Friday, March 31, 2006

6 amazingly simple ways to make Rs.80,000/- by next weekend

The fact that you are here reading this, proves that I have managed to get your attention. It brings out the most important aspect of an advertisement. It’s the headline. A good headline is the most important part of an advertisement and that’s the bottom line. If you can write “eyeball-grabbing” headlines, chances of your advertisement being successful are as high as 80%. It’s said, without a headline you have nothing. John Caples, the author of a famous book, ‘Tested Advertising Methods’, once said, “In a print ad, 75% of the buying decisions are made at the headline alone.” Now, that’s a big risk. In case your headline goes wrong, then however good your product might be, however good the benefits offered are, it may just not work. You need to use the right words to be able to attract the reader’s attention and make him stop and read the ad and eventually buy the product or service being offered. According to the world famous advertising guru David Ogilvy, “On the average, 5 times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90% of your money.” It is of no surprise then that some of the best written ads are those with powerful headlines. The biggest flops in advertising had some of the best body matter. They failed because they did not come with a convincing headline. A series of tests conducted by researchers showed that – keeping the body copy the same – a good headline proved to be 17 times more effective than a so-so headline!

Do I always need a headline?

Take a simple test yourself. When you pick up the newspaper, what is it that grabs your attention first – it’s the headline. Most of us scan the headlines in the newspaper and read only those articles that have interesting headlines. No wonder, the headline writers on large newspapers are often amongst the most talented and experienced people on the staff. Writing good headlines requires hours of practice and study. Not just newspapers or print ads, the success of many marketing tools depends solely on headlines. Be it an e-mail for marketing of your product, or a direct mailer, or a web-advertisement, if you want the respondent to stop and read, you need to have an interesting headline. As Claude Hopkins, the father of modern advertising said, “It is a basic law in advertising that no advertisement is better than its headline.” The only purpose of a headline is to get the reader to read the whole advertisement, or the whole e-mail, or sales letter. The headline should be so irresistible that is should entice the reader to find out more. So it goes without saying that all advertisements should have a headline. You may come across many advertisements without headlines; however, don’t forget – many of them are not working. As a bottom rule – try not to make ‘headless wonders’! Don’t forget what Ogilvy said, “The wickedest of all sins is to run an advertisement without a headline.”

How to write good headlines

If a headline is the soul of an advertisement, then utmost care must be given to write it. Keeping in mind a few factors could help you write great headlines.

1. The Promise
The headline which “promises” the reader some benefit is bound to succeed. After all, I am the most important person to me! So I would be most interested in anything which will benefit me. If the product promises something, that should be placed as the first thing in the advertisement. If your headline can answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” then it’s undoubtedly a good headline. Consider these headlines:
  1. The secret of making people like you
  2. Order Christmas cards now – pay after January 20
  3. It cleans your breath while it cleans your teeth
  4. Lakme 9 to 5 survives the day
  5. 90 kmpl... 9.5 bhp… 100 km/hr…. Hoodibaba!
  6. How I lost my bulges….and saved money too
  7. Get a whiter smile
  8. Where ever you go, our network follows
All these headlines present the benefit that the product offers. It’s always better to show the user how he/she will benefit from using the product or service. So if you are offering an e-mail service, which additionally offers a storage space of, say, 2 GB to the user, it’s better to present this information as a benefit. Ergo, instead of writing a headline that states the feature as “Our e-mail has a 2 GB storage,” it would probably be a better idea to make a headline that states, “Never throw another e-mail away”. Instead of writing the feature, “Skin cream with Retino-A,” one could probably write a benefit, “Get rid of pimples in 7 days!” A headline which states the benefits clearly is bound to succeed.

2. The Prospect
If your headline talks to everyone, it’s not a good headline. The headline should identify its target, its prospective customer. This way, chances of the intended audience reading the advertisement are the highest. Consider these:
  1. Cracked heels? Call the doctor
  2. Does your heart break every time your hair does?
  3. Hungry Kya?
  4. Is your nose free of black heads?
  5. Girls….want quick curls?
  6. To people who want to write…..but can’t get started!
All of them are aimed directly at their target audience. Most people only read the headline, so it’s always a good idea to identify the target customer in the headline itself.

