(The following content is the first chapter from a manual I wrote that teaches how to write a sales letter. Each chapter in the manual gives instructions on how to write a single component of a sales letter. This chapter focuses on writing the headline component.)
1. The Headline Component
The headline component is the first thing on your sales letter. It’s a big, bold piece of text that sits at the top of your sales letter and will be the first thing that all your visitors see.
The headline is the most important component on any sales letter. In fact, the headline is the most important component for all web pages whose purpose is to get a visitor to do something – whether that something is buying, subscribing, or clicking on your affiliate link.
If your goal is to make a visitor take any specific action, you’ll need a great headline to get good results.
Why are headlines so important? Well, in a nutshell, it’s because they’re the only component of your sales letter that every single one of your visitors is guaranteed to see.
When someone lands on your page, their eyes will immediately go to the top third of the screen. We all read from top to bottom, from left to right – it’s just human nature.
So when someone lands on your page and they scan the top third of it, what’s there will determine if they stay and continue reading, or if they hit that back button and look somewhere else.
If they stay and continue reading then they may buy and give you some money, if they leave and look somewhere else then you’ve lost any chance of making a sale and that person will probably never see your site again.
The headline is that important, and you should remember that every single time you’re creating one. Every sale starts with a good headline.
What The Headline Component Does For Your Sales Letter
The headline component does the following 4 things for your sales letter:
- Sets the tone for the rest of the sales letter that follows
- Promises your visitors something beneficial or intriguing
- Makes your visitors read on deeper into your sales letter
- Lets your visitors know that they’re in the right place
Your headline is the most critical component in your sales letter, and with the help of this chapter you’ll know exactly how to create incredibly powerful headlines that never fail to work.
What Makes A Great Headline Component?
The system that I’m going to teach you for writing great headlines depends on 2 things:
- Psychological triggers
The psychological triggers are what give the headlines their punch, their power, and the templates are the way to organize the triggers so that the headlines are easy to write.
5 Psychological Headline Triggers To Immediately Hook Your Visitors
There are 5 psychological “triggers” that never fail to get the attention of your visitors. Use these triggers as often as you can in all your headlines and your sales letters will convert from day 1.
Numbers almost never fail to improve how well a headline performs. Never waste a chance to include one of more numbers in any headline you create.
And never write a number in words, because any time you do, you’re wasting a chance to capture someone’s attention with digits, and you’re wasting valuable space because words use more characters than digits.
Whenever you’re creating headlines, look for any openings where a number can be used. If you’re struggling, there are a few methods you can always depend on.
Lists, or introductions to lists – “5 ways to do X” or “3 mistakes that are stopping you from X” or “10 reasons you should X.” Numbers of ways to do things like this make for compelling headlines, and they make your visitor read on deeper into the sales letter to see what the items on those lists are.
Money – amounts of money written in numbers always get people’s attention, so this is always something to consider including in a headline.
And don’t think that only products about making money can include money amounts in the headline. You might include a saving someone will make, the amount that was spent developing your product or service. Get creative and find ways to use money in the form of numbers in your headline.
Dates or time frames – how many days will your product take to work? How many years did the product or service take to create? Again, get creative and look for ways to include numbers of days, dates, and years in your headlines.
Whatever your product, I’d go as far as including a number in every single headline you create. After some split tests you might wind up losing the numbers, but in a brand new headline that has no track record, stick one or two numbers in there because they’ll almost always make a headline perform better.
Sometimes the best headlines are questions. Just like with numbers, questions asked in the headline compel a visitor to read deeper into the sales letter to see what the answer to the question is.
The more intriguing the question, or the more you can ask something that a visitor wants to know the answer to, the better a question-based headline is.
Often, the simplest form of this type of headline is to ask if the visitor would like to know the solution to the problem that your product or service solves. It’s basic, but often a great place to start when your creativity is letting you down.
A promise is a great way to turn your headlines into compelling lead-ins to your sales letters. If you can promise something that someone desperately wants, and you can make it sound completely sincere, then there’s no better way to hook someone into reading on.
Simple promises that work well in sales letter headlines include the promise of an answer to the problem that your product or service solves, and the promise of something incredible or revolutionary coming somewhere later on in the sales letter.
You’re probably seeing a pattern in a lot of these triggers, and that is that many of them are using intrigue as a way to get people hooked into reading beyond the headline.
A lot of these triggers use intrigue because intrigue works, and what better way to use it than mysteries?
If you can say something in your headline that creates a mystery in your visitor’s mind that they want to solve or uncover, then you’ve got an absolutely killer headline that’s gonna perform like you wouldn’t believe.
Did you ever see this headline before?
“Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards to Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks and Slices … and Can Slash Up to 10 Strokes From Your Game Almost Overnight.”
This headline is used as an example all the time by copywriters who are teaching their students how to create compelling headlines, and it is a great one – mainly because of the mystery it has at its center.
And that mystery is, how can a man with one leg play golf, how can a man with one leg play golf so well, and perhaps even how did this man lose his leg in the first place?
Lots of mysteries that lots of people would read on to solve, and that’s why the headline works as well as it did. So if you can find a way to put a mystery in your headlines, do it.
