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How to Write Good and Sell Stuff 6

Sixth Lesson.  Headlines, Deadlines, and Breadlines

Yesterday’s Lesson: Customers, Hero’s and Weirdos

What is the #1 killer of sales letters and pages, blogs, websites, emails, social media posts?

The answer is simple: Bad Headlines.  For it doesn’t matter how good your content is; if you don’t have a good headline, your promotion will bomb.

Your headline is hands-down the most essential part of your copywriting. It’s often the most difficult to get right too. Sometimes I have labored for hours to create my headline. Then again, other times I can pluck a good one out of the air in a couple of minutes.  

If you don’t get the headline right, no one will click through to your article or sales page and read it, and you will have ZERO chances of growing your audience.

So how do you write headlines that persuade people to read your body copy?  Well, you can speed up the process if you already have a working headline that needs some tweaks.  

In the last lesson, I gave an example of good headlines made even better with a tweak here and there. Here are some more:

Good: How I built a big list.  Better: How I built a 10,000 subscriber list in 30 days.

Good: How to ease back pain. Better: The best way I know to ease back pain.

Good: Free traffic method.  Better: A great free traffic resource I just found.

Good: How to make great money per sale.  Better: The Key to Making $1k, $3k, and $5k Per Sale (online).

Good: Not all make money schemes work.  Better: What they DON’T tell you about make-money schemes.

Good: How I made money fast. Better: Confessions of an overnight success.

Good: Helpful video for you.  Better: I just recorded a life-changing video for a few lucky people.

Good: Easy money formula.  Better: So simple even a kid can do it.     

So assuming you are a newbie copywriter (or even if not so new) here is my fav type of headline: 

The List Headline

Using a number in your headline almost always works. It’s a standby even for pro copywriters who are stumped for ideas. I try not to use them too much because I think it’s a lazy way to write headlines. That said there are plenty of times when I still write list posts.

For newbies creating a list post is one of the easiest ways to write a piece of copy. A list post is much easier to write than (say) a how-to kind of post.

This is because it helps you organize your thoughts better. Just list out the 7 points (or whatever the number is), then flesh each point out with some text. Easy.

You can use this technique when creating lead magnets too. For instance, you could write a cheat sheet with the title: 7 Ways to (solve this problem) Without (experiencing this pain point). 

Why Does It Work?

Firstly, it makes your headline specific. Specificity works well because it gives people assurance and predictability. They know exactly what they’ll be getting.

Another reason is that numbers capture the eye better than most other tricks. This is especially so when the number is written as a numeral rather than in word form. 

Also, consider the credibility boosting benefit that will flow from writing a list-based post. You are making a promise in the headline and will then fulfill your promise in the body copy.

Other tips to make your list headline even better:

  • Odd numbers work better than even numbers
  • Bigger numbers have a higher perception of value. More work for you, yes, but if you can pull it off in the form of a blog post (or even a Facebook or LinkedIn post), you may get more traffic even though most people will not read the entire article.

Other Ideas

Here are some other ideas for you to use in your headlines (and your body copy too):

Make a Big Promise

Then back it up in the copy – try and over-deliver by giving them more than the headline indicated.

Be Specific

Specifics will outsell generalities EVERY TIME – another reason why list-style content works so well.

Curiosity Kills the Cat

Curiosity works.  I used it regularly in my emails and blog posts. Here are some examples (two are quirky) that have worked well for me:  

  1. Fat Bastard and Mini Me. What they taught me about business.
  2. Pitch Bitch Gave Me the Itch.
  3. If I had my time over again, here’s what I would do…….(critical reading)

No More Mister Nice Guy – Use Provocation

When warranted, provocation works.  An example: look for a prevailing belief in your industry and take issue with it.  Pick a fight so readers sit up and take notice.  Note: I will explore the Pick a Fight method in a future lesson.

How-To Headlines

Teach people something useful, and they’ll love you for it.

 Secret Sauce, Ideas, Reasons and Facts 

The use of the word ‘tip’ in your headline is fine, but the word ‘secret’, ‘ideas’, ‘reasons’ or ‘facts’ may be better.  

Create a Sense of Urgency

If you don’t give people a nudge they’ll probably sit around sucking their thumbs till someone else with more sales savvy gets them to ACT NOW.  So, if you’re promoting something, it’s abundantly clear that you must get them to take action now.  Your headlines can help them do that.  For instance, you can run with a time-limited offer and do a countdown with your daily emails.  

Use a Thesaurus

Search for other words that are similar to your chosen word. You may come up with a better option.  I use a handy tool that I installed on Google Chrome called Power Thesaurus.  Try it. 

What is the Emotional Value Of Your Headline?

Determine the Emotional Marketing Value of your headline.  Research indicates that content with high EMV’s has more shares than those without it.  This handy tool will help: Headline Analyzer Tool.

Make ‘Em Laugh

‘Queer As F–k, But That’s the Way He Likes It’. I wrote this subject line for an email I sent to my list. Believe it or not, the purpose of the email was to promote a marketing course. But the subject line caught people’s attention and got them to open the email. Open rates were higher than 40%.

The meaning of the subject line? Glad you asked. It referred to Harry Casey who was the gay lead singer of 70’s band KC and the Sunshine Band. His biggest hit was ‘That’s The Way He Likes It’. As you can see my subject line is a play on words designed to produce a laugh.

How did I segue from a story about a pop band to my marketing-related offer? Mmm, that’s a story for another day.   

Another Example: I Got Scalped in Phnom Penh Barber Shop (The Ultimate Clip Joint)

Appeal to Sloth

Most of us want to avoid work at some point.  So why not exploit it?  Use words like ‘easy’, ‘fool-proof’, ‘straightforward’, ‘steal’ and ‘lazy’ (eg ‘the lazy way to ……’).

Use Emotional Words

Words that play on human emotions also work to persuade people to click or take other actions.  For more examples of high impact emotional words you can use in your headlines, please refer to the first couple of lessons in this course:

Second Lesson. Keep It Simple Stoopid 

Third Lesson. Small is Bootiful (and Bountiful) 

Fourth Lesson. Grab ‘Em When They’re Hot

Use Buzz Words

What are the “buzz words” used by your target audience? Knowing these exact keywords is important, not only for persuading people to take action (which could be in the form of a click), but also for being seen in search engines like Google.

To find buzz words in your niche, use a keyword tool like Google Keyword Planner or Answer The Public.

You can also do a simple Google search of your topic and scroll to the bottom to see a list of related searches. Then you will see some appropriate buzz words you can use in your headline.

Build Your Online Assets

Online assets come in different forms. Examples include courses, lead magnets, email lists, websites, blogs, capture pages, and sales pages. Getting to the point where you can create your own pages and funnels will be a red-letter day for you. There are different ways to do it. Here is my fav Pages and Funnel Building Platform.

Your Homework

Write 2 to 3 list headlines. Then submit them to my Facebook group for a free critique (there’s that ‘free’ word again): Tribe Builder Community.

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