3. The Powerful Words
A study done by Yale University listed ten most powerful words in the English language. They were – ‘Money’, ‘Discovery’, ‘Save’, ‘Results’, ‘Guaranteed’, ‘You’, ‘New’, ‘Easy’, ‘Love’ and ‘Proven’. Needless to say, whenever possible, it’s always a good idea to incorporate any one or more of these words into your headline. These are some words that never fail to get a response, and are irresistible to the reader. Use them whenever you can; as people have in these headlines:
  1. At last! A remarkable breakthrough for arthritis pain: Aspercream
  2. Play guitar is 7 days or Money Back
  3. New Diet burns off more fat than if you ran 98 miles a week
  4. How to get your cooking bragged about
Of course the most powerful word, which would stop even the most casual reader dead on his tracks, is “FREE!” If you have something to offer for free, don’t save it for the last; it’s always a good idea to state it in the headline. Almost everyone would want to find out what’s for free!

Using words like ‘Breakthrough’, ‘Proven’, ‘Revealed’, ‘Ultimate’, ‘You’, always help to weave a magic around the headline and make it more hard-hitting and convincing.

4. Inspire Curiosity
Headlines should be capable of arresting the attention of the reader long enough, so that curiosity gets the better of the reader and he actually wonders, “Hey, what was that?” Consider these:
  1. Do you mind if I smoke here?
  2. Starting Dec 23, the Atlantic Ocean will be 20% smaller
  3. A man is known by the hair he keeps
5. Use Specifics
Specifics always work better than generalities. This is so because by using specifics, you give your prospect a specific reason why he should read your ad. Facts and figures always help to make an argument stronger than general statements. Once you put numbers, the statement appears more convincing and believable. Consider these:
  1. 7 steps to success
  2. 8 reasons why you should use this product
  3. Get 42% off on a 2 year subscription
  4. Reduce wrinkles by 70% in 2 weeks
  5. 100 business ideas
David Ogilvy did a perception study of consumers and found that they thought that Sears – being a large

department store – would charge them more. The average shopper thought Sears made a profit of 37% on sales. Ogilvy came out with an advertisement whose headline immediately changed the perception of the consumers. It said, “Shop at Sears and Save (Their profit is less than 5%)…”

6. Practice and Test
Yes, it’s important to keep writing and rewriting the headline till you get it right. Headlines are the most important pieces of text in any publication and unfortunately we spend the least time on them. We spend hours editing and revising our stories, but just 30 seconds in putting a headline on them. Some of the best texts have been lost and have proved ineffective, since the headline dampened the spirits of the reader and did not urge him to read further. So work hard on your headline. Also, it pays to test your headlines in the market before finalizing on the advertisement. You could send the same ad with separate headlines, to see which one works better. It takes a little effort – but it’s worth it.

Lastly, there is no limit to the length of a headline. Sometimes, one word is enough; sometimes, 16 words are also o.k.; and sometimes, a 70 word headline has also created magic. Consider these:
  1. “Don’t” (Don’t just envy the Onida TV, Buy it)
  2. “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”This 16 word headline created by David Ogilvy worked just right for Rolls-Royce.
  3. “I seem to spend my whole day picking up – picking up all laundry and crockery and the mail, picking up Jim at the station and the children at the school – and picking up after them all! Sometimes, I feel like a squirrel in a cage – running in circles all day, and never getting a chance to collect my thoughts and take a look at what is going on in this world.”
This was one of the longest headlines, but it went on to become one of the most popular and widely read ones. Brevity is desirable, but not at the sacrifice of saying something meaningful. Write it in a language that can be understood by your target customers. In fact, use the language that they speak – like Coca Cola did with “Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola!” If you can catch the imagination of your target customer, your ad will be a sure-fire hit.

Finally, there can be no rules in advertising. If it works, it’s a rule. However, this is also true that headlines needn’t be dull, boring or technical. You can actually have a lot of fun writing them. If you enjoyed writing them, remember that the reader will enjoy reading them. So there you have it – some tips on how to write headlines that rock. Give them a try and watch your profits soar! You could actually be making Rs.80,000 by the next weekend!

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