How a Few Well-Chosen Words
Can Do Magic For Your Business
By David Garfinkel
It’s early morning in a San Francisco café. I’m sitting here away from my office, so I can focus completely on writing this article.
I’m staring intently at a page of handwritten notes – complete with arrows and boxes… famous headlines from throughout history… and all sorts of other intricate details.
Then it happens.
The little red light starts flashing. You know the one I mean – the one on my BlackBerry. I can’t ignore it. I simply have to see what it is.
It’s an email (duh). Of course.
From Perry Marshall, the Google guru.
So you want to get more customers….
I click the round button on the Blackberry to open it up and read it. I’m excited! 12 tips, 6 with asterisks. I wonder: What’s he up to?
Then I take a deep breath and sit back, before I break out laughing. Way too loud. A worker in the café looks my way to make sure I haven’t lost it completely. She decides I’m just laughing too loud but otherwise okay, and goes back to busing tables.
I’m laughing because the very thing I’m trying to figure out how to write about, just happened to me. And it was done so well that I never saw it coming. It blew right by me before I realized:
– what had happened, and
– how my BlackBerry had just provided an exquisite “teachable moment.”
You see, the seven words Perry put in his subject line: “So you want to get more customers…. “also functioned flawlessly as an awesomely effective headline.
Perry’s subject line/headline also bears many of the qualities that make it a perfect example for this article:
1. It sounds like conversation. (Even though this was a mass email to his list, the seven words sound like something someone might really say.)
2. All the words are short, except for 1. (6 out of 7 are only 1 syllable and have 4 letters or less. The seventh one, “customers,” is 3 syllables and has 9 letters. It is a long word, but it is rich with meaning and often on every businessperson’s mind.)
3. It attracts attention and causes curiosity. Because it’s about something I’m interested in myself and something I also help other people with, it gets all of my focus the moment I see it.
4. It implies a desirable reward for reading further. It doesn’t come right out and say so, but it implies that when you keep reading, you will learn something worthwhile about getting new customers for your business.
5. It prompts you to read the next sentence. That’s what it did to me. It got me (and would get nearly any other business-oriented reader) to take action by keeping reading. With my Blackberry, that can’t happen until I take the action of pressing on the round button that opens the email.
In other formats, like on a Web page, a good headline would simply keep me reading. On Twitter, a good tweet might get me to click on a link. On a Web video, a good opening line would convince me to keep watching.
It’s the same idea in all cases – a good headline captures your attention and holds onto it.
What do other good headlines look like?
Here are some of the “famous, well-known headlines” you may have heard of before. As you read them, see how many of the 5 characteristics they have, or would have if you saw them above some text on the Web or in a print ad:
– How to Win Friends and Influence People
– If You’re Out of the Market Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later
– The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches
– See How Easily You Can Learn to Dance This Way
– I’ve Got to Get This Off My Chest Before I Explode!
Famous advertising guru of yore, David Ogilvy, once said: “When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.” That is because scientific tests have shown that 80% of the effectiveness of an ad is in the headline.
It has been said that we are in an “attention economy” these days, and your wealth is directly proportional to your ability to get and keep the attention of your prospects and customers.
If that is true, then it stands to reason that the better your headlines are, the wealthier you will be.
Author of Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich