I’m in something of a habit, round about lunch time these days. As I’m eating my food, I usually catch some of the Hawksbee and Jacobs radio show on Talk Sport.
It’s a funny show that’s several cuts above the usual over-serious, interminable and frankly illiterate sports-based bilge on that station. And the other day they had THE most hilarious on-air bust up I’ve ever heard – but which also inadvertently revealed a nugget that is at the heart of successful modern marketing.
You can listen to it below – essentially the Sun newspaper’s chief football writer Rob Beasley had written a piece about English football being morally bankrupt in comparison to the Olympics. The hosts argued this was unfair and it all got very overheated, Beasley totally losing his cool and seemingly threatening to sue one of the hosts.
But I draw your attention to it not just for a laugh…
Rather, it’s for something Beasley said in passing – ‘I don’t write headlines’ – because there is a HUGE lesson there for anyone marketing their own business…
To give you some context, The Sun still sells something like 3 million copies in the UK each day. That’s a lot.
What’s more, they do so largely on the basis of HEADLINES. They know that:
- Headlines sell newspapers.
- People nowadays have less time than ever to make a decision to buy or read on – so headlines are more important than ever.
- People actually expect – and want – outrageous headlines from The Sun. Whether they admit it or not, they’re in the entertainment business. So are you if you’re smart.
And so – rather than have seasoned journalists like Rob Beasley write their headlines – they PAY SPECIALIST HEADLINE WRITERS to do it.
Which tells you everything you need to know about the importance of headlines in modern marketing.
If you can’t write a decent headline, people won’t read any of the content or marketing you put out about your business.
Headlines matter because we consume content on the internet based on soundbites. We glance at search engine results pages. We glance at social media feeds with hundreds of updates. We glance at email inboxes with dozens of emails. All the while only stopping if something really grabs us.
What cuts through the noise? In effect, headlines.
If your blog post or advert has a poor headline, if your email subject line is poor, if your 140 character tweet doesn’t give me a reason to click, I’m gone.
So – here’s a bet. I bet you’re not spending enough time on your headlines. But it is a skill you MUST start to develop if you want your online marketing to succeed.
Next time you have a piece of content to produce, try to become as professional about it as a professional headline writer.
Here’s a simple four step process for writing a headline that gets you maximum results:
1. Borrow something.
Good headline writers don’t reinvent the wheel.
See a headline you like? Write it down. If it’s in an email subject line, put it in what the pros call a ‘swipe’ folder which is a folder specifically for that purpose. And when you need ideas, go to that folder.
‘Classic’ headlines have a classic appeal – if you look at popular magazine covers you’ll see the same phrases, words, themes rehashed over and over. Because they work.
2. Use your best idea(s) to write 10 alternative headlines.
And sleep on them if possible, because when we’re asleep, our subconscious sorts information and finds solutions to problems. Below are the variations I came up with for this post. You can see they range from slightly cryptic (i.e. mysterious) to very transparent, how-to in format.
The best choice for you will depend on the audience you’re going for – are they regular readers who will indulge a bit of mystery, or are they likely to be cold prospects on Twitter who want answers now?
- Why A Ranting Sun Journalist’s ‘I Don’t Write Headlines’ Tells You Everything You Need To Know About Modern Marketing
- Why This Ranting Sun Journalist’s ‘I Don’t Write Headlines’ Tells You Everything You Need To Know About Modern Marketing
- Why A Ranting Sun Journalist Tells You Everything You Need To Know About Modern Marketing
- The Ranting Sun Journalist And The Secret Of Modern Marketing
- Ranting Sun Journalist Inadvertently Reveals Secret Of Modern Marketing
- Ranting Sun Journalist Accidentally Reveals Secret Of Modern Marketing
- Ranting Sun Journalist Reveals Secret Of Modern Marketing
- Sun man’s rant reveals secret of modern marketing
- I Don’t Write Headlines: Ranting Sun Journalist Reveals Secret Of Modern Marketing
- How This Hilarious On-Air Bust Up Accidentally Revealed The Secret Of Modern Marketing
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- Is This THE Most Important Marketing Skill You Could Ever Learn?
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- Headlines: THE most important copywriting skill of all?
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- Most Headlines Stink: 4 Easy Steps To Make Sure Yours Don’t
Did I choose the right one?
3. Combine the best bits of your alternatives.
Substitute words. Tweak.
4. Test and refine.
By posting different variants to Twitter, with a link to my blog post, I can experiment with different headlines and see what gets the best results. If need be, I can even go back and change the title of a blog post in light of what I’ve learned, so that when people find the post through search engines, they get the most compelling headline.
Your choice of headline has probably always been the most important factor in the success of your promotion, blog post or article, but as our lives feel ever more time-poor and at the same time full of noise, headlines are more important than ever.Website owner? Google+ is a complete no-brainer for you. Connect with me there now...