As soon your subscriber opens your mailing they give you their attention. This attention can be short lived depending on how well you hold their attention with not only the appearance of your newsletter but with your headlines and lead sentences. You never have another chance to make a first impression. Subscribers typically scan through mailings and if nothing holds their attention they move on and listen to nothing you have to say. A good headline entices the reader into wanting to read more. The opening paragraph and lead sentences are where you make your case to the reader to go on and continue reading.
The first sentence of your opening paragraph is known as your lead sentence. This is what you use to make yourself stand out in your reader’s eyes. One way of doing this is by creating intrigue. Say something that your reader would not expect or anticipate and you are likely to draw their interest. Anything that causes a person to consider another point of view or see things in another light is engaging. As is anything that is slightly controversial.
Consider your audience and think about what’s in it for them. If you’re boring and predictable then you aren’t giving your reader sufficient motivation to continue reading. Your job is to be engaging so that they will continue reading. Writing engaging copy forces someone to think or appeals to their emotions. It also forces them to ask questions.
The substance of your paragraph should focus on benefits as opposed to features. The feature is what you are offering to your subscriber. The benefit is something that is helpful or useful to your subscriber. A feature is a descriptive fact whereas a benefit tells your reader what they gain as a result of the feature.
8 out of 10 people that open your mailing will read the headline copy but only 2 out of 10 will go on to read the rest. The average headline is read five times more than the copy that follows it. In order to lock your subscriber’s attention you need to appeal to their self interest. Your headline is the point where your reader decides whether or not reading further is worth their time. The most effective headlines focus on the strongest benefit a product or service has to offer. They let the reader know what’s in it for them.
One of the primary functions of the headline is to attract your reader’s attention. Three elements you need to consider when developing your headline are:
- Appealing to Their Self Interest – Consider your reader’s needs. What are their interests, concerns, or problems and how does what you are offering provide them solutions? Needs do not need to be material to affect your reader. The most powerful needs are often psychological. You can make emotional appeals, be thought provoking, or draw on their curiosity. Let them know what’s in it for them.
- Giving Them News – People read to find out information that they did not know before. Are you offering your reader something they did not know before? Your copy may include a lot of material that is news to your reader as in the case of a product announcement. Consider your reader and what they will find newsworthy about what you are offering. Give them something to talk about.
- Using the Power of Language – Language can be used to create a dominant image or an impression in your reader’s mind. This means that to be successful you need to become a master of the art of image building. This can enhance the perceived superiority of your product or service. Building your vocabulary does not prevent you from speaking in a language that your reader can understand. It gives you more tools to successfully present an image. If you can do this then you can write headlines that appeal to your subscriber’s self interest and are newsworthy. Your headlines will have greater emotional appeal, be more thought provoking, and trigger your reader’s curiosity.
Because most readers will read the headline and skip the rest its important to write your headlines in the form of a complete statement. This is especially important in web based communication where readers will often skim through text rather than read it completely. If you write your headline in complete statements you add value toward your newsletter for the 80% of readers that may not read everything you have to say.
The purpose of your headline is to draw your subscriber into reading your copy. The trick is to identify the benefits of your product or service and use language that appeals to their emotions. People act on their emotions and justify their decisions based on logic.
You can create an attention grabbing headline that gets your subscriber to read what you have to say but if it is not relevant to the copy that follows it then it is completely worthless. You will not generate additional sales and you will waste other people’s time.
This is especially true in newsletters where you are trying to develop a relationship with your subscriber and establish credibility. The copy that follows your headline must always deliver on its promises. You are leading your subscriber toward an eventual call for action. You risk losing subscribers if your headlines offer things that your email copywriting can not deliver.