Headline Examples You Can Adopt for Better Response

"Sometimes it is appropriate to address peoples' fears."

by Michael Cooney

Last month we looked at five principles for writing great headlines. Think of the headline as the ad for the ad. If you don't stop readers with your headline, they’ll never read further to discover all the good things your product or service can do for them.

To review, here are the five "dos" and "don'ts": Don't be cute; Do remember the purpose of your headline; Do offer a strong benefit; Do use long headlines when appropriate; and Don't try to attract everyone.

This time I thought I'd give you a few examples from my files that follow those principles.

First, a headline for a trade ad targeting owners of companies using pre-press services:

Three Familiar Headaches with Pre-Press Services -- Which Do You Want to Solve?

People are curious. They want to know if the problems they've experienced are one of the three mentioned. There is also an offer to solve such problems. For managers in companies that use these services, there is no way they could pass up reading this ad.

For a letter going out to frequent business travelers:

A Personal Invitation to Park FREE at the Newest, Most Luxurious Park & Ride and Business Center Serving LAX

Again, long headlines are fine as long as you offer a benefit and have a point to make. The target (frequent business travelers) is highly focused. If you leave your car in a parking lot near LAX when you travel, would you pass this up?

For an FDA-approved medical device, published in the Wall Street Journal:

Orders Pouring in Too Fast -- Need Expansion Capital NOW

For an office building with space to rent near LAX:

Every City in the World… One Plane Trip Plus Five Minutes From Your Office

For executives who travel, the benefit is clear. No more worries about missing a flight due to getting stuck in a traffic jam on the way to LAX. Just travel a few blocks and you're there. The wording in the headline paints a picture of convenience and stress-free travel.

For the famous Hooked On Phonics reading program during its heyday, see this direct mail headline I wrote for a referral letter sent to existing customers:

We Have a Valuable, Fun, Free Gift for You… If You Can Do Us and Your Friend a Favor

For making a referral to HOP, the customer received a free HOP math or history course for his or her child, and the referred friend got a generous discount on the HOP reading program. When asking for referrals, you'll get better results if you reward both parties. Reason? Your customer will be far more likely to make a referral, knowing that his friend will also gain a valuable benefit.

The following headline was for a direct mail piece sent to bank branch managers. It offered a service the bank could offer to its customers, with the bank gaining in two ways.

XYZ Company (name changed) offers Wells Fargo a New Profit Center, Plus Increased Customer Goodwill

            (followed by this sub-head)

Merely inform your customers of the note collection service many of them already want (but don’t know where to get), and collect a commission each time they subscribe—XYZ Company does all the work.

The headline and sub-head present a clearly stated and straightforward offer to branch managers. All the branch manager had to do was mention the program to those who collect monthly note payments.

Next, a headline and two sub-heads for a direct mail piece going to new parents.

Sadly, 15,000 Babies a Year Are Tucked in to Sleep -- But Never Wake Up

At last, you can rest with true peace of mind, knowing that your baby is safe all night.

Find out how you can try this amazing new breakthrough in your home for 60 days—entirely at our risk.

The product was a new device that measured the movement of ions around a living being, sensitive enough to detect a baby’s miniscule breathing motions. No ion movement meant a baby was still and the device would sound an alarm, alerting the parents to trouble.

If you were a new parent, would you feel compelled to read the letter? Sometimes it is appropriate to address peoples' fears, especially when you offer a solution. The manufacturer's president told me that in their tests, parents could not put the letter down until they had read the entire six pages. And yes, he put that in writing!

Use the five principles discussed before along with these examples, and see if you can find a compelling way to state your best case. With practice and perseverance, you should see improved results in your advertising.