As a one-person marketing machine, I write all of my company's exhibit-marketing materials, including everything from email promotions to product-related handouts. How can I write more effective headlines that will pull people into the text?
The first line of just about any piece of writing can make or break the entire body of text. This lead-in line – often referred to as a headline, an introductory sentence, or a subject statement – can immediately lure people into reading more, or it can instantly repel them, causing them to ignore the remaining text altogether.
If you would like to do more luring and less repelling, the secret is to create a headline (or whatever you call this opening line) that captures readers' attention and hints at the type of information that will follow. If you can provide readers with a succinct reason to continue reading, such as a benefit they'll gain, possible success they'll achieve, etc., your headline is even better.
Here, then, are four types of headlines that'll help you tempt readers to move past the first line and into the body of your exhibit-marketing text.
1. Ask a question. A surefire way to engage readers' brains is to ask them a pertinent question, which is then answered in the text that follows it. Pair it with a possible benefit to the reader, and your headline is golden. For example, try something like: "Would you like to increase sales by 20 percent within two months?" or "Is your old-school technology eating away at your time and your bottom line?"
2. Issue a command. Generally speaking, the more active (and less passive) your headline is, the more inclined people will be to take action of their own and read beyond the headline. So issue a command to readers, as opposed to making a statement. For example "Don't let this 30-percent discount pass you by. Call us today!" is far more compelling than "We offer a 30-percent discount."
3. Offer a "how to" statement. At its core, a "how to" headline is a benefit statement in disguise, as it suggests that the following text will offer the reader a method or manner to do a necessary task, e.g., earn more money, save time, protect Mother Nature, etc. Here are two quick examples: "How to increase sales and decrease operating costs with one easy purchase" and "How to ensure your product gets noticed in the grocery aisle." Since how-to openers feel more like article titles than lead-in sentences, they probably work best as headings or subject lines as opposed to the first line of a body of text.
4. Drop a famous name. People are more apt to purchase your product or service when a recognizable name, be it a famous person or a well-known company, uses it as well. So incorporate client names (with their permission) into your headlines. For example, consider something like "Savannah Guthrie swears by our ABC widgets." Or maybe include a stat or two with the famous name: "Learn how Sony Electronics Inc. used our technology to decrease distribution costs by 33 percent."
Granted, there are more than just four types of successful headlines. But if you simply implement these four into your exhibit-marketing repertoire, your copy will stop casting into an empty pond and will quickly start to reel in readers.
— Bob Pike, founder, The Bob Pike Group, Eden Prairie, MN