8 Proven Headlines to Boost Ad Response

Along with direct mail, print is one of the mainstays of direct marketing. And today, it's more powerful than ever. A proliferation of highly targeted publications makes it easy to find receptive prospects for your wares. And because ads are relatively easy to produce, print is an ideal medium for testing. Better still, once you find publications where your offer works, you automatically have mailing lists available to rent.

Since the headline is responsible for about 80 percent of your response, it is vital to write one that works. Here are eight kinds of headlines that have been proven over and over again in millions of print ads.

* Say it simply and directly. No cleverness. No jokes. No wordplay. Just get right to the point and say what you have to say. This works particularly well with strong offers, solutions to clear problems, recognized brand names and product or service types the reader is familiar with.

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* State the big benefit. This helps select your ideal audience and relays your main selling point. If you're offering a discount, say it. If you're offering something free, scream it.

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* Announce exciting news. Casting your headline in a way that suggests news, rather than just advertising, can have the same powerful appeal of a feature story in the morning paper. Key news words include new, discover, introducing, announcing, now, at last and finally.

* At Last, American Scientists Have Created the Perfect Alternative to a Mined Diamond!

* Introducing the Newest Idea in Cross-Training (NordicTrack)

* Now Program Your VCR by Simply Speaking to The Revolutionary VCR Voice


* Appeal to the “how to” instinct. We all have an instinct to improve ourselves or our lives. The secret here is to focus on a need or want of the reader and promise to fulfill that need or want quickly and easily.

* How to Stop Smoking in 30 Days . . . or Your Money Back

* How You Can Profit From the 3 Greatest Service Businesses of The Decade!

* How to Do Central America on $17 a Day (Land Rover)

* Pose a provocative question. Asking a question directly involves your reader. However, your question cannot be random or clever. It must relate directly and clearly to the major benefit of the product. It must also prod the reader to answer “yes,” or at least “I'm not sure, but I want to know more.”

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* Bark a command. Many ads fall flat because they fail to tell the reader what to do. This headline type allows you to be direct, relay a benefit and take a commanding posture simultaneously. It's not conversational, it's dictatorial, but in an acceptable way that readers have come to expect in clear writing.

* Be Today's Complete Drafter (correspondence course)

* Find Anyone, Anywhere, Anyway You Want! (CD-ROM phone books)

* Draw The Shades, Bolt the Door . . . and Enter a World of Mystery, Suspense and Terror! (book club)

* Offer useful information. People swim in a sea of facts, but data is not what they're really looking for. They want order and predictability in their lives, to feel a sense of power over the world. Therefore, people seek out the secrets, tips, hints, laws, rules, and systems that promise to help them gain control and make sense of things.

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* Relay an honest, enthusiastic testimonial. A testimonial headline can do two things for you. First, it presents your reader with a third party endorsement of your product or service. Second, it capitalizes on the fact that people like to know what other people say, paying more attention to anything inside quotation marks.

* “Quite simply, the finest children's software ever released.”

* “This diet program worked for me. It can work for you, too!”

* “It's the first book on personal finance that really made sense to me.”

Dean Rieck is president of Direct Creative, Columbus, OH. His e-mail address is [email protected] compuserve.com.

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