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The Power of a Strong, Well-Written Headline

Sep 5, 2008
As a VAR, I have strong concerns about mandatory vendor "marketing guidelines" we must use in our communications with prospects - and how much they can undercut our effectiveness. It is counterproductive to have anything restrict the relationship - and the sales - to our prospects. I'd like to offer a great illustration referencing the "power of a strong, well written headline" experience my company had.

While I will focus on email and its headline (the first sentence once the email has been opened), this advice applies to any marketing piece, whether a sales letter, landing page, direct mail, etc. A headline is incredibly important. We are trained to read headlines and, standing in the grocery line reviewing magazines, where do your eyes lands first? Of course, on the headlines.

Therefore, as marketers we need to work *with* human nature, not against it. Another thing to remember is that if someone reads your email or marketing piece, they only have a few seconds to decide whether to continue reading the email and take action on your offer. Those few seconds usually involve reading your headline. You have to grab them at that point or you lose them.

When you write a headline make sure it contains the following:

-- Describe the pain the prospect/client may be experiencing
-- Refer to the solution
-- Describe the offer or call-to-action

I know it sound like a lot to include in a headline but it can be done. Let me give you a quick illustration.

Late last year we conducted a lead generation campaign that consisted of telemarketing, direct mail, and email. Our goal was to generate most of these leads from telemarketing but also to up the ante on email and direct mail (especially with email).

We created an email with a subject line that we felt would be great. We followed the rules outlined above and were hopeful it would work very well. (By the way, I won't get into subject lines but they have a couple rules of their own but, for now, they are very similar to headlines.)

The results of our first email blast? We received 60 responses from prospects. We were thrilled because these were 60 people who took the time to fill out an 8-question application for a face-to-face meeting with us, a reseller.

Based on the number of emails we sent out, this was a good return. We attributed it to the power of our strong, well-written headline.

Now, let's consider a poorly written headline. Once the vendor saw that email, they decided it didn't fit in with their marketing guidelines and made us change it. So, we changed it and sent out an email campaign the following week. Can you guess our response rate? We got 4 responses.

Yes, our headline was watered down and corporate marketing guidelines won out. The real loser? Yes, the Value-added Reseller - but also that vendor corporation.
About the Author
Ramon provides more marketing information, especially created for the IT VAR industry but also applies to everyone who wants to improve their sales. Stay up-to-date at StreetSmartVAR.com and while you're there, don't forget to sign up for Ramon's popular, no-cost online marketing course!
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