Without a shadow of a doubt, the headline is the most important part of any advertisement.
Reason being, if people read the headline and it doesn’t appeal to them, they’re not going to read the rest of your ad. And if they don’t read the rest of your ad, then they can’t buy your product.
The headline is god damn important!
Which raises the question… what exactly makes for a great headline?
It’s a fantastic question… and in the hopes of shedding some light on the matter, I’m going to reveal the 4 elements that I believe make up a great headline.
Now, before I get into what exactly these 4 elements are… I should note one slight caveat. Not all great headlines contain all 4 of these elements.
Some only contain 2.
Some even only have 1.
But they are, in my humble opinion, the exceptions to the rule. And if you can pack your headlines with the 4 elements I’m about to reveal… and you keep your headline within your prospects world… then you CANNOT go wrong!
So I’ve blabbered on enough already… and by this point you’re probably yelling at your monitor… “Get to the 4 elements already!”
If you insist.
The 4 elements of a great headline are:
Self interest (benefit)
Instant gratification (Quick and easy way to… )
I’ll dive into each of those elements in a little more detail shortly… but first… perhaps the easiest way to explain what I mean by each of these elements is to show you them in action.
So here’s a fantastic headline from John Carlton that he wrote for a golf product, that contains each of these 4 elements.
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!
Now, if you were a golfer (perhaps you are… ), there is no way in hell you wouldn’t read the rest of that ad.
Reason being, the headline contains each of the 4 crucial elements that make up a great headline.
Let’s quickly break it down.
Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer – Curiosity + News
Adds 50 Yards To your Drives, Eliminates Hooks And Slices… And Can Slash Up To 10 Strokes From Your Game – Self Interest (Big Benefit)
Almost Overnight! – Instant Gratification
Let’s pick a headline at random from my headline swipe file
Okay… let’s see…
I’m not entirely sure who wrote this one, but it’s pretty good.
Medical Breakthrough Offers Arthritis Pain Relief To Millions! Try it Free!
Medical Breakthrough – News
Offers Arthritis Pain Relief To Millions! Try it Free! – Self Interest (big benefit)
The headline incites curiosity through being non-specific, only eluding to some sort of medical breakthrough.
The only element really missing from the headline is Instant Gratification.
Perhaps the headline could be improved with addition of the word “fast”.
Medical Breakthrough Offers Fast Arthritis Pain Relief To Millions! Try it Free!
Of course, I’m not familiar with the product this headline is selling… so maybe it doesn’t offer “fast” pain relief… but if it did… it seems like it would certainly be worth testing the headline out with the word fast added to it.
So now I’ve revealed each of the elements that make up a great headline, let’s get down to why these elements are so important.
We’ll start with curiosity.
Now it may come as a shock to you… but the main purpose of a headline is not to sell the product. If it can help do so, then this is great… but it’s not the main purpose.
No. The main purpose of an advertisements headline should be to get the reader to read the ads opening sentence. And the purpose of the main purpose of opening sentence should be to get the reader to read the next line of the ad. And so on, and so on.
And one of the best ways to grab the reader’s attention, and make them want to read the entire ad, is to incite curiosity in your reader’s mind.
Curiosity is an incredibly powerful force.
In fact, I believe it to be the most powerful emotion in advertising.
Perhaps the best way to get someone (especially children) to take some sort of action, is to tell them not to do sometime… but not tell them why they shouldn’t do it.
More often than not, their curiosity will get the better of them, and they will do it anyway just to see what happens.
Which is why you should always include some sort of curiosity element in your headline. Whether that be mentioning a secret that a one legged golfer discovered, or eluding to some sort of medical breakthrough, you should always include curiosity.
Next up is self interest.
Now the reason why you should include self interest in your headlines should be blindingly obvious.
As the great salesman Zig Ziglar often said. “All your prospects listen to the same radio station. WIIFM… What’s In It For Me?”
People, unsurprisingly, are interested in reading about, and buying, things that can benefit them. So be sure to include some self interest in your headline.
Moving onto the next element, News.
People love to reading about news. So include some news in your advertisement.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, there’s nothing really new about the product I’m selling that I can write about… And to that I say nonsense!
You ever heard that saying “that’s news to me!”
Of course you have!
Well let your mind chew on that for a second.
There may be nothing NEW about the product you’re selling to you. But when it comes to writing an advertisement, forget about YOU and think about WHO is going to be reading your advertisement.
The reader likely doesn’t know absolutely everything about your product… so tell them something that is news to them.
And finally… last but not least… the 4th element that makes up a great headline… Instant Gratification.
What do we want? GRATIFICATION!
When do we want it? NOW!
And in the age of smartphones with 24/7 access to email and social media, and same day Amazon deliveries… now more than ever… we’re living in the age of instant gratification.
Most people don’t like to think about having to work hard, and put in time and effort to solve their problems.
People want the quick fix.
It why cliched headlines like “one weird trick to quickly… ” work so well.
So give them what they want and find away to add some sort of instant gratification element to your headline.
And on that note, that about wraps things up for today.
Have a go at crafting your own headlines with those 4 elements and see how they perform.
I’d wager they’ll do pretty damn good!