Who’s Scared of the Big Bad Headline?

Are you avoiding learning how to write headlines because you’re not a copywriter?  I hope not! Because whether you’re writing an email, doing a presentation, making a sales call, or brainstorming for a new marketing brochure, you’ll need an effective headline. The last thing you’ll need is a headline that will go “pfffft” and take your marketing strategy down with it.

Alright, now that I got your attention, hang on tight as we roller coaster our way to “The Science of How to Recognize the Power Behind the Headline” (long title, I know!). Find out for yourself exactly HOW headlines psychologically entice us, by playing the Headline Game with me. Ready?

Let’s Play The Headline Game!

First, the mechanics: I’ll give you three sets of headlines that really work. I’ll identify the trigger(s) in the headline, then, I’ll tell you the psychological reason(s) WHY they work. Next, you take over and implement these headlines into your marketing strategy. Game? Let’s go!

Trigger #1: Question-Based vs. Statement-Based Headlines

Is internet marketing driving you crazy?

Do you make these mistakes in marketing your blog?

Do you know where you fail in your Social Media strategy?

Ladies and gentlemen…presenting the question-based headline! A headline that beats the living daylights out of a straightforward statement-based headline.  Studies show that readers respond more to a question like “Do you know where you fail in your social media strategy?” Than in a statement like “This is where your social media strategy fails”. Ask yourself – which grabs your attention more: “Don’t struggle to get your blog on top of Google” or “Are you struggling to get your blog on top of Google searches?”

So why does the brain go bonkers when faced with a question-based headline? The reason is simple: questions stimulate/ irritate the brain causing your gray cells to do a neurological breakdance. The very sight of that enigmatic question mark forces your brain to want to know more.

Do you have a statement in your headline? You do? Well, what are you waiting for? Swap it around for a question and then move to Trigger #2.

Trigger # 2: Problem-Based vs. Solution-Based Headlines

Struggling to get ahead in your small business?

Is your blog’s lack of traffic driving you crazy?

Is your marketing strategy missing a vital link?

Now that you know the power of questions, these are double-whammy headlines! They not only get your brain whizzing like a wind-up toy, they also bring to the fore a pain in your brain. If your brain is doing mental gymnastics right now, it’s because these headlines are causing you some real grief and you are the precise target audience.

You identify with these problems and are keen to solve them. The brain is fixated with solving problems. It’s the brain’s basic survival instincts kicking in.

For years, the brain has been moonlighting. While its primary function is to make sure the rest of your body parts do what they’re supposed to do, it’s side job is to keep you alive. Therefore, it actively searches for potential problems you may have, and when it sees one in the headline, it says “That’s for me!” and goes straight for the problem-based headline.

Strangely though, the advertising around you are all solution-based. You see it, then you don’t. Swap your solution-based headline into a nice problem-based power pack.

Done? Alright! Now let’s go scream our lungs out into Trigger #3.

Trigger # 3: Curious vs. Non-Curious Headlines

Let’s use this post as an example. This post has the headline:  Are Your Blog Headlines Missing These Key Psychological Triggers? Notice the word these in the headline construction. The word these implies that there are several key triggers that you might not know about. Now how the jeepers will you know which ones they are if you don’t start reading this post, right? Headlines like these entice the reader to take a peek at the content. I mean, sure, you might be the World’s #1 Marketing Headlines Guru, but even you can’t be 100% certain you know about these key psychological triggers, right? So what do you do? You make a quick decision to take a peek, just a small peek. Except, once you’ve taken that small step, you realize you boarded the information train with a one-way ticket. 🙂

Ask any skilled marketer/ communicator, and s/he will tell you that you must have the curiosity factor in order to move bag and baggage into the headline. It’s literally the key to “sucking in” an audience.

Headlines that make you curious are effective because the brain is naturally, intensely curious. Tell people not to look in the closet and they’ll want to look. Tell them they can’t have something, and they’ll want to know why. Analyzing and finding answers are all part of Mr. Brain’s job.

Every question needs to be answered, otherwise it pounds into your brain like an annoying jackhammer that goes WHY? WHY? WHY? When you have the curiosity factor in your headlines, you are literally switching on every single light bulb in your readers ‘ brain.

Abe Lincoln And Effective Headlines

So what’s Abe Lincoln got to do with writing effective headlines? Well, Dear Ol’ Abe once said: “If I had 6 hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend 4 hours sharpening the axe.” Your headline is what you need to spend most of your time sharpening. Hone your skill in crafting effective headlines and capture your readers’ attention before your competition does.

The Art, Not Just The Science

You can’t be totally happy with your headline just by merely satisfying all 3 triggers/ parameters. That is the science, not the art. The art is getting inside your readers’ mind. You’ll find that a slightly different headline will bring in as much as 10 to a thousand times better results even without changing your content. How do you know which headline works better? Test them!

Testing isn’t as hard as you think. One of my favorite ways to test (simply because it’s the easiest) is to write a short email with different headlines and send it to friends and family. Watch closely, you’ll soon get a pattern and probably some valuable feedback. Take those as those will help you carve a headline that would really grab your readers’ attention.

Do You Need To Have All Three Psychological Triggers Working At Once?

Of course not! A headline can work perfectly well even with just one or two of the above triggers. However, keep in mind that in life, three may be a crowd but in headlines, the more, the merrier! Use the power of headlines anywhere you need to attract people’s attention – during presentations, sales calls, or in writing articles, posts, newsletters, etc. Better headlines mean better bottom lines. Simple, huh?

Alright, that’s pretty much it for today. I’ll be back with a follow up post later. If you have any questions or if you want to provide feedback, please feel free to use the contact form below or click here to get in touch. 🙂