You’ve heard it before…
“10X as many people read your headline as read the rest of the ad.”
“If you can capture someone’s attention with your headline, 80% of your selling job is done.”
“The headline is the most important part of a successful ad.”
And so on.
That’s why great copywriters spend as much as 50% of their time on a project making sure the headline — that first piece of copy that jumps out at their reader — is just right.
For me, that part of the copy creation process is split in two parts.
First, you have to find the right idea.
Without the right idea behind your ad, everything else falls flat.
The challenge in writing a great ad, sales letter, promotion, video script, whatever… Is finding the exact idea or story you can tell that will capture your prospect’s limited and fleeting attention and interest.
That’s a deep, deep topic. And one for another day.
But when you’ve got the right idea (and maybe even once you’ve written the entire ad)…
You still have to make sure you’re capturing and expressing that idea in your headline in a way that will get maximum readership.
And so I most often will write a placeholder headline at the beginning of the process, just to make sure I’ve expressed the idea…
Then write the copy…
And finally come back around for part two of the headline process…
Second, refine, hone, and strengthen the headline…
Yesterday I mentioned that you want to hone your sales message like a Samurai’s swordsmith forges and shapes and then polishes the blade with seven stones before it’s ready for battle…
And your headline?
Well it’s the knife-edge of that blade…
The sharpest tip, that has to do all the cutting.
And that’s when it pays to use something like this list of headline-strengthening ideas that the great copywriter Gene Schwartz wrote out in his book, Breakthrough Advertising.
(Mind you, you don’t want to swipe the words in these headlines. In many cases, the language is outdated and would fall flat. You just want to capture the idea, and find a way to apply it to your own.)
38 ways to strengthen your headline, from the great Gene Schwartz:
1. Measure the size of the claim
20,000 FILTER TRAPS IN VICEROY!
I AM 61 POUNDS LIGHTER…
WHO EVER HEARD OF 17,000 BLOOMS FROM A SINGLE PLANT?
2. Measure the speed of the claim
FEEL BETTER FAST!
IN TWO SECONDS, BAYER ASPIRIN BEGINS TO DISSOLVE IN YOUR GLASS!
3. Compare the claim
SIX TIMES WHITER WASHES!
COSTS UP TO $300 LESS THAN MANY MODELS OF THE LOW-PRICED THREE!
4. Metaphorize the claim
MELTS AWAY UGLY FAT!
5. Sensitize the claim by making the prospect feel, smell, touch, see, or hear it
TASTES LIKE YOU JUST PICKED IT!
THE SKIN YOU LOVE TO TOUCH!
6. Demonstrate the claim by showing a prime example
JAKE LAMOTTA, 160 POUND FIGHTER, FAILS TO FLATTEN MONO PAPER CUP!
AT 60 MILES AN HOUR, THE LOUDEST NOISE IN THIS ROLLS ROYCE IS THE ELECTRIC CLOCK!
7. Dramatize the claim, or its result
HERE’S AN EXTRA $50 GRACE — I’M MAKING BIG MONEY NOW!
THEY LAUGHED WHEN I SAT DOWN AT THE PIANO — BUT WHEN I STARTED TO PLAY…
8. State the claim as a paradox
HOW A BALD-HEADED BARBER SAVED MY HAIR!
BEAT THE RACES BY PICKING LOSERS!
9. Remove limitations from the claim
SHRINKS HEMORRHOIDS WITHOUT SURGERY!
YOU BREATHE NO DUSTY ODORS WHEN YOU DO IT WITH LEWYT!
10. Associate the claim with value or people with whom the prospect wishes to be identified
MICKEY MANTLE SAYS: CAMELS NEVER BOTHER MY THROAT!
9 OUT OF 10 DECORATORS USE WUNDA-WEAVE CARPETS FOR LONG LIFE AT LOW COST!
11. Show how much work, in detail, the claim does
NOW! RELIEF FROM ALL 5 ACID-CAUSED STOMACH TROUBLES — IN SECONDS!
RELIEVES CONGESTION IN ALL 7 NASAL PASSAGES INSTANTLY!
12. State the claim as a question
WHO ELSE WANTS A WHITER WASH — WITH NO HARD WORK?
COULD YOU USE $25 A WEEK EXTRA INCOME?
13. Offer information about how to accomplish the claim
HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE!
HERE’S WHAT TO DO TO GET RID OF PIMPLES FAST!
14. Tie authority into the claim
BOSS MECHANIC SHOWS HOW TO AVOID ENGINE REPAIR BILLS!
HERE’S WHAT DOCTORS DO WHEN THEY FEEL ROTTEN!
15. Before-and-after the claim
BEFORE COLDENE A CHILD GOT OVER A COLD AFTER 5 DAYS OF ACHING, SNEEZING, WHEEZING, DRIPPING, SUFFERING, COUGHING, CRYING, GAGGING, SPITTING. WITH COLDENE A CHILD GETS OVER A COLD IN FIVE DAYS!
16. Stress the newness of the claim
ANNOUNCING! GUIDED MISSILE SPARK PLUGS!
NOW! CHROME PLATE WITHOUT HEAT, ELECTRICITY, MACHINERY!
17. Stress the exclusivity of the claim
OURS ALONE! PERSIAN LAMB ORIGINALS — $389.40!
