to copywriting won't work. Each new product must have its own fresh approach to solving your prospect's problem otherwise it sounds like just another 'me too.'
When you know the six lead categories then you can use your preferred method for creating headlines. And you won't have to rely on tired, overused formulas. Plus you'll get better conversion rates.

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