8 Ways To Write Powerful Headlines

by Binnie Perper

Headlines are important when you write copy for your brochure, catalog, statement insert, flyer, mailer, or web site. Here are 8 ways to write powerful headlines to generate the leads you need for your business.

Why are headlines important? What is their role in delivering your sales message?

Headlines are important because they are the initial attention-grabbers. Getting attention, of course, is the first step in completing the sale. This opener focuses readers' attention on the rest of your sales message, whatever form that message takes -- ad, brochure, catalog, package or statement insert, flyer, mailer, or web site. Headlines can also help you pinpoint the audience ("Attention novice investors!")


It's important to make the headline as strong and powerful as possible. Why? Because FIVE times as many people read the headline as read the rest of your ad.

Here are 8 quick-starts for creating irresistible attention-grabbing headlines:


This technique is popular because it's one of the most arresting. You start with a common phrase or saying, then add a slight twist. But beware of cleverness for its own sake. Remember, your job here is to sell, not to entertain or amuse.

  • Beech party this Sunday. (Furniture store sale)
  • Waist not, want not. (Diet/nutrition center)
  • How to sale away. (Sales Skills Seminar)
  • If these stuffed animals are exposed to 105 temperature, they'll dye. (Ciba-Geigy)
  • What nut did this? (Diamond Walnuts)


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    Formulate your question from the reader's point of view. You want the readers to have asked themselves the question already - you're about to provide the answer! -- or to at least empathize with the idea. Avoid asking questions that readers can answer with "yes" or "no" -- if they answer "no," you've lost them.

    • When an employee gets sick, how long does it take your company to recover? (Insurance company)
    • Is there anything I won't do to help you buy or sell a home? Not much! (Realtor)
    • Does your furnace cost more to operate than it should? (Furnace manufacturer)


    Challenges or commands are effective because:

    a) they confront the readers, involving them instantly in your message, or

    b) tell them to do something, provoking the first action towards an eventual sale.

    • I dare you to burn this coupon. (Chemical company)
    • Put a tiger in your tank. (Gasoline company)
    • See what it takes to reach the sky. (Air Force)


    Headlines that explain "why" or "how to" are sure-fire winners because they promise the reader solutions, solid information, or sound advice.

    • How to stop smoking in 30 days. (Addiction program)
    • Why 50,000 airline flight crews prefer this roll-aboard. (Luggage company)
    • How to turn your next party into a Royal ball. (Crown Royal Whiskey)


    This is the more polite side to #3 above. Rather than commanding, you "invite" readers to take the first step towards the sale. This can be a more appropriate approach for many types of products and services whose "personality" is elite, refined, elegant or expensive. This can also be an effective technique to spotlight your audience.

    • Homeowners: Invite me over to trash your house. (Disposal service)
    • Come to our place for a little peace and quiet. (Oceanfront motel)
    • Join us for tee. (Golf & tennis club)


    News can be anything from a new product or service to a new application of an existing product or service. You can also announce a special event or sale. Use the words "Finally," "Introducing," "Announcing" or The first" to shout out your news.

    • Suddenly the world's cup is half full again. (Volkswagen Beetle)
    • Finally, a Caribbean cruise as good as its brochure. (Norwegian American Line)
    • Introducing the amazing soap for weight loss and skin health. (AOQILI(r) Premium Seaweed Soap)


    Testimonials are powerful because they come from real people - people just like the prospect who is reading your ad, brochure, mailer or web site. A good example that you've probably seen many times is the Publisher's Clearing House TV commercial in which past winners tell us about the thrill of winning big prize money. Here are some headline examples:

    • "I lost 60 pounds in six months." (Diet plan)
    • "I love the fan I bought from you -- and I want another one for the bedroom!" (Ceiling fan store)
    • "It's like going to my favorite golf resort every day after work." (Condo development)


    This type of headline is especially appropriate for retail stores. But other types of businesses use it, too.

    • Pure silk blouses - 30% off! (Women's clothing store)
    • Prime deal on prime ribs, this week only. (Steak restaurant)
    • 5 will get you 8 all month long. (Bank -- $5 deposit to open a savings account paying 8%).


    Here are some tried-and-true, attention-grabbing words you can incorporate into your headlines - as long as they are relevant to your offer or idea:

    • Quick
    • Easy
    • New
    • At last!
    • How to
    • Why
    • Last chance
    • See
    • Save
    • Guarantee(d)
    • Proven
    • Yes

    Visit WWW.BIG-IDEA.COM for back issues. (There you will also find the Big Ideas, Ink SMARTBOOKS store where sharp marketers gather intelligence and ideas to super-charge their own advertising, marketing, copywriting and design.)

    BIG IDEAS BULLETIN is a monthly publication of Writing By Design.
    Author: Binnie Perper, Copywriter & Creative Director, Writing By Design, Ferndale, WA.

    Binnie works by phone, fax and e-mail with clients throughout the country, as well as through graphics designers and marketing consultants. And yes, she is available to come write to the rescue for you or your clients.

    E-mail: writing4u@aol.com
    Fax: 1-360-384-1468

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