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Better Business Idea #11

How to Write Better Headlines

"The Ad for the Ad"

December 17, 1997

Did you know that a headline makes 80% of the impact of an ad? According to David Ogilvy, a famous advertising writer, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy.

The old saying, "There's no second chance to make a good first impression" also applies to ads. If the headline doesn't capture the interest of the reader, the reader will not read the rest of the ad.

Just as importantly, the ad must get the attention of the person who is likely to buy your product or service. If it appeals to the wrong audience, you're wasting your money.

Headlines can be used for media ads, sales letters, or as the title of a book.

One way to improve your chances of having a successful headline is to copy the formula of headlines that have been successful in the past. Here are some examples:

"They laughed when I sat down at the piano--but not when I started to play!"
"How a 'fool stunt' made me a star salesman!"
"Is your computer system prepared for the year 2000?
"How I retired at age 40--with a guaranteed income for life!"
"How to lose 30 pounds in 30 days."
"If you are a nondrinker, you can save 20% on life insurance."
"15 ways to double your revenues in 90 days."

The market response to headlines should be tested. This can be done by publishing the ad with two different headlines and two different response methods, such as two different post boxes or telephone numbers, to measure the differences in response.

The purpose of testing is to demand maximum performance from every marketing effort. In other words, testing doesn't apply only to headlines, but to each thing we do in marketing.

We must test because the only valid judge of the marketplace is the marketplace itself. And the only way to know what the marketplace thinks is by quantitatively measuring the results of your marketing.

For example, here are two headlines. Which do you think would be most successful?

A. What would happen to her if something happened to you?
B. Retirement Income Plan

Headline B had 500% of the response of headline A. It was five times as successful.

Try these two:

A. How to turn your careful driving into money
B. Auto insurance at lower rates if you're a careful driver.

Headline B had 1200%, or 12 times, the response of Headline A.

The "losing" headlines look appealing enough. Our personal preference or guess as to how the market would respond could well have been wrong. That's why we must test the market to learn what works best. Even the most experienced advertisers occasionally mistake the whims of the market.

Once we have a headline that "works," we have a new control we can use to test new headlines against to improve the response. Having a headline the works isn't enough - you want the best headline you can find or create to get the maximum response for your advertising dollars.

Would you like some support or feedback in developing your advertising? Please call Mike Gray at (408)918-3161 for a consultation.

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