Focus on the readers’ needs
Stuck for a benefits headline? Browse these eight approaches for inspiration:
1. Direct headline
The simplest approach, this headline just states the benefit clearly:
Save $100 on conference registration when you sign up by Feb. 13
2. Indirect headline
Use this approach to attract attention, arouse curiosity and prompt the reader to read on to learn more. The Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education, for instance, used this indirect headline:
It’s . You’re dead. What do you do now?
Powell Books makes a promise that makes readers look twice with this headline:
Lose 20 pounds in one day!
3. Command headline
Bark out a command. Tell readers exactly what to do. Use a verb-based benefits statement that leads with an implied “you”:
Get back to work faster with ITT Hartford’s new Ability Assurance
4. Question headline
Pose a provocative question that prompts your readers to read on to find the answer:
What state are your taxes in?
You could be eroding company profits by paying more in state and local taxes than you should. Let our State and Local Tax experts help you improve the state of your bottom line
The Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education produced an ad with this headline:
Is there life after death?
If the worst should happen, and you die, your family will live on after you. But what kind of life will they be living when you’re gone?
And Conseco ran this question headline with a photo of a patient washing dishes at a hospital:
How do you expect to pay unexpected medical bills?
Note: “Do you know what we’re up to at Wylie Communications?” is not a good question headline.
5. ‘Three reasons’ headline
Give readers specific facts about why they should act now:
Three reasons to open your account today
6. Testimonial headline
Letting a third party promote your products and services may be the most effective technique of all. Put your testimonial in single quotes for the headline:
‘Rev Up Readership offers one the best values for the dollar of any publication that I’ve subscribed to. There’s not a lot of theory — just tons of useful advice.’
— Robert Anderson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
7. News headline
Don’t focus on the new product or service, focus on the benefits of the new product or service to the reader:
Grow bigger, lusher plants — and never have to water again — with XYZ’s new SuperPlantGro
8. How-to headline
How-to heads are powerful because they promise useful information readers can use to live their lives better.
That probably explains why the book How to Psycho-Analyze Yourself outsold the same book titled Psycho-Analysis Explained by more than eight to one. And why How to Argue Logically sold 30,000 copies with that title versus almost none when it was called The Art of Controversy.
When writing how-to headlines, focus on the benefit or end result, not the process.
The late sales coach Bill Brooks offered this headline:
How to write titles that sell
Run this test on all your benefits headlines
Finally, to test the effectiveness of your headline, make sure it answers the reader’s question: “What’s in it for me?”
Sources: Bob Janet, “Ad headlines should command attention,” Tire Business, Oct. 11, 1999
Dean Rieck, “Headline writing basics: what every headline should do and nine proven ways to do it,” Direct Marketing, April 1, 1996
Yanik Silver, “A Good Title Is a Work of Genius,” 4HB.com, 2001