How to Write Headlines that Get People to Read Your Ads, Sales Letters, and Marketing Materials

By Ben Hart

Headlines are absolutely essential for grabbing the attention of your reader (whether you’re writing and advertisement or a sales letter). Headlines are what people read to see if they have any interest in what you have to say.

The headline writers at the New York Post and National Inquirer are masters of the craft. People buy these newspapers entirely because of the headlines. And people read the articles because they want the details that justify such amazing headlines.

Headline writing is critical in all sales and marketing copy. Here are some fill-in-the-blank headline formulas you might find useful.

“21 rules for writing headlines that sell”

“Seven predictions for 2008 that can change your life”

“Eleven secrets of successful investing”

“I lost 10 pounds in 10 days”

“How moving to Nevada saved my company $1,000,000 the first year”

“How I slashed $50,000 off myincome tax bill”

“How I’m able to spend my day at the office in the nude”

“Why I’ll never let my kids sit in a classroom”

“The biggest mistake made by parents”

“Why my 10-year old boy would rather read a book than watch TV”

“How I beat cancer by knowing what questions to ask my doctor”

“How I solved my sex problems without Viagra or any other drug”

“How I put excitement back in my marriage”

“How I got my wife to stop nagging me and start praising me”

“How I motivated myself to get in shape”

“How you can look like this and never lift a weight”

“If you like to write, I can teach you how to make $30,000 a month from home”


“WARNING: 138,000 middle managers just like you will lose their jobs by 2008”

“WARNING: The company you work for has already spent your retirement”

“WARNING: You probably will be sued for everything you’re worth within the next 36 months”

“WARNING: The Stock Market will drop 30%”

“How to stop your divorce”

“How to double your dating”

“35 rules for staying in the lives of your kids when they grow up.”

Can you see the pattern?

These headlines are aimed at hooking your reader.

Notice that nearly every one of these headlines taps into a fear or an anxiety people have. The word “secret” is an attention-getter.

People want secrets. I would like to know the secret to a consistent golf swing that will produce consistently straight shots. The word “hidden” is another word that triggers interest. People want to know where the “hidden” treasure is. Hidden implies almost no one knows about it. I just need a map. I just need someone to tell me where this “hidden” treasure is.

“How To . . .” and “How I . . .” are often good ways to start a headline. Also numbering the ways or items in your headline can be effective: “Seven Habits of Successful People.” A number suggests that the program is limited, definable, achievable. If I do these seven things, I will be successful. I just need to complete the program, are the thoughts we try to trigger here.

And notice, too, the headlines always create mystery and intrigue, telling the casual reader what the big benefit is without giving away any answers. The headline tells the reader, “Here’s what this letter is about. But you’ll need to read it to find the answer to your problem and to satisfy your desire.”
By the way, your letter should include some actual answers.

Some professional direct mail sales letter writers make the mistake of having their entire letter be almost nothing but headlines and intriguing statements with no real answers.

Your letter does need to deliver the goods, or your reader will just be frustrated. Your reader will see you as just another skilled huckster, probably with nothing much of real value to offer.

Never be afraid to give away some of your product. Those who like it will want more. In addition, they will trust you.

Happy Improved Marketing,

Ben Hart

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