Testing Headlines

A correspondent to AdBriefing, my monthly newsletter, has posed a very sticky question. How, she asks, can you tell whether a headline you have written is a good one?or not? What she means by this, I imagine, is whether the headline will actually help to make sales, rather than just act as a passing amusement to its readers.

The latter precept, that a headline should actually try to sell something, is not as universally known as it might be. The vast proportion of headlines actually say nothing whatsoever about the product and the benefits of owning it. And the reason for this is that good, selling headlines are not easy to write. So the majority of so-called copywriters take the easy route and produce something which they think is humorous or eye-catching and hope that this will do the job. That it won't and doesn't can be witnessed day in and day out in press ads, brochures and websites worldwide.

But I digress.

There is sadly no absolute test that a headline will do the job it is paid to do. If there were, we benighted copywriters would be earning ten times what we are earning now, on the grounds that our work would be foolproof. Every headline we conceived would be irresistible; and products would move off shelves like Spring snow off a dyke.

But there is a test ? a very good and worthwhile test ? that you can apply to any headline you create. I call it the 'So What?' test.

Allow me to give you an example of 'So What?' in action. If you produce a headline that says: Our Widget works twice as fast as any other Widget, and then ask yourself 'So What?', it immediately becomes clear that the line is bereft of a sales proposition. Because there is no obvious benefit to the potential customer.

On the other hand, if you write: Our Widget works twice as fast, so you do the job in half the time, then the 'So What?' has been answered. Your customer can cut his production time by 50%.

Likewise, were you to write: Our Widget is so small, it fits into the palm of your hand, you simply invoke 'So What?'. Which results in: Our Widget fits into the palm of your hand, so it goes wherever you go. In this case, the benefit is portability. You can use it anywhere.

Over the years, I have found the 'So What?' test to be invaluable. You might care to give it a try yourself.

And on the subject of headlines consider this.

When trying to write a headline many people tend to go off half-cocked. They consider the marketing brief, then bash down a headline or two to satisfy it. After that, they write the body copy.

Experience shows, however, that if you write the body copy first, the odds are that there will be the makings of a headline within it struggling to get out.

Body copy is, or should be, a carefully worked and logical encapsulation of the marketing brief. In other words, the whys, the wherefores and the benefits of owning the product or service. It makes sense, then, that if it is properly written, there is a very real chance of finding an embryo headline lurking within it.

Why not give it a whirl? You may be agreeably surprised.

About The Author

Patrick Quinn is an award winning copywriter with 40 years' experience of the advertising business in London, Miami, Dublin and Edinburgh.

He publishes a FREE monthly newsletter, AdBriefing. Subscriptions are available at: http://www.adbriefing.com

[email protected]

In The News:

The NBA's return-to-work plan  Business Insider
Truth in Advertising  Columbia Star

Localized Advertising ? Door-to-Door Ad Distribution on the Fly!

Have you ever had to distribute door-hanger advertisements for your... Read More

The Importance of Your Business Card

What are you trying to say with you business card?We... Read More

Commercial: Consumer - Discounts - Misleading Advertising

Marketing is an important tool for attracting customers. It is... Read More

16 Methods for Getting Free Advertising

1. Place copies of your circular on bulletin... Read More

How To Create A Better Brochure

Having a quality brochure makes a positive impression on a... Read More

Advertising Your Holistic Business

The most basic answer is the same answer as to... Read More

What Does Your Business Card Say?

Business cards are the most underutilized and misunderstood marketing tool... Read More

Five Characteristics of Highly Successful Advertising

Have you ever spent a small fortune on advertising that... Read More

Advertainment is Sneaking Into Music, Movies, TV and More

The very name "advertainment" sends thrilling vibrations up the spine... Read More

Where To Call For Free Advertising And Free Business Advice

Believe it or not, there are plenty of opportunities out... Read More

How To Write Ads That Get Response

Your print ads should do more than just get noticed.... Read More

Seven Ways to Kick Up the Power of Your Print Advertising - More Small Business Power Tools

If you're a retailer and the only kind of advertising... Read More

13 Facts About Newspaper Advertising

Advertising in the paper works for many people in business.... Read More

How To Tell If An Advertisement Costs Too Much

People say it all the time: "This advertising costs too... Read More

Raising Funds For Your Nonprofit Using An Annual Direct Mail Program

A good annual direct mail solicitation program can produce unrestrictive... Read More

What Happened? Troubleshooting Poor Response from Ad Campaigns

Too many small business owners today run ad campaigns that... Read More

Write Attention Getting Advertisements

The most important aspect of any business is selling the... Read More

Successful Print Advertising Designs

Do you often see print advertisements outdoors, as much as... Read More

Top Design and Marketing Tips from a Branding Expert

This month, we wanted to share some general tips relating... Read More

What Does the Back of Your Business Card Say?

Business cards with nothing on the back are wasted opportunities... Read More

Radio and Television Ads: Clever Vs. Annoying

Ever heard or seen a radio or television commercial that... Read More

Choosing a Print Mail Dealer

"Print & Mail is a type of service that... Read More

2005 Super Bowl Ads... Winners and Losers

Well, Super Bowl XXXIX is history. Too bad for the... Read More

10 Ways to Advertise Your Business For Free!

At some point many small business owners are left with... Read More

Improve Your Promotional Flyers And Improve Sales

Admittedly, I have not seen your advertising flyer. Then again,... Read More