Copywriters mostly agree on one thing: Headlines are important. You’ve probably heard that 7 (or 8, depending on who you read) out of 10 visitors will read your headline and skip the rest of the copy. The purpose of the headline is to get readers so curious they’ll continue on past the headline.
So you’re getting ready to write a sales letter. Do you begin with the headline? Or write the copy and tack on the headline later?
Brian Clark in Copyblogger says to write the headline first. The idea is, your headline represents a promise to your readers. The rest of your copy supports your promise.
Some say write it last. After all, you often don’t uncover your guiding message until you’ve written your copy. So you don’t want to be locked into an irrelevant headline.
I encourage my clients to start with a working headline.
For my forthcoming workshop on headlines, I started with a blah, bland headline: “The headline is the most important part of your copy.”
I began writing the copy. One point I wanted to make was:
A lot of copywriting courses focus on structure. You get templates like, ‘Who else wants to…’ and, ‘How to get [something good] without [something bad]’
You might get suggestions like ‘What Benjamin Franklin can tell you about losing weight.’
These guidelines help with wordsmithing. But the truth is, templates won’t matter. It’s the message that sells.”
So I considered a headline, “Good copywriting – so why doesn’t it sell?”
But that’s misleading because copywriting goes beyond wordsmithing…and it’s too abstract.
My current headline began with a fact: 70% of readers don’t get past your headline. Since I wanted to focus on storytelling, the headline now reads, 70% of your prospects won’t see your story unless you put it in your headline.
I’ll keep an eye on results and maybe make some changes.
In summary, the steps I recommend are…
Start with your story.
Create a working headline as a placeholder.
Revise as you write the copy.
Take a few days and see how the headline reads after you’ve been away.
Revise as you get audience reactions.
You can learn more from this free training, coming up soon (and a recording will be available).