ONLY GLEEM HAS GL-70 TO KEEP TEETH CLEAN ALL DAY LONG WITH ONE BRUSHING!
18. Turn the claim into a challenge for the reader
WHICH TWIN HAS THE TONI? AND WHICH HAS THE $15 PERMANENT?
DOES SHE OR DOESN’T SHE? HAIR COLORING SO NATURAL ONLY HER HAIRDRESSER KNOWS FOR SURE!
19. State the claim as a case-history quotation
LOOK MOM — NO CAVITIES!
WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT — I HAVE A COLD!
20. Condense the claim — interchange your product and the product it replaces
NOW! A RING AND PISTON JOB IN A TUBE!
POUR YOURSELF A NEW ENGINE!
21. Symbolize the claim — replace the direct statement or measurement of the claim with a parallel reality
STARTING NEXT TUESDAY, THE ATLANTIC OCEAN BECOMES ONLY ONE-FIFTH AS LONG!
22. Connect the mechanism to the claim in your headline
FLOATS FAT RIGHT OUT OF YOUR BODY!
FEEDS WASTE GAS FUMES BACK INTO YOUR ENGINE!
23. Startle the reader by contradicting the way he thinks the mechanism should work
“HIT HELL OUT OF THE BALL WITH YOUR RIGHT HAND,” SAYS TOMMY ARMOUR!
24. Connect the need and the claim in the headline
THERE IS ONLY ONE SOLUTION TO AN ADVERTISING PROBLEM: FIND THE MAN!
25. Offer information in the ad itself
WHY MEN CRACK…
WHAT EVERYBODY OUGHT TO KNOW ABOUT THIS STOCK AND BOND BUSINESS!
26. Turn the claim or the need into a case history
AUNT MEG, WHO NEVER MARRIED…
AGAIN SHE ORDERS — “A CHICKEN SALAD, PLEASE”
27. Give a name to the problem or need
WHEN YOU’RE WEARY WITH DAY-TIME FATIGUE, TAKE ALKA-SELTZER
28. Warn the reader about possible pitfalls if he doesn’t use the product
DON’T INVEST ONE CENT OF YOUR HARD-EARNED MONEY UNTIL YOU CHECK THIS GUIDE!
29. Emphasize the claim by its phraseology — by breaking it into two sentences, or repeating it, or a part of it
A MAN YOU CAN LEAN ON! THAT’S KLOPERMAN!
NOBODY BUT NOBODY UNDERSELLS GIMBEL’S!
30. Show how easy the claim is to accomplish by imposing a universally-overcome limitation
IF YOU CAN COUNT TO ELEVEN, YOU CAN INCREASE YOUR SPEED AND SKILL AT NUMBERS!
31. State the difference in the headline
THE DIFFERENCE IN PREMIUM GASOLINES IS RIGHT IN THE ADDITIVES!
32. Surprise your reader into reading that former limitations have now been overcome
SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CRUSH A HARTMAN DC-8? NOTHING!
33. Address the people who can’t buy your product
IF YOU’VE ALREADY TAKEN YOUR VACATION, DON’T READ THIS. IT’LL BREAK YOUR HEART.
34. Address your prospect directly
TO THE MAN WHO WILL SETTLE FOR NOTHING LESS THAN THE PRESIDENCY OF HIS FIRM.
35. Dramatize how hard it was to produce the claim
WHEN JENS FINISHED DESIGNING THIS CANDLEHOLDER WE HAD TO INVENT A WHOLE NEW KIND OF CANDLE.
36. Accuse the claim of being too good
IS IT IMMORAL TO MAKE MONEY THIS EASILY?
37. Challenge the prospect’s present limiting beliefs
YOU ARE TWICE AS SMART AS YOU THINK.
38. Turn the claim into a question and answer
YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S UNDER THE HOOD AND YOU COULDN’T CARE LESS AS LONG AS YOUR CAR RUNS SMOOTHLY. WHO SHOULD YOU SEE IF IT DOESN’T? … SOMEONE WHO CARES — UNITED DELCO.
Gene never meant that to be an exhaustive list, although it’s pretty dang thorough. But there are two more that jump out at me that weren’t on there, that I know are effective.
+1. Feature the guarantee
DON’T PAY A PENNY UNTIL THIS COURSE TURNS YOU INTO A MENTAL MAGNET
IF YOU GIVE ME 20 MINUTES A MONTH, I’LL HELP YOU RETIRE RICH
This is just a small part of the systematic approach I’ve put together to create more powerful copy every time.
It’s part of what I’d like to share with you — to help you achieve all your business and career goals by creating copy that sells…
Tomorrow I’ll be skipping the normal issue, and instead asking you a simple question…
Teaching this can’t happen in these emails.
It’s a much more immersive process.
There will be more back and forth.
More in-depth instruction.
More tools required.
I think of this much like software for your mental copywriting computer.
It has to be installed.
There are processes and procedures that have to be learned.
Resources that need to be made available.
And I want to know what the best setting will be for you to go through this process and truly transform your copywriting ability as a result.
So please make sure you watch for my email tomorrow, and do me a favor by getting back to me with an answer to my question. (And since you’re reading this on the blog and not in your email, what are you waiting for? Sign up for the emails now, so you’ll get a chance at giving your input PLUS get the announcement when this high-level copywriting training goes live.)
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets