Sales Letters Archives

Headlines from the headlines

One of my favorite ways to get inspiration for copywriting headlines and email subject lines is to look at the daily news headlines.

Whenever you come across a news headline that interests you, especially if it’s about a topic in a market you sometimes write copy for, make a note of it (if you don’t already have a headlines document in your Google Docs or on your computer, start one).

Each day take a glance at the headlines in Google News, New York Times (especially their most popular articles), Huffington Post (check out this article about their headlines and how they test them) and a news site in your local area.

Obviously you won’t be able to swipe these headlines word for word to use as a copywriting headline. The purpose is to give you inspiration and raw material to work with to tweak into a headline you can use.

It’s common for copywriters to study and swipe successful copywriting headlines but I find it adds freshness to your copywriting to also study the news headlines. Because news headlines tend to be pithy they also can provide inspiration as email subject lines.

I’ll share a few I came across this past week:

“What’s the biggest money mistake you can make?”

This is a curiosity headline from a news site in my local area. With a little tweaking you could turn this into a copywriting headline for copy in the financial/debt management niches. You could use it word for word in an email subject line.

A headline like this also meets the “3 a.m. test”  that Gary Bencivenga talks about: if you woke up a person in your market at 3 a.m. and read them your headline, would it create such a sense of urgency that they would want to hear more or would they roll over and go back to sleep?

“If you had more money than you knew what to do with, would you want more?

A good example of a question headline from the New York Times. If you write copy for financial services or products this would also make for a good email subject line and topic.

“Raising pigs and this baseball thing really go together.”

Another example from the New York Times. I like the use of contrast here. One doesn’t normally associate pig farming with baseball. Making note of a headline like this will remind you to use contrast in your copywriting headlines whenever possible because it’s one of the best ways to provoke curiosity.

“$5 debit card fee got you mad? Time for deposit-only banks.”

This is from Google News and an example of an emotion headline that targets a very specific frustration of the people in your market. It would be very easy to adapt this to a copywriting headline.

Another benefit to this daily exercise is it will help you stay informed as to what’s going on in the world. There have been countless times I’ve come across a factoid or statistic in a news story and used it in email and sales page copy.

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Let Amazon write your sales copy

Someone posted this Jay Abraham video in the Warrior Forum and it’s well worth watching.

He says that when you are writing for a particular niche, do a search in Amazon. For example, type in “weight loss books.”

Look at the titles and subtitles of the top 100 books. There are lots of nuggets here that you can use for headlines, subheads and bullets for your sales copy.

Titles of books aren’t copyrighted so you can use them verbatim if you want too, however it’s always best to use your own wording.

Abraham’s theory is that the book titles of the top selling books are well-researched so you will benefit greatly by studying the titles and subtitles.

He takes it a step further and also looks at the positive and negative reviews for each of the top 100 books.

Focus on the five star reviews and one and two star reviews. There will be statements here that you can rework and use in your copy.

Even more importantly, it will give you a better understanding of the mindset of your market. People that leave passionate reviews (positive or negative) share insights that will improve your knowledge of your typical prospect. It’s an easy way to eavesdrop on your market.

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A headline formula that has sold billions

If a copywriter sold $6 billion worth of products over the years,
would you listen to what he had to say about headlines?
I should think so.
Ted Nicholas is this kind of copywriter.
Ted says the headline is 90 percent responsible for the
success of any piece of copy.
Most copywriters take shortcuts with headlines at
some point, to the detriment of the sales letter.
One symptom of this is the long-winded headlines
you see on many online sales letters.
Rather than take the wrong kind of shortcuts, Ted
recommends his “fill-in-the-blank” shortcut for
writing headlines.
Headlines fall into one of these 11 categories:
1. How to (Blank)
2. Secrets of (Blank)
3. Stacked Benefits
4. Problem/Solution
5. How to/Guaranteed
6. Get Benefit Fast, Regardless…
7. Solve a Problem…
8. Visualize it…
9. Ways To/Reasons Why
10. Problem Solver…
11. If…Then
Here’s an example he gives of a Problem/Solution headline:
“No More Bad Hair Days! Here’s a Proven
Way to Maintain the Perfect Look Any Day
of the Week!”
The next time you brainstorm headlines for a sales letter,
pull out this list.

