How to Write Headlines that Flood Your Company with New Money

May 3, 2021 | Advertising

John Caples tells how early on in the advertising business, he was embarrassed by someone handing him a layout with the headline already written and telling him to write the rest.

The implication that he wasn’t good enough chagrined him. And it motivated him. Made him more determined than ever to figure out how to write headlines.

Not long after, he was assigned to write an ad for the U.S. School of Music correspondence course in piano playing. This time the headline space was blank, and he got to write it. He was elated.

He wrote the headline, “They laughed when I sat down at the piano.” Which launched his luminous career and still stands as one of the most famous ad headlines of all time.

Have a good headline? You’ll have a good ad. Any B-level copywriter can write the copy. But if you have a crappy headline, you’re doomed from the get-go. Your ad will die on the vine and not be read.

Caples compares your headline to the sign on the door, the label on the package, the frosting on the cake. It’s the deciding factor that dictates whether someone will read your promo or open your direct mail package.

If you don’t stop them in their tracks, your business is ruined. Because an unread ad means they won’t buy your product.

Now here’s the catch.

You can have a perfectly good headline that’s getting good results for your company. But you’ll never know if it could be improved to super-status unless you test it against another headline.

I don’t care how savvy a marketer or entrepreneur you are. Your customers and prospects are the ones who dictate how successful your ad is.

The Importance of Testing

You can almost always take a winning headline and improve on it. But most companies don’t.

Here are some historical examples of winning ads, improved upon:

1. Save one gallon of gas in every ten. Car owners! Save one gallon of gas in every ten.

With no other changes, these ads were split-test. The ad pre-selecting car owners pulled 20 percent better than the first version.

2. Hay Fever Dry Up Hay Fever

Again, in a newspaper split test, the second headline pulled a 27 percent increase over the first (380 responses vs. 297) – presumably because the two words “Dry Up” added a benefit promise.

3. How to Have a Cool, Quiet Bedroom How to Have a Cool, Quiet Bedroom – Even on Hot Nights

This was for a manufacturer of portable air conditioners. Phone leads from the ads went to salespeople. The change improved phone responses, because the promised results seem much more dramatic.

Bear in mind that even the first of each of these headlines was considered worthy enough for professional ad agencies to agree to test. No one’s good enough to accurately predict which headline the intended audience will grab.

This highlights the importance of testing. If you don’t test, you’re in essence saying you’re God and know exactly which will win. Sorry, but no one’s that good. Not professional direct response copywriters. Not ad agency bosses. And likely not you, either.

That’s why it makes me crazy when a client randomly thinks they can write a better headline, but they refuse to test either one.

Let me repeat: You cannot know unless and until you test.

Not Just for Promotional Headlines Either

And this isn’t just for ad headlines.

It applies to many things, even books. Take these two books that the authors tested titles for…

1. Five Acres

2. Five Acres and Independence

Number 2 won by a wide margin.

1. How I Raised Myself to Success in Selling

2. How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling

Again, number 2 was the clear winner and went on to become a bestseller.

Given two acceptable headlines, book titles, envelope copy, or whatever, the only way to determine the winner is to test.

A professional copywriter – especially one who’s been in the trenches for hundreds or thousands of headline tests – has a strong sense of what works in headlines and what doesn’t. And many “tricks of the trade” at their disposal. Yet even they need to test.

Need headline brainstorming or revisions?

I’ve written literally thousands of tested headlines. And study these winners relentlessly. Of course, besides headlines I can help you get your “whole promos” written too, and all manner of other copy and content that’s just begging to be written.

Plus, if you’re scratching your head trying to figure out why nothing seems to be working for you in a growth market, or simply want to boost profits, I can put my consulting skills to work to clear the roadblocks and pave your way to profitability.

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!