“The Power of One” for Crafting Compelling Headlines

Right before Christmas, I got a package via UPS. Its size immediately grabbed my attention. It was easily 3 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet.

It was incredibly light … and didn’t rattle or shake. Instant mystery. I had no idea who sent it … the return address didn’t help. But I liked the guy who sent it right away for brightening my day. For giving me something to ponder.

That package was like a great headline. There was no way I wasn’t going to open it right away.

Wouldn’t you love to be able to present your promotions this way? Wrapped up in mystery and excitement. Presented so your recipients immediately feel connected with you and what you have to say … without even knowing who you are.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could touch your prospects this personally? So you could have them eagerly ripping open your promotion … rather than tossing it out.

Well, it is possible. But not with trickery. How then?

You do it with a powerful, compelling headline, that’s how.

Legendary copywriter Bill Bonner said recently, “80% of my time is spent on the headline and lead. If that isn’t right, there’s no point in going on – that’s where you’re going to win or lose.”

That’s how important a powerful headline and an engaging lead are.

When I first started copywriting, headlines were a huge source of frustration. They seemed random. Almost magical.

I know now that they are neither random nor magical. But, like Bill points out, they take a great deal of thought and effort.

I’d like to give you the first of 11 secrets that will demystify – and simplify – the headline writing process for you.

Starting at the beginning:

Secret #1: Simplicity – The Power of One

As Michael Masterson teaches, there should be only ONE MAIN IDEA in your headline. One idea must reign supreme.

Avoid the temptation to introduce competing ideas in the headline … even when your product is complex with many benefits.

The final exercise in the AWAI Accelerated Program – Dr. Smith’s supplement – is a good example of a complex product with many potential benefits. And it’s tempting to try to feature two or three of them in your headline. After all, you might think, if the first one doesn’t capture the prospect’s fancy, the second one probably will.

This is a mistake. Let’s say Dr. Smith’s supplement improves the prospect’s energy, his sexual performance, and his immune function. Trying to feature all three benefits in your headline dilutes the impact of a really strong, compelling headline.

Which one to focus on? That depends on what you feel is the most compelling idea in your promotion … the most attractive benefit … the biggest promise.

Grab your prospect with this idea. You certainly can – and should – introduce other benefits in your package. But stick with the main one in your headline.

Here’s an example of a “simple” headline:

The Greatest Money Migration in 63 Years Is About to Make a Few Investors Very Rich

It’s bigger than the “Great American Industrial” run up, the tech boom, and the Internet combined …

What is the single idea here?

There’s no confusion in your prospect’s mind. What he wants to learn about is the GREATEST MONEY MIGRATION IN 63 YEARS.

Everything else in the headline either comes out of that idea or supports it.

Now here’s a headline that lacks simplicity:

Most investors, if they’re fortunate, get one shot in a lifetime at a stock that can make them very rich. You, however, will have 52 of these opportunities.

Yes, you will get one opportunity (or more) – every single week – to reach the level of riches that most people only dream about. And all you have to do is read your email.

By the way, if by some slim chance you don’t make the kind of profit we expect, we’ll pay you.

There are five (at least) competing ideas here:

  1. One shot to get rich …
  2. 52 opportunities …
  3. Get one every week …
  4. Reach the level of riches …
  5. We’ll pay you.

A confusing forest of ideas hiding the benefits.

Simplicity is one of the secrets of compelling headlines that the very top copywriters use to draw the prospect into the package. It’s an easy one to understand … and to apply to your own headlines right now.

So remember, keep your headlines simple … to let the mystery, excitement, and promise shine through.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: January 7, 2008

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