In part one of this article I posed the question, “Can anyone write great copy?” I get asked that all the time, and I always say the same thing:
Yes. Most people already know how to do it!
That’s because most people already know how to tell stories… and storytelling is was great copywriting does. The reality is that if you can talk, you can write great copy. In part two, we continue our journey into the psychology and copywriting strategies that are used by the pros to generate millions of dollars in sales. We’ll explore more of the secrets that will help you craft compelling copy. One of the most critical – if not the most critical – elements you must master to be a great copywriter is the headline. Did you know that on average, five times as many people will read a headline as read the content of your copy? Unless your headline sells your product or service you may have wasted 90% of your money!
Why? Because it doesn’t matter how great your offer is, how compelling the body copy is, or what a bargain your price is. If you have a lousy headline, no one will read further to discover the other stuff. The headline also sets the tone of the copy, and puts the reader in a certain mindset before she even begins to read.
Let’s suppose your headline is something like:
How Badly is Your Lawyer Ripping You Off?
The reader is likely approaching the copy with an expectation of finding out something her lawyer doesn’t want her to know, with an expectation of uncovering ways that she can save some money.
So assuming your product can address these issues, your prospect is already predisposed to your offer before she’s read the first sentence! And that’s a pretty strong position to be in.
Your job is to grab your prospect’s attention. Anyone who is not a prospect isn’t important to your copy. For example, let’s say you are selling some kind of insurance for motorcycles. A good headline for you might be something as simple as:
ATTENTION MOTORCYCLE OWNERS!
Naturally anyone that doesn’t own a motorcycle will likely skip your ad. So what? You aren’t writing for everyone – you’re writing for qualified prospects.
Headlines and subheads help you get the prospect’s attention. They entice to into reading the rest of the message. This is more important today than any other time in advertising history because prospects have never been so distracted before, so bombarded with information, and so overwhelmed with stimuli.
There are probably as many different permutations of headlines as there are copywriters. But I believe that they can be grouped into some major categories. Each of these types serves its own purpose, depending on the product, service, concept or idea you are promoting.
You will likely find a type that you gravitate to, and it works well for you. That’s fine; you are naturally going with your strength. But be open to using other types occasionally, as the situation calls for them.
Types of Headlines
The Question Headline: Do You Make These Mistakes in English?
The News Headline: Amazing New Medical Breakthrough for Fat Loss
The Benefit Headline: Lose 30 Pounds in 30 Days!
The Scare or Fear of Loss Headline: Act Now or Miss this Chance Forever!
The Intrigue Headline: Can You Pass the Prosperity Test?
The Testimonial Headline: “My Hair Started Growing Back in two Weeks!”
Headlines are not the only assault weapon in your arsenal of attention-grabbing actions. Subheads allow you to expand what you’re doing with your headline. You can bring in other elements, or simply continue what you started with the headline. Here’s a couple examples using some of our earlier headlines, but adding a subhead this time around:
Lose 30 Pounds in 30 Days
Wear your new bikini next month!
Can You Pass the Prosperity Test?
Or are you destined to remain poor your whole life?
This next technique comes from my colleague and master copywriter, Bob Bly, to help you Rate and improve your Headlines using the 4U’s.
Please write down the words: Urgent Unique Ultra-Specific Useful.
Then write these two headlines: “Free Ezine Subscription”
Leave a couple spaces… then write: “Get Targeted Traffic And Higher Sales …In Less Than 27 Days”
Now, using a scale of 1 through 4, with 1 being the weakest and 4 being the strongest, rate each headline according to the 4U’s.
“Free Ezine Subscription”
Is this headline Urgent? On a scale of 1-4? Nope. I give it a “1.”
Is it Unique? Hardly… another “1.”
Is it Ultra-Specific? Maybe a “2” because you know it’s free and
an ezine, but what is it about? Probably a “1” or “2.”
Is it Useful? Score another “1.” It’s not useful because you don’t
even know what it’s about.
The total score for this headline is only a 4 or 5 out of a possible
16. Not very good.
Repeat the process on the other headline…
“Get Targeted Traffic and Higher Sales… in Less Than
Is this headline Urgent?
Is it Unique?
Is it Ultra-Specific?
Is it Useful?
Sure it’d be great if all of your headlines scored 16, but it’s not about having all 4U’s in all categories. Use them to help improve your headlines and you’ll get better results.
Practice writing headlines using the six different types of headlines. Add subheads if you’re feeling especially creative!
Then look at your current marketing materials and website. Review your headlines and go rate them using the 4U’s. They don’t have to score all 4U’s, but this method will help you see were you can improve your headlines.
Easing Prospects into Your Body Copy
You need headlines that make the prospect read your subhead. And you need a subhead that makes them want to read your opening paragraph. And you need an opening paragraph that makes them want to read the next paragraph and the next. Every paragraph has the same function; to pull the reader through to the next one.
For most copywriters, the opening of a sales letter or ad is the hardest part. Once they get into the flow of the copy, they do fine. Many copywriters take a few paragraphs getting “warmed up.”
Unfortunately, those few paragraphs are likely to be the ones that drive away a large percentage of prospects.
No matter what medium you’re working in, your prospects are busy, skeptical, and distracted. Many open your sales letters over the trash. They scan a page in a magazine or newspaper before they commit to reading it. Their fingers are on their computer mouse ready to click or on the TV remote, just waiting to punch a button.
You don’t have time to warm up. You’ve only got a few seconds to grab them by the collar, throw them up against the wall, and shout, “This is important to YOU! Pay attention now!”
So that has to happen first with your headline – and then in your copy lead-in.
What’s the best way to cut right to the chase, and grab the prospect without meandering around, warming up?
I learned this secret from legendary copywriter and my business partner Randy Gage. You’ll want to start with one of his six body copy lead-in templates. Use any one of them, and you are immediately into the copy narrative. Once there, the copy will flow naturally. All are effective; it’s simply a case of deciding which one is appropriate for the offer that you are making.
Randy’s surefire body copy lead-in templates are:
- The Burning Question(s)
- The Invitation
- The “Behind the Scenes” Story
- The “YOU” approach
- The Take-Away
Here are some examples:
The Burning Question(s): “First, two questions, if I may…”
You can use one or more questions… but no more that three in most cases.
The Invitation: “You’re invited to be one of the first in your area to receive…”
The “Behind the Scenes” Story: “It was 8:00 on a Thursday morning. I arrived at my office to find…” or “Well it happened again. I proposed a marketing strategy to a new client who told me it wouldn’t work.”
The “You” Approach: “Executives like you are a very special breed. You’re the kind of person that…”
The Take-Away: “Odds are that you don’t even qualify for the offer I’m about to make. But on the slight chance that you do…”
So let’s review. First, if you’ve ever told a story to your friends or family, you have the makings of a great copywriter. Use these simple techniques to help paint a mental pictures of the joy the prospect will get by purchasing your product, or the hardship he’ll continue to endure without it.
You have a system now for writing effective headlines, subheads and lead-in body copy templates. Use the 4U’s to rate and improve your headlines too.
You don’t have to have a degree in English to be a copywriting pro! Practice, evaluate, and keep on practicing! You’ll know you’re copy is working when your prospects convert to customers.