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Quick! You've Got 3.5 Seconds to Grab Your Prospects' Attention...How Will You Do It?

Quick! You've Got 3.5 Seconds to Grab Your Prospects' Attention...How Will You Do It?

August 23, 2008

Answer: your headline. The headline is THE most important part of your marketing. Whether you have an ad, a direct mail promotion or you have sales copy on a website, you must learn to master writing headlines to stand out from the crowd.

I've talked previously about the importance of having a Big Zig - that one thing that makes you different from everyone else so while everyone else is zagging you can zig, and the bigger the zig, the better. Your headline is another tool to emphasize your Big Zig. The difference between a good headline and a bad headline can be the difference between being profitable and losing money. Yes, it's that important.

4 elements of great headlines that can make or break your marketing

Your headline is the first thing a prospect will see and it will decide whether your marketing message gets tossed into the trash or not. The best headlines contain at least one of the '4 U's.' They are:

  • Unique - the message should be so different, so unusual that it grabs your attention and makes you want to find out more.
  • Ultra-specific - it should be so specific that it tells the story and provokes curiosity in such a way that the headline speaks directly to the prospect with its specificity.
  • You - the headline should speak to the prospect you're marketing to and identifies with the prospect's challenges and concerns, and makes a promise.
  • Urgent - your message should motivate prospects to take action now ' not later!

Not every headline will have all four 'U's.' In fact, it's very rare that all four would appear in one headline. The key is to try to have at least one of those elements in your headline. Then, try to add a second 'U' in the headline to make it even more compelling.

After the headline, the next place a prospect will scan are the subheads, especially in a sales letter or on a website. Make the subheads just as powerful as the headline. This is where you want to be more specific. Tease the subheads so the reader will want to read on to find out more. Highlight benefits to the prospect. Use the subheads as tools to bring the reader into your message. Ask questions that the prospect would ask. Make it intriguing enough for them to stop and read more.

As the prospect reads the message, he or she will scan it in a 'Z' formation beginning at the top left, moving to the right side of the page, then the left, before moving to the bottom right side of the page. The goal is to get your prospect 'in' the package and to get him or her turning the pages to see what you what you have to say. Position your most prominent messages where your eyes scan for information.

The prospect will then move quickly to the last page to see who signed the marketing message. They want to know who it's from. Who is this person who claims to know so much about me?

All this is happening in only 3.5 seconds ' 5 if you're lucky! If you're sending a letter, the last place ' and most important in my opinion ' that your prospect will read before deciding whether to read on is the P.S. Since it's just below the salutation, it's an easy read for the prospect. This is where you should reiterate your promise, your call to action and your no-risk offer.

The P.S. is often the most overlooked tool by marketers. Copywriters fall into the trap that they think prospects will read their promotion just as the wrote it, beginning on page 1 and then reading it one sentence after another, page by page. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your prospects are scanning before they decide to read on and one of the first places they'll look is the P.S. Make it strong, bold and easy for your prospect to act.