This one can cause some hesitation for some marketers, but it really shouldn’t. Touching on someone’s raw nerves is a tried and
tested way to get someone to read deeper into your sales letter, and it’s also a great way to put someone into the right mindset to buy.
If someone has a problem that your product or service solves, then touching on a raw nerve that’s related to that problem is a great way to turn a visitor into a sale.
And if you have a great product that you believe in and that really does solve a problem in your visitor’s life, then hitting on a raw nerve and getting them to buy is doing them a favor. If you’re marketing is so weak and apologetic that no one buys, then your wonderful product isn’t helping anyone and people are living with problems that they could stop.
So, how do you use raw nerves in a headline?
Well, they’re not hard to find. If someone is overweight and looking for a way to get in shape, using raw nerves might mean that you don’t tiptoe around looking for indirect ways to tell them they need to lose a few pounds.
The word being screamed in their own heads, I can assure you, is fat. So why would you want to speak to them in a different language, and in a language that was less likely to get them into a buying mindset?
Don’t be afraid to touch on a visitor’s raw nerves. Think about your potential customers – what in their life are they unhappy with, ashamed about, angry about? If your thinking turns up anything that seems like it might touch on a raw nerve, don’t be afraid to use it in a headline.
3 Proven Headline Templates That’ll Work For You Every Time
When you get more experienced with headlines, you’ll be able to experiment more, and you’ll find your own brand new headlines that convert like crazy.
In the meantime, though, there are some proven templates that you can use that you can have complete faith in. I use these templates all the time as a starting point whenever I write a new headline, and they never let me down.
Template #1: Goal-Based Question, Exciting Promise
This uses the questions and promises I talked about just now, and it combines them in a way that creates a great headline that works in all markets.
First, you need a goal-based question.
Let’s say you’ve got a dog training info product. Ask yourself what the goal is of someone who lands on your sales page. It can be more than one goal, and you can combine them into an entire string of goals if you like.
When you have your goal (or goals), simply put them into the form of a “Would You Like” question.
In my dog training example, that might be something like this:
“Would You Like Your Dog To Stop Barking, To Walk Calmly On A leash, And To Come To You Every Single Time You Call It’s Name?”
So, 3 goals someone with a badly behaved dog might have, put into a goal-based question. Obviously the more in-tune you are with your target market, the better you’ll be at knowing what your visitors’ goals are.
But even in markets you know nothing about, you can usually make a good enough guess (as I did in the above example).
So that’s the first half of this headline template – the goal-based question. And you’ll see a lot of headlines that leave it there. But on it’s own this type of headline is missing a punch, and that’s why we’re gonna add an exciting promise onto it.
The start of the headline tells someone what they’re gonna learn or discover or achieve, and now the promise will get specific and give them something concrete.
To my dog training example headline, I might add something along the lines of this:
“That’s Exactly What You’re About To Learn How To Do In The Next 17 Minutes.”
Combining my goal-based question with my exciting promise, I’d end up with this headline:
“Would You Like Your Dog To Stop Barking, To Walk Calmly On A leash, And To Come Every Single Time You Call It’s Name? Well That’s Exactly What You’re About To Learn How To Do In The Next 17 Minutes.”
A pretty good headline that includes a lot of those vital triggers I’ve been talking about.
There’s a question in there, a number, and a promise of the results that can be achieved and in what time frame.
I didn’t get a mystery in there (although hinting at a solution that can be discovered in “17 minutes” is close to a mystery), or hit on any raw nerves, but it’s still pretty good.
Actually, when you come up with a headline this way, it’s often fun (and helpful) to go back over it a few times, looking for ways to include more of those triggers.
In this example, I might spend some time looking for a raw nerve to hit on to give the headline even more punch. Perhaps I’d look at the embarrassment a badly behaved dog can cause, or the stress it can cause with annoyed neighbors.
If I found something good, I’d shoehorn it into the headline and test it against the original.
Start looking for ways to improve every headline like this, always being on the lookout for more ways to include those triggers that can make a headline great.
Template #2: How-To, Mystery, Promise
This is a super easy headline to create, and it never fails to produce good results.
So we’ll start out with the “how to,” and this is easy. Simply ask yourself what the visitor to your website is hoping to learn or achieve by coming to you, and state that in the form of the “how to.”
Let’s go with a golf example, where the “how to” might be something like this:
“How To Drive The Ball 50 Yards Further And Take 5 Shots Off Your Handicap.”
Basic, but it’s that simple. Just state in a “how to” whatever your visitor’s goal or dream is in the area of your product or service.
Next, we need to add on the “mystery” element to the headline. To do that, just take a look at the product or service that you’re trying to sell, and find something within it that can be spun into a mystery.
And you can do this with anything, no matter how mundane it is.
To create a good mystery that makes someone want to know more, all you have to do is reveal a tiny bit of information that makes someone desperate to know the rest.
Think back to that headline I showed you about the one-legged golfer. It makes you want to know more, even if you’re not interested in golf. So imagine how interested you’d be if golf was a passion of yours!