If a copywriter sold $6 billion worth of products over the years would you listen to what he had to say about headlines?

I should think so.

Ted Nicholas is this kind of copywriter. Sadly, the last time I checked, his book   Magic Words That Bring You Riches (my favorite)  is out of print.

Anyway, Ted says the headline is 90 percent responsible for the success of any piece of copy.

Yeah, I  know. In my last post I argued that openings are the bee’s knees, but let’s hear Ted out.

Most copywriters take shortcuts with headlines at some point, to the detriment of the sales letter.

One symptom of this is the long-winded mega headlines you see on many online sales letters. These often top out at 50-100 words or more.

Rather than take the wrong kind of shortcuts, Ted recommends his “fill-in-the-blank” shortcut for writing headlines.

Headlines fall into one of these 11 categories:

1. How to (Blank)

2. Secrets of (Blank)

3. Stacked Benefits

4. Problem/Solution

5. How to/Guaranteed

6. Get Benefit Fast, Regardless…

7. Solve a Problem…

8. Visualize it…

9. Ways To/Reasons Why

10. Problem Solver…

11. If…Then

Here’s an example he gives of a Problem/Solution headline:

“No More Bad Hair Days! Here’s a Proven Way to Maintain the Perfect Look Any Day of the Week!”

The next time you brainstorm headlines for a sales letter, pull out this list.

And, yep. This applies to email subject lines too.
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The most important part of a sales letter

So what’s the most important part of a sales letter?
The headline?
The P.S.?
The proof?
This is debatable, of course. But today I’m going to
argue that the opening is the most important.
The opening of a sales letter is so important
that Herschell Gordon Lewis devotes more than
100 pages to the subject in his book Sales
Letters That Sizzle.
For the most part, people don’t read every word
of a sales letter.
They skip around, look at the headlines and subheads,
look at the P.S.
The brilliant anecdote on page three might not get
noticed at all.
You have a better chance of people reading page three
if you wow them with your introduction.
According to Lewis, “Changing the opening — the first
few paragraphs — has the capacity of generating a huge
increase (or decrease) in response, often far more profound
than letter length.”
So rather than simply wonder if long or short copy will work
best for your product, focus on the opening too.
With the right opening the copy length is less significant.
And with the right software, you’ll be able to write openings…
and entire sales letters… in mere minutes.
INSERT LINK HERE
Lewis recommends provocative openings. “Fire your biggest
guns first!”
Here are 10 opening examples from real sales letters.
1.  If You’re Like Me…
2.  Ask a Provocative Question.
3. What If…
4. Suggest a Cataclysmic Decision. For example,
“The decision you make today can…”
5. I [We} Need Help.
6. Congratulations!
7. I Invite You…
8. I Have a Free Gift For You.
9. As You Know…
10. I Have Something Good For You.
Choosing the right opening is critical because the
reader might not even see your USP or main benefits
without the proper opening.

So what’s the most important part of a sales letter?

The headline?

The P.S.?

The proof?

This is debatable, of course. But today I will argue that the opening is the most important.

The opening of a sales letter is so important that Herschell Gordon Lewis devotes more than 100 pages to the subject in his book Sales Letters That Sizzle.

For the most part, people don’t read every word of a sales letter.

They skip around, look at the headlines and subheads, look at the P.S.

The brilliant anecdote on page three might not get noticed at all.

You have a better chance of people reading page three if you wow them with your introduction.

According to Lewis, “Changing the opening — the first few paragraphs — has the capacity of generating a huge increase (or decrease) in response, often far more profound than letter length.”

So rather than simply wonder if long or short copy will work best for your product, focus on the opening too.

Here are 10 examples of openings that Lewis provides in his book:

1.  If You’re Like Me…

2.  Ask a Provocative Question.

3. What If…

4. Suggest a Cataclysmic Decision. For example,

“The decision you make today can…”

5. I [We} Need Help.

6. Congratulations!

7. I Invite You…

8. I Have a Free Gift For You.

9. As You Know…

10. I Have Something Good For You.

Choosing the right opening is critical because the reader might not even see your USP or main benefits without the proper opening.

And, oh yeah. This applies to email copy too.

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