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Writing a Headline: 7 Proven Headline Formulas That Sell

Writing a Headline: 7 Proven Headline Formulas That Sell

Headline formulas can’t be that complicated, right? Writing a headline seems pretty simple — everyone is doing it! All you have to do is just give your piece a title that tells what the story is about and you’re done.

However, if you want a headline that is compelling to your target market and makes them take action, a bit more work is involved.

The very first step in writing a headline is to uncover every possible benefit of the subject of your content — your product, your service, your program, your article, your book, your special report. This is good preliminary work for all headline formulas. The reason is clear: the benefits are your best sales tool. Without taking the time to create a list of benefits, writing a compelling, action-oriented headline will be more difficult.

Once you have created your list of benefits, then determine your headline formulas strategy.

Here are 7 proven headline formulas that sell:

1.  Highlight the ultimate benefit:  Determine the most attractive benefit your product offers. What unique advantage does your product give customers? If you’re uncertain, talk to prospects and customers. Give them a short list of 2 to 5 solid benefits that you have come up with, and then ask them to choose just one, or add another if their “ultimate” benefit is missing.  By talking with your target market, you’ll get them to identify the one benefit that is of supreme importance to them. It could be a single benefit or, more likely, the “ultimate benefit” of your product. Try to narrow it down to one powerful benefit and then use that as your starting point.

Not sure on the difference between features and benefits? Check out my article here: Copywriting Tips: How to Market Benefits vs Features.

2.  Borrow it:   This technique “borrows” ideas, words, phrases, and formats from other headlines and adjusts these to suit your situation. I do this all the time from my swipe file of amazing headlines.  Simply choose different headlines that you like and combine features of several to create a hybrid that makes sense to your topic.  However, be careful and don’t copy someone else’s headline, word for word, as that becomes plagiarism. With your own file of collected headlines, you’ll have a virtual resource center of adaptable ideas and techniques.  To start your swipe file, simply search for “headline swipe files” and you’ll find a number of free PDFs of headline resources online.

3.  Answer the “how-to” question:  We all want to improve ourselves or our lives in some way. The secret with this strategy is to focus on a particular need or want and then promise to fulfill it. However, the how-to headline must highlight the benefit or final result, not the actual process itself. So, instead of “How to Stain Your Deck” which sounds like a lot of work, focus on the real motivators, which might be staining your deck quickly and professionally, or “How to Stain Your Deck in a Weekend Like a Pro.”  For this formula, simply begin with the words “How to” or “How” then immediately fill in the benefit.

4.  Avoidance Behavior: In this strategy, you help people receive what they want while avoiding some pain with a very effective solution, or {Avoid problem} with {my solution}.  For example, “End Your Lower Back Pain Forever With These Simple Exercises.”

5.  Provocative Question:  Ask a question of your reader that relates directly to the major benefit of what you’re writing about.  It also must make the reader answer with a resounding “Yes!” or “I’ve got to know more!”  Sample headlines might be: “Do You Want to Lose 20 Pounds in Only 30 Days?” or “Turned Down for a Mortgage for a New Home?”

6.  Testimonials:  Capture the actual words of your most satisfied customers. Somehow, the words of others – people who once were in the same situation, as the prospects themselves – have great power to influence a prospect’s decision to buy.  Your first step is to gather any feedback that you may have already collected from customers, and then choose the most benefit-laden statements. You can write the headline in the first person and put quotation marks around it.  For example, “If I Can Lose Weight With This Diet, Anyone Can!”

7.  Mistakes and Secrets.  No one wants to make a mistake, and everyone wants to be “in-the-know” on a secret. For example, “7 Biggest SEO Mistakes Bloggers Make in Each Post” or “5 Secrets to Hiring an Event Planner That Won’t Break the Bank.”

Take some time to think about your headline for your project to ensure that you make it sizzle.  Writing a headline can that sells can make all the difference as to whether your email is opened and read, someone buys your product or service, or a visitor downloads your free giveaway from your web site.

Start your headline swipe files here:

102 Headline Writing Formulas by Chris Garrett

101 Headline Formulas that Capture Attention and Get Your Message Read by Peter Sandeen (this resource requires an opt-in)


About the Author Donna Gunter

Best-selling author Donna Gunter works with successful business owners who are experts in their fields and established in their industry and are seeking a way to stand out from their competitors. Using her Ideal Clients on Autopilot System©, she helps them determine the exact strategies to generate more qualified leads and better-paying clients with automated systems. This proven system makes all their marketing easier and more effective and they find themselves positioned as the only choice for their clients.

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