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How to Grab Attention with Your Headlines

Charlie Cook -- You've got just a few seconds to grab your prospects' attention, spark their interest, and motivate them to keep reading whether they're looking at your Web site, your letter, or your brochure.

Headlines are the first thing your prospects read. Four out of five people determine whether they keep reading to learn about your products and services on the basis of your headline.

Do your headlines capture your prospects' attention or do they confuse them and send them away?

Are your headlines prompting prospects to learn about your products and services or click to another Web site or throw away your letter?

Avoid the three following headline mistakes:

1) Don't Emphasize Obscure Company Names

Most small businesses, and many not so small businesses' names, aren't household words. Unless your name is among the top ten most recognized brands such as Craftsman, Waterford, Rolls Royce, the Discovery Channel, WD-40, or Crayola, there is a very good chance people won't associate your company name with anything.

Have you ever visited a Web site or read a print ad where the company's name covered the top part of the page and it was something like, "Pharos Partners"? Unless the name of your company describes what you do, it is not going to grab prospects' attention. Move it to the side and make room for a creative headline.

2) Avoid Welcome Statements

On many Web sites the first line you read is, "Welcome to our Site". There is a reason you don't see these in print ads. Welcome statements are a waste of time in marketing materials; they do little to help prospects understand what you do.

3) Delete Vague Descriptions and Statements

Statements like, "Our purpose is to connect you with information and resources to achieve your maximum potential", could apply to a number of different professions. It could refer to a cooking school, a management consultant, or an eldercare program.

-- Are you wasting valuable space where your headline goes to feature a company name that doesn't describe what you do?

-- Does your headline include "business speak" terms your children or mother-in-law can't explain?

-- Is your description of product and services specific, or is it so generic that it could apply to other types of businesses?

-- Does your headline focus on the selling points that distinguish your products and services from the competitions?

Writing Headlines that Get Your Prospects' Attention

People look at Web sites the same way they look at magazine ads. They scan the page quickly to see if the product or service is something they want. On the Web or in a marketing brochure, if you capture their interest, they'll keep reading.

The best way to do this is to give them a clear idea of the problems your products or services can solve and/or the benefits you provide. Use a few carefully selected words such as:

-- Leverage your expertise to attract a steady stream of clients
-- Reliable Office Supplies, free next day delivery.
-- In-home sports training for exercise enthusiasts
-- Web and print design that helps your business grow
-- Costa Rica Travel, Unique off-the-beaten track tours to jungles and beaches

Your page headline should communicate clearly what you offer clients, which problems you solve, and the benefits you provide. Do your headlines:

-- Clarify what you do?
-- Describe the problems you solve?
-- Define whom you do it for?
-- Explain the benefits?
-- Emphasis a key selling point?
-- Compel your prospects to keep reading?

Imagine that you worked at an exercise facility and wanted to attract clients for your massage business. Here are some possible headlines you might use for your flyer and associated critiques.

-- George Jenkins Massage (It's your name, but so what)
-- Are You Bothered By Back Pain? (Better, it defines the problem)
-- 7 Ways to Get Instant Back Pain Relief (Defines the problem and a solution)
-- How Computer Users Can Banish Back Pain in One Hour (Defines who your target market is, the problem, and the benefit)

Grab your prospects attention in the first few seconds with your headline. Then follow with compelling copy that clarifies the value of your products and services and you'll generate many more sales.

The author, Marketing Coach, Charlie Cook, helps independent professionals and small business owners attract more clients and grow their business with the 5 Principles of Highly Effective Marketing. Sign up for the free Marketing Guide and the "More Business" newsletter, full of practical marketing tips at www.charliecook.net.

© 2004 In Mind Communications, LLC

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