The 17 Most Important Words of All

Apr 29, 2021 | Advertising, Copywriting, Website Copy

“1005, 1004, 1003, 1002, 1001…”

That’s the sum total of time you have – if that – before your prospect decides whether to read your email, promo, or article… or not. And anything unread is an epic failure.

You may as well not have spent the money for that piece at all. So almost everything boils down to those five to seventeen words.

Legendary ad man David Ogilvy dubbed the headline the most important part of any sales letter.

That’s why you can often revive a failing promo – whether it’s ‘tired’ and needs a new breath of life, or it never worked at all – by reworking your headline.

The truth is that five times as many people read your headline as read the body copy. So you should spend 80 percent of your time and capital working on your headline.

And incidentally, email subject lines demand the same care and attention. As do articles.

The 4 Critical Questions Your Headlines Must Answer

People are more distracted today than ever before. So your headline must answer the following four questions:

  1. “Who cares…?” Because this is your prospect’s take on whatever you’re saying.
  1. “So what…?” What’s the deeper benefit – the underlying emotional benefit – for your prospect?
  1. “What’s in it for me?” It’s the WIIFM radio station your prospects play all the time – the “What’s In It For Me” station. Don’t talk about your company, talk about what you can do for them.
  1. “Why are you bothering me?” This is especially true in push marketing. It’s really all about how you solve the problem your prospect has.

Your Hook: Your Golden Opportunity to Engage Your Prospect

Your headline should contain or at least hint at a specific hook, promise, or guarantee…

Preferably something they weren’t expecting that makes them scratch their head and feel like they need to read on to resolve.

Your hook can do one or more of the following:

  • Paint a vivid picture in your prospect’s mind
  • Debunk a popular myth or legend
  • Spout off a shocking fact
  • Name a common enemy
  • Promise a BIG solution to a problem

For example, in the health market (where I’ve written hundreds of promos, emails, and articles over the past 15 years), headlines that name a problem and offer a solution are exceedingly common. (Of course, it has to be FDA compliant. But that’s a story for a different day.)

Never forget though…

Your prospect is not buying a “thing” – she’s buying a promise, a solution, privileged knowledge, or whatever.

So your message must meaningfully connect with her core beliefs, feelings, and desires. This is actually much more challenging than you think, because people are complex.

And make no mistake… B2B buyers are also human. So headlines must still appeal to human needs and desires. We may be selling to robots in ten years, but last time I checked humans are still making those buying decisions today.

7 Headline Standouts from History – How Well Do Yours Measure Up?

As a professional copywriter, I study history’s best copywriting classics. If you write sales copy or supervise its writing, you’ll be more effective if you do the same.

History is replete with hundreds of examples of great headlines. So narrowing the field to the seven best is a tall order. Nevertheless, here are my seven favorites. (I’ll tell you why in a future blog post.)

1. They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano – But When I Started to Play…!

2. Do You Make These Mistakes in English?

3. Can You Spot These 10 Decorating Sins?

4. The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches

5. When Doctors “Feel Rotten” This is What They Do

6. What Never… Ever to Eat on an Airplane

7. Bills It’s Okay to Pay Late

Since email marketing is such a huge undertaking in today’s marketplace, some companies engage me just to write headlines for emails (and even existing promos and articles). Let me know if I can help your company generate headlines that get clicks and sales.

To your unlimited business growth,

Carol Parks

Carol Parks helps entrepreneurs and companies grow and scale via digital copywriting and smart marketing strategy… both B2B and B2C. Need copy now? Check-out her Services & Copywriting Packages!