I was recently tasked by one of the publishers I work with to create a half-page ad that would run in “Fresh Outlook” magazine. The ad was to feature one of the publisher’s newest titles, “Happiness Matters.” The basic layout of the ad includes a header line at the top, a picture of the book, a book blurb, an author bio or endorsement and contact info. As I thought about the book (one that I had laid out previously…it’s excellent), I wanted to really capture the audience with the header. I do not write headers for this publisher that often, but in this case, it had not been provided.
I knew that for the header to be effective, it needed to tap into the emotion of the reader. This was not a trade magazine, so the purpose of the ad was to sell to the consumer, not the bookstore buyer. After some experimenting and re-writing, I came up with the following header:
“Imagine how your LIFE would change, if YOUR happiness mattered.”
Most of us feel unappreciated at one time or another and THAT is the angle I wanted to write to. The headline may not be perfect, but it’s not bad. The reason I’m sharing this with you though is not to boast about a headline, it’s to provide a teaching example from the response of the publisher. When they e-mailed their corrections, they said that, while they loved the headline, the one in charge of final approvals was unreachable and she normally likes to use headlines that refer to the company. They included the following revised headline:
“[Publisher’s Name] International Best Seller”
Now let me ask you a question…Which headline will motivate you to buy the book? The point I want to make here is that, when creating a headline to sell your product—whether it’s books or boats, services or products—it’s important to understand a few basic facts: 1. Know who your customer is; and 2. Know how to connect to the customer emotionally. These points might seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many companies and individuals do not understand these two points. Let’s look at both of them briefly.
Know who your customer is… This seems like a “Duh” statement, but do you really know who is buying your products or services. Let’s look at the example I sited above. I know from serving in the publishing industry for nearly 14 years that the primary purchaser of books in the Christian publishing marketplace is women…they are the ones who will most likely purchase this book. We could even get into the demographics of the magazine to discover who the readership is by race, sex and age group. You need to be aware of these facts when approaching any selling campaign. Know your customer.
Know how to connect to the customer emotionally… When it comes to preparing copy and especially headlines, you need to connect emotionally to your customer in one of three ways: 1. Make them laugh; 2. Touch their emotions; 3. Wow them. In the headline I wrote for this ad, I went for number two. I wanted to activate their memory with pictures to connect to their emotion. That’s why I began with the word “Imagine.” Notice that I also uppercased LIFE…I wanted to make it personal to them. Next, I chose “would”… “Imagine how your LIFE would change” I didn’t say “could”…that leaves room for the possibility that it will NOT change. Then I closed the headline with emphasizing “YOUR.” I wanted to drive the point home that this was about them and their happiness. The two capitalized words leave an impression of “Your Life.” Women are usually extremely underappreciated and I wanted to convey, subtly, that the solution was available in the book.
The publisher decided to use point three…to wow them. I know from personal experience that women are hard to wow…men are easier to capture that way. Add to this the information being used to wow them…that the book is an international bestseller. You would be amazed at how few books you need to sell to declare a title a bestseller (not even thousands…although this title probably has sold several thousand copies). In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of books out there that are “bestsellers.” For me (as a guy and a purchaser of a lot of books), a statistic like that doesn’t wow me unless the book has been Number One on the NY Times bestseller list for a few years, and even then, it usually doesn’t matter. I file info like that under “So what!” In my personal opinion, I believe the publisher will leave money on the table by using this approach for the headline.
Please do not come away from this article thinking that I’m out to criticize my customer…I’m not! This ad does bring to light a great lesson to bear in mind as you develop products and services for your potential customers. Copywriting is a learning process…and there are many excellent resources available. I would recommend studying some of the great copywriters from the past like Robert Collier, Bruce Barton or Kenneth Goode. I would also recommend learning from some of today’s greats like Joe Vitale, Harlan Kilstein and Clayton Makepeace. Sign up for their newsletters and study what they write. Observe how it makes you feel and whether it motivates you to want to purchase. You’ll be well on your way to headline success! That’s it for now.