How To Write A Great Headline

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What’s in a headline?

Think about this question for a moment: What do most people put at the top of their advertisements or the opening of their letters?

That’s right. Their business name.

The question is, who really cares about that, other than the business owners and perhaps their team members?

Right again. No one.

Unless you’re Coke, Nike, McDonald’s, or some other massive, well-branded organisation, advertising your company name gets zero sales results.

Why? Because your business name is not a headline.

A headline is a statement, an ad for your ad so to speak, that grabs people. A great headline flags the readers down and makes them want to read on.

A headline is vitally important for several reasons. On average, 5 times as many people read the headline as read the ‘body copy’ of your ad. It follows then that unless your headline starts to sell your product or service, you’re wasting 90% of your money. Something you obviously don’t want to do.

A headline can affect the response to your ad by up to 20 times!

That is, if you were to change only your headline, you could increase the response by up to 20 times. That’s just staggering. No other part of your advertising or marketing material has that pulling power.

Given that then, your headline, in one statement, needs to tell readers instantly: ‘There’s something in this information for you.’ It literally has to grab your potential customers in an instant.

And because that’s just so critical, when you write your advertisement or letter, it’s a good idea to spend 80% of your time on your headline or opening (the rest will follow more easily then, too). That way, you can be sure to get it write (oops…right)!

For your headline to work, it must target the type of persons you want to respond. It must press their ‘hot buttons’ by offering some immediate benefit. And it must speak directly to them. Let’s look more closely at each point.


Literally, flag them down!

Many businesses address the masses in their headlines. They use, for example, the all-encompassing announcement, ‘Customers.’ The problem is, however, that people don’t want to be treated as part of the masses. They want to feel like individuals.

So a good tool to use instead is a mini-headline, above your headline, designed to literally ‘flag’ your type of customer.

To do this, you need to be very clear on the kind of person you want to attract. Who are your customers? For example are they kids, parents, plumbers, businesspeople, mothers, fathers, home owners, managers, pet owners, school teachers, builders, retailers, shoppers, and so on?

Another tool that helps flag people’s attention is to always put your headline in “quotes.” This alone can increase response by up to 28%.

For example, a business that sells children’s products might flag potential customers by saying:


“Learn how your child could grow to be a genius in just 3 easy steps!”

This mini-headline will literally jump out at parents who are scanning the newspaper or a letter from you. It screams, ‘Hey, you’re a parent and therefore you need to read this!’ They identify with being parents, and this mini-headline tells them there’s something in this ad or letter that’s important for them. And that’s the whole point of flagging your potential customers.

Another mini-headline that may sell products or services, such as stationery to business owners, might flag them simply by saying:

An important message for business owners…

Here’s how you can save at least $150 on your next stationery order—guaranteed!

‘Hot Buttons!’

Most business owners or managers advertise or promote the wrong things. They often promote items they think are important but that are actually of absolutely no interest to their potential customers. This means they’re spending (and wasting) money on marketing that talks to no one!

Given that, it is absolutely imperative you do some simple research before you construct your advertising, letter, or promotion. Only then will you have a detailed understanding of who your target market is, how they think, what they want, and why. Then you can promote benefits that are meaningful to your customers and create headlines that will get a response.

To do that, all you need to do is ask your existing customers and clients! After all, they’re exactly the type of people you want to find more of and attract, aren’t they?

‘What were the top 6 things that mattered most to you when you were looking to [buy or find] a new [your product type or business type, e.g., car, mobile phone, house, accountant, or gymnasium builder]?’

This will help you understand your customers’ ‘hot buttons.’ Hot buttons are like the keys to driving a car: They are the keys to getting your potential customers to buy from you.

Hot buttons are those issues that really motivate your customers to buy; they’re what is really important to them when they’re looking for the products and services you offer or your type of business.

‘YOU’ are the most important person in the world

It’s true, isn’t it? Everybody feels his or her needs are important! And everybody wants to feel special? It’s true, too, that those companies and businesses that make you feel important are the ones you love to deal with, isn’t it?

That’s why advertising and marketing works best when you speak directly to each customer—one on one. The key here is to use one little word as often as you can. A little word with a BIG impact.

And the word?


‘You’ makes your customers and potential customers feel like you’re talking only to them. This makes them feel important. Further, when you write a sentence with the word ‘you’ in it, rather than ‘us,’ ‘our,’ and ‘we’ statements, you’re forced to write a benefit to the customer, making your headline and ads all the more powerful.

A great way to get used to that idea is to imagine your potential customers sitting across the desk from you. Then all you need do is put in your ad or marketing material those benefits you would explain to them face to face.

In the famous ‘100 Good Headlines’ featured in Victor Schwab’s How to Write a Good Advertisement (Wilshire Publications 1982), advertising giant John Caples completed an analysis of the number of times certain ‘power’ words appear.

The results of the top ten most commonly used words:

You (31 times)           Your (14)                 How (12)              New (10)

Who (8)                      Money (6)               Now (4)                People (4)

Want (4)                    Why (4)

Notice the word ‘you’ or ‘your’ was used 45 times out of 100!

So it’s critical that you use the word ‘YOU’ or a derivative—such as you, you’re, you can, you’ll, your, or yours—in your headline. Use any of the words listed above as much as possible, too.

Our way of doing things is unique and it’s why it produces unique results for our clients…

We would love the opportunity to help you clear your head on what is the right way for you to accelerate your business… 

We highly recommend you watch this step-by-step case study of how we grew Beefy’s Pies into a Famous Aussie Icon from a small stressed out bakery into a family owned chain. Click here to get all the insights into their success…

Or if you have heard enough about how we work with our small business owners, then let’s have an off the record chat about your current situation and see what we can do to immediately guide you…click this link to see what time best suits you.

Wayne Hutcheson

P.S. Ask if our Boardroom Program intake is open for enrolments…It works best for business owners who see the benefit of having us on as their ‘external partner’ so that they are not alone in the day to day decisions of their business. 


About the Author:

Wayne Hutcheson is a Coach of the highly regarded Grow Business Grow Boardroom Program. He works closely with a hand full of clients to help them achieve growth in their business and to enjoy 'guilt-free' time away from their business without it affecting their profitability.
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