How to write a headline (2): what’s the benefit to your reader?

This is the second article giving you some easy-to-use tips and techniques about how to write a headline. These work for websites, blogs, press ads, you name it. Remember, without a strong headline, nobody’s going to read your body copy. So if your headline’s not working as powerfully as it can, the rest of your writing is wasted.

And by the way, this article isn’t just about how to write a headline, the technique works brilliantly for subheads too.

Last time we talked about finding your customer’s pain point. If you haven’t read this article yet, it’s right here.

Today we’re going to talk about making sure your headline contains a benefit for the reader.

After all, there’s only one thing your customers and prospects are interested in. Themselves.

What your prospect is interested in is what she’ll get from using your product.

What is the benefit to her?

Will it make her life easier, will it entertain her, will it make her more confident about her appearance, will it taste delicious and do her good, will it make her job simpler, will it get big smiles from her kids, will it help her please her boss, will it make shopping easier, will it get her more customers?

As you can see, the benefits can be emotional as well as rational. In fact, many marketing people will argue that emotional benefits are always stronger than rational ones as, ultimately, it’s all about happiness.

I would suggest that the best approach is to present a compelling product benefit (if you have one) in an emotionally engaging way.

If every headline said “This will make you happy” we’d all have a job distinguishing one product or brand for another. (Sadly, a lot of advertising currently does precisely this, with the current vogue for ads that tell you how you’re going to feel.)

Give them a reason to buy

But whether it’s emotional or rational, or both,  the reason a strong, clear benefit is so powerful in sales copy is simply this:

A benefit gives your customer a compelling reason to try or buy your product or service.

So how do you isolate the benefits of your product from a plain old description? The difference between the ‘features’ of your product – what it is – and its benefits, what it does for you?

Try this exercise

Ask yourself ‘What is the main, number one reason why my customers buy from me?’ Be brutally honest and put yourself in your customer’s mindset as much as possible.

Done that?

Perhaps you’ve come up with a phrase like “because we offer the best service in the area”. Or “because we cook delicious, healthy food at a great price”. Or “we provide software that helps our customers work more effectively”.

These are – in theory – all excellent reasons for using you. But have you noticed that the list above all contain the word ‘we’? We do this, we do that. Did yours?

How about writing about these reasons from the customer’s perspective instead? This is where the awesome power of YOU CAN kicks in.

The You Can headline technique

I can’t over-emphasise what a great technique this is. Here’s how it works…

Take your number one reason and now re-phrase it with YOU CAN at the start. So instead of saying “we offer…”, it starts YOU CAN…

It’s actually quite hard, isn’t it?

But stick with it and you’ll find yourself coming up with lines like “You can enjoy delicious food and what’s more you can relax in the knowledge it’s good for you too”.  Or “You can save hours of boring admin…”  or “You can get more customers by making these simple changes to your website’s homepage headline..”

Are you with me?

I hope you agree that, suddenly as if by magic, the words have taken on a strange and enchanting power. They’re now talking to your customer about the things that matter to her.

The headline talks about your customer not about you

Now, it might become a bit boring if all your headlines and subheads on your websites and emails and sales letters literally started with YOU CAN.

(Although it would still work just as well. People don’t care about copy or content and how it’s written any more than they care about ‘brand’. They just want to be told the benefits. Fast. For the same reason, you should worry a lot less about what your website looks like than about what its headlines are saying.)

But once you get into the habit of ‘mentally’ starting your headlines with YOU CAN, you can (oops!) drop the actual YOU CAN bit when you write it down. So you simply get a line like “Save hours of boring admin…” Easy!

Test a YOU CAN headline against a ‘We are’ line and when it comes to driving sales or responses the YOU CAN headline will win time after time. (I know, I’ve done it. Just switching subheads to you can style subheads can increase response by up to 10%. Shocking isn’t it?)

Incidentally, once you know the YOU CAN secret it’s fun to look out for hidden YOU CAN headlines — you’ll see them all the time on magazine covers, for example: “Get an athlete’s body in ten days flat” “Discover the time-management secrets of the top executives”.

You can find more easy-to-use techniques in my free book: 11 Power Words.


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