FREE REPORT: "7 Mistakes to Avoid in Hiring a Copywriter"

Four Critical Ideas to Consider When Evaluating Any Headline

The first – and most important – component to any great sales piece is a strong, compelling headline.

This isn’t news to you…you’ve known about the importance of having engaging, enticing, attention-grabbing headlines throughout your career.

Over the past decade or so, headlines and subject lines have become even more important.

In the “old days” of direct mail, experts estimated that your headline had 3-to-5 seconds to capture the reader’s attention before a sales letter would get thrown in the trash.

These days – with the immediacy of our online communication – you have a fraction of a second.

In other words, if your headline or subject line isn’t strong enough…your promotion is dead on arrival.

So how do you make sure headline does the job and gives your promotion a chance to succeed?

Here are four important ideas to consider when writing or evaluating headlines:

1. Make Sure You Don’t Easily Fit Into a Box – Your reader’s instinct – from the moment he spots your headline – is to try and put your message into a “box” he can more easily deal with. Is your message a bill?  Is it a sales letter?  Is it something that must be dealt with immediately?  Is this something I’ve seen before?

The simple truth is…if your reader looks at your headline and can immediately say, “That’s not urgent” or “This is a sales letter for something I don’t need” then you have absolutely no chance.

In order to make sure your message doesn’t fit into a “box” you must do one – or more — of four things: (1) GRAB the reader’s attention…(2) stir his curiosity…(3) touch on a strong personal desire (fear, greed, anger, etc.)…or (4) let the reader know that what he’s about to read is of benefit to him.

Think about your own experience.  Your time is valuable…so when you sort through your mail – or your email inbox or direct messages – you try to quickly categorize each message so you can save time.

But those messages that grab your attention – or somehow seem unique – are the ones you spend more time with…and ultimately that’s our goal.

2. Beware of Huge Promises – Grabbing your reader’s attention with a big promise can be a great idea. But you must be careful not to make your promise sound so fantastic that it’s unbelievable.  After all, the bigger your promise…the bigger your reader’s wall of objection.  For example, “Turn $1,000 into $5 million in 3 Weeks or Less.”  That certainly gets my attention…but only for a split-second. As soon as my mind processes the details, I immediately think, “No way…” and I cast the message aside.

But this doesn’t mean you should avoid big promises.  In fact, some of my most successful campaigns have used huge promises for headlines.  But the trick is to use a sub-head – containing a secondary promise – that helps support the idea.

3. What’s In It For Me? – If your headline doesn’t answer this question – either explicitly or implicitly – your promotion will never get off the ground. No matter how great your relationship is with your list…your readers aren’t interested in hearing how smart you are…how wealthy you are….how funny you are…or how good-looking you are.

Your readers – like most of us – are self-absorbed.  They want to know how they can make more money…live a better life…enjoy their retirement…and look and feel healthier.  They want useful information they can act upon in order to improve their lives, satisfy their needs or calm their fears.  They’re not interested in you – they’re interested in what you can do for them.

4. Urgency is Critical – The goal of your headline is to get the reader to read your promotion NOW. Not next week…not tomorrow…not even later today.  This has to happen immediately!

People are bombarded every day with information – and sales letters.  If the reader thinks he can wait a while to read your message, he will…and then chances are you’ll be forgotten completely.

But if what you’re communicating – or selling – is truly worth your reader’s time and money…you need to make it clear to him that he must read this message now.

Words like “immediately,” “right now,” “Urgent:,” “today,” and “before (date)” can help increase the urgency associated with your message.

You want your headlines to be as strong as possible, so reviewing the headline should be the most important step in the evaluation process.  There are many different types of headlines – and we can discuss all of them in a future blog post – but the four ideas presented here should put you on the right path to developing a strong, compelling headline…each and every time.

Jody Madron is a results-oriented copywriter with more than 20 years of breakthrough marketing experience.  To learn how Jody can deliver results-boosting copy — ahead of your deadline — visit

30 Years of
Breakthrough Marketing Success

"7 Mistakes to Avoid in Hiring a Copywriter"