Are You the 1 Person in 4 Who Reads Beyond the Ineffective Headline?

I’m not. Are you?

When this email from Mequoda Daily showed up in my in-box, it grabbed me immediately. Because I want my readers (be it blog readers, client campaign readers or what) to digest what I’m saying, motivating, etc. Here are some stats that show how critical it is to have a strong headline.

  • Experts tell us that in print ads, 75-80 percent of all buying decisions are made by reading the headline alone.
  • Now let me state it another way: If you’re communicating, via a print OR online channel, a full three-quarters of your impact (emails to legislators, donations, program registrations) results from an effective headline.
  • If the headline isn’t engaging and persuasive, the contest is over. Only 25 percent of your audience will read any further.
  • If you’re online, your audiences will click away. They’re done. And you’re finished, too!
  • If the words in the headline don’t speak to the unconscious mind, it doesn’t matter what you say in the body copy. It’s too late.

Here are some tips on generating the headline that’ll capture attention. Start by spending some time working on your headlines. As soon as I have a clear idea of my target audience, I scribble out a list of possible headlines—as varied and as fast as I can get ’em out. Gradually, I find three or four headlines that I like. Eventually there evolves a familiar pattern of one main headline and two or three sub headlines.

The Mequoda folks recommend using multiple headlines and subheads "above the fold" (e.g. on the first screen) in email fundraising or advocacy letters. That’s because, unlike a print sales letter that the reader can easily scan from top to bottom (if he reads beyond the headline), an online letter only reveals a few inches of copy on a single computer screen. So group headlines at the top of the page. Of course, when writing the headline of an email newsletter, remember to limit yourself to about 55 characters. That’s typically about the maximum length that can be easily displayed in the subject window of most email software your readers will be using.

I also like to drop draft headlines into conversations (even across the dinner table), just to test the reaction. And, when you send out your drafts to the copy editor, provide two versions, each with a different headline, asking for input. Sometimes folks who have more objectivity can give you the best input.

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Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Copywriting, Email and E-Newsletters, Nonprofit Communications | 1 comment

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