The One Headline Type that (Almost) Always Fails in B2B and the One that (Almost) Always Succeeds


Will Newman

I've spoken to you a lot about Business-to-Business (B2B) copywriting — usually about what a great opportunity it provides.

But today, I'm going to give you a master strategy for writing B2B headlines that work.

I learned these strategies in B2B master Steve Slaunwhite’s program Secrets of Writing High-Performance Business-to-Business Copy.

When writing Business-to-Consumer copy, you can choose from many different types of headlines. But in B2B copywriting, two general types of headlines prevail. These are teaser headlines and benefit headlines.

How “creative” should you be?

The idea behind teaser headlines is to tease the prospect into reading the rest of the copy.

They rely on a play on words, joke, puzzle, some type of curiosity, or another bit of “creativity” to grab attention.

Copywriters who take this route bet the prospect will be so intrigued by his cleverness, he won't be able to resist reading the rest the letter.

Here are three examples of teaser headlines from Steve’s program:

  • Line of Sight (An ad for a logistics firm)
  • Bring on the Pulsing Zombies (An ad for a high-tech product)
  • Good to Know You (An ad for an executive search firm)

Do these headlines mean anything to you? Not likely.

There’s no attempt to appeal to the business buyer’s challenges, needs, and interests. The headlines just tease … and nothing more.

They’re meaningless. To really understand what they're trying to get at, you have to read the rest of the copy.

And when you rely on the reader finishing the rest of the copy, your headline fails.

Do teaser headlines work? Sometimes. But “sometimes” isn’t good enough in copywriting.

Are you willing to bet long odds on success?

Steve quotes Ivan Levison, a well-known and very successful copywriter in the software industry, about teaser headlines …

“Teaser headlines suffer from a fatal flaw. They’re essentially a bet. And a bad one at that. The writer bets the reader will check out the body copy simply because the headline is so darned intriguing. Sadly, this is bet is often lost.”

Do you want to bet the success of your promotion — and career — on such low odds?

Steve urges you to avoid teaser headlines for B2B. Instead, focus on benefit headlines.

Grab attention by offering something useful.

Benefit headline express or imply a benefit to the reader. It’s telling the reader that if you read the copy, you can save money, save time, improve productivity, and so on.

Take a look at Steve’s examples:

  • Save $400 per subscriber with a multi-user subscription to WHS Online.
  • Double your folding carton production uptime.
  • Now you can get at least ONE MORE HOUR of productive time each day than Day-Timer® or other planning systems can give you … GUARANTEED.

Each of these B2B headlines expresses a clear and specific benefit. Even if you know nothing about the business, you still get a strong sense of how it will help.

None is “award-winning” creative. But you’re not trying to win awards with B2B headlines.

You’re trying to win sales. And that’s exactly what well-crafted benefit headlines do in B2B.

Tomorrow, Steve will speak to you directly about how not to scare potential clients away. Until then, tell us what you’re thinking. Comment below.

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 »


Click to Rate:
Average: 5.0
Published: October 6, 2016

5 Responses to “The One Headline Type that (Almost) Always Fails in B2B and the One that (Almost) Always Succeeds”

  1. Dear Will:

    Thank you for this article. And for 'practicing what you preach.' Your subject lines consistently point to the value of the technique discussed. It's efficient and it builds trust. What a great way to start a conversation. AW

    Anne WOctober 6, 2016 at 3:38 pm

  2. Thank you, Will. After my rant yesterday, I thought it was pretty and used it on PWA discussion group entitled "NAME THAT NICHE".

    It was/is a pitch to get someone to look at and make suggestions on a VSL.

    A few people looked at it, no one bit. Now I understand why: it is a teaser.

    Should have entitled it something like "Get in on the ground floor."

    John Chambers OregonOctober 6, 2016 at 7:06 pm

  3. One comment about the benefit headlines. I was doing some B2B for a company that sells construction-related products. Big items.

    And almost every time I wrote benefit-heavy headlines, I was told we can't promise anything that specific because our industry has too many lawsuits. Basically their fear of being sued for making specific promises led them to take most of my headlines and turn them into vague generalistic blobs. It was a little frustrating...

    Thoughts?

    Dan - ProActive ContentOctober 8, 2016 at 1:55 pm

  4. While I find some information interesting, I am distracted by blatant typos in a "writing" blog.

    Guest (Terrisita)October 22, 2016 at 1:53 am


Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)


This name will appear next to your comment.


Your email is required but will not be displayed.


Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters


Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)