Writing Attention-Grabbing Headlines

Headlines graphicHere’s a simple tip to improve the effectiveness of your marketing materials – write attention-grabbing headlines.

Headlines are not optional. They are essential if you want potential clients to read your brochure, flyer or web page.

It never ceases to amaze me how many companies put their own name at the top of the page or document as if that were the most important aspect. I’ll let you into a secret – your name is not what will entice potential clients to read your document!

In fact it is most often a complete waste! Why? Because readers see that first and make an immediate judgement on whether the rest of the material is worth reading. And if they don’t believe you have anything to offer them, they will discard your material without a second glance.

The purpose of your document is to get past their defences and give them good reasons why they need your services. And that won’t happen if you don’t have an attention-grabbing headline.

Put yourself in the shoes of your readers – what do they want? They want solutions to their problems. Identify what that problem is, tell them how you can solve it and you will have their attention.

How to write a great headline

I have a bookcase full of articles, files and e-books on headline writing, but the single most effective method is a formula I learned from AWAI (American Writers and Artists Institute).

Called the 4 U’s, this formula states that the best headlines are unique, useful, urgent and ultra-specific. If your headline is none of these you can pretty much guarantee it won’t be attention-grabbing.

So, what do these four words mean in the context of headlines?

Unique means your headline should not be copied from other companies’ material. It should be original. To my mind the exception is when you use a world famous headline that has been proven successful as the basis for your headline. For example, Who Else Wants to …?

A useful headline is one which offers the reader information or news they don’t already know. The sum of their knowledge has increased just by reading your headline, the inference being that they will learn heaps more by reading the rest of your document or advertisement.

An urgent headline has a time-based component that gives readers a reason to read the remainder of the copy immediately instead of putting it down to read later (which of course they usually don’t).

An ultra-specific headline avoids generalisations and is instead very focused. This may be targeting a certain market segment by beginning, for example, “Attention Left-handed Jet Ski Owners”, or it may be the information offered is particular to a certain group of potential clients.

It is better to target a specific segment than to try to be all things to all people. This is often where companies fall down in their marketing. They believe their target market is everyone, when in fact they would be more successful by identifying certain segments with high potential for buying their products and services. Very few companies cater for everyone, in reality most only serve a sub-market. It is very important to keep this firmly in mind when putting together any type of marketing document.

Need a hand with your headline? Contact Word Wizard to chat over ideas to create your attention-grabbing headlines.