So if your market was golf, like my example, say that a housewife discovered a secret on her first lesson, or that a sneaky amateur player found a way to cheat that helps you add 50 yards to your game.
Just find something to say that makes your visitor compelled to know more.
For my example, I’m gonna go with my housewife one, so adding that onto my “how to” I get this:
“How To Drive The Ball 50 Yards Further And Take 5 Shots Off Your Handicap Using A Sneaky Trick That A 106lb Housewife Discovered On Her 1st Lesson.”
Not bad, right? Do you see how powerful headlines can be built just by using these triggers and a template?
You’ll also see that I added another 2 numbers by mentioning the housewife’s body weight and by using “1st” and not “first.”
Okay, let’s add the “promise” to this headline and it’ll be done.
Usually you’ll use the promise to make the headline personal to the visitor – to make it real for them.
So I’m gonna simply make my promise about
how the results will work for anyone and state that it’s guaranteed to work.
Adding the promise will give me this final headline:
“How To Drive The Ball 50 Yards Further And Take 5 Shots Off Your Handicap Using A Sneaky Trick That A 106lb Housewife Discovered On Her 1st Lesson…And It’s Guaranteed To Work For You In Less Than 7 Days No Matter What Your Skill Level…”
Trust me – if you had a golf product, that’s a great headline! And really, it took no skill and no time to create it. In fact, I could write another 10 headlines on the same subject in the next half hour, just by using this same template as a guide.
And more importantly, so could you. You need to realize that when you finish this section of the book, you’ll be as good at writing headlines as anyone.
Template #3: Raw Nerve, Worst Case Scenario, Light At The End Of The Tunnel
This template is gonna create headlines that start with a massive punch, and here’s how you find your punch.
You need to think about your visitor – your potential customer – and you need to ask yourself what their biggest raw nerve is.
What do they say to themselves in their mind when they’re lying awake at night? What do they fear someone else will say to them?
The answer to these 2 questions will be the start of your headline when you use this template.
You will literally transplant the worst fears and raw nerves of your visitor from their mind right into the start of your headline.
Now, you won’t be able to use this approach in all markets. No one has terrible fears and raw nerves about training their parrot to talk, for example. But there are lots or markets where you can use this approach, and for my example I’m gonna go with weight loss.
And for my example, I’m gonna assume that my prospect is a young woman who is quite a bit overweight.
So the first part of my headline using this template needs to hit on a huge raw nerve, and my first instinct would give me this raw nerve-based start:
“Do You Worry That Guys Laugh At You Behind Your Back Because You’re Fat?”
Okay, so that’s the raw nerve. Next comes the worst case scenario, and the easiest way to find the worst case scenario is to imagine your visitor’s problem going unsolved for a long time, and then asking yourself what even bigger problem that will cause for them.
So the obvious choice for my example is to take the problems with the guys and take it to the extreme, and that might give me something like this:
“And Do You Worry That Being Fat Will Mean That No Guy Will Ever Find You Attractive And You’ll Always Be Alone?”
Right, let’s create the last component for this headline, which is the light at the end of the tunnel.
The first part of the headline touched on a raw nerve and got their attention, and the second part of the headline showed them how bad their problem could get if something isn’t done.
Now, in this final part of the headline, you’re going to show them the light at the end of the tunnel, the answer to avoiding the worst case scenario you just showed them.
And all this ever needs to be is a simple statement telling your visitor that there is an easy way to prevent that worst case scenario from coming true.
For my example, something like this should work:
“Well It Doesn’t Need To Be This Way, Because There are 3 Reasons Why Every Diet You’ve Ever Tried Has Failed, And You’re About To Learn What They Are So That Your Fears About Guys And Being Alone Will Never Come True.”
So those are my 3 key components for this headline template, and putting them all together I end up with something like this:
“If You Worry That Guys Laugh At You Behind Your Back Because You’re Fat, And That Being Fat Will Mean That No Guy Will Ever Find You Attractive And You’ll Always Be Alone, Then You Need To Do Something Now While You Still Can. So Learn These 3 Reasons Why Every Diet You’ve Ever Tried Has Failed So That Your Fear About Always Being Alone Never Comes True.”
Not a bad headline, and I think if you split test this one against something more gentle and tame you’d be surprised at how well this slightly edgier one performed.
You’ll also notice that I’ve polished the wording of the headline as I brought the 3 elements together, and that’s something you need to get used to doing when you create headlines using templates with this method.
Another thing worth mentioning about this last example headline is the length of it. You probably noticed that it was pretty long, and you might be thinking it was too long to be effective.
But you should never be worried about long headlines. Some of the best performing headlines of all time were insanely long, and if you structure long headlines well using the templates you’ve learned, you’ll get great results.
Create Your Own Headline Component
Using the psychological triggers and templates you’ve learned in this section of the Sales Letter Blueprint, you’ll be able to create powerful, effective headlines on demand.
And these headlines will work anywhere: at the top of your sales letters, running throughout your sales letters, in email subject lines, and even as product descriptions on your product covers.
So anytime you need a headline, stick to what you learned here, or even revisit this section of the blueprint to refresh your memory, and you’ll never write a weak headline ever again.