Written by: Lynne Strang
For small, small business owners, headlines and titles matter. Maybe more than you think.
The effectiveness of an advertisement, blog story or social media post comes down to the headline. If it grabs attention, people are more likely to keep reading. If it doesn’t, they won’t. They have too many distractions competing for their attention.
The same thing is true about the subject line used in an email sent to your customers, vendors and employees. Use an eye-catching subject line and you increase the chances that your email gets opened and read.
What about that talk you’ve been asked to give at an upcoming meeting of your chamber of commerce? The title you choose could determine how much social media exposure you receive – and how large of an audience shows up to hear your presentation.
As all these cases show, the success of an initiative often depends upon its name. Copywriters and bloggers understand this very well. So do event planners. That’s why they sometimes spend days or weeks (or longer) polishing a headline or session title.
The good news: You don’t have to be an advertising genius to increase the effectiveness of your headlines, titles and subject lines. For better results, try these three simple tips:
Tip # 1: Speak to your audience’s interests.
Dale Carnegie wrote about this principle in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. It is human nature to ask: What’s in it for me? As you consider your next headline or title, see if you can’t come up with one that answers this question for your audience.
Headlines and titles that begin with “How to” tell the audience that they’re going to learn a skill, a method or something else that benefits them. As you may have noticed, I chose a “How to” title (How to Create Headlines That Get Good Results) for the blog post you’re reading right now.
Some other examples:
- “How to Become a Millionaire in Five Years”
- “How to Work Less and Play More”
- “How to Self-Publish Your First Book”
Beginning with the word “Why” is another good way to create a what’s-in-it for-me headline or title. For example:
- “Why your house may be making you sick”
- “Why most people don’t get enough sleep”
- “Why public speaking is a great way to market your business”
If you’re looking for other words that speak to your audience’s interests, consider “free,” “new,” “special,” and “improved.” Who wouldn’t be interested in something that has any of these traits?
Tip # 2: Tease your audience.
Go for a headline or title that hints at the content. You don’t want to give away too much, however. Otherwise your audience has no reason to keep reading your copy or attend your event. Intrigue them so they want to know more.
Let’s say you’re planning a workshop on building personal wealth. In addition to speaking to self-interests, the title “How to Become a Millionaire in Five Years” also teases the audience. Prospective attendees will know that the session is about how to become wealthy in a relatively short period of time. But if they want to know the specifics for achieving this goal, they’ll have to participate in the session.
A cautionary note about teasing titles: Make sure the title isn’t misleading and relates to your content. If attendees show up for a workshop titled “How to Become a Millionaire in Five Years” – and the presenter talks about something else – they’re likely to be disappointed.
Tip # 3: Make it memorable.
When your headline or title is memorable, your offer or presentation tends to have a longer life. That’s because people will keep talking about it long after its launch or delivery. They’re also more likely to share your headline or title on social media, giving it a chance to go viral.
To create a memorable headline, try these techniques:
- A list: “Five Easy Tips to Improve Your Lifestyle”
- A question: “Does Reading Make You More Successful?”
- A startling statement: “A Never-Miss Formula for Impromptu Speaking”
Once you have a potential headline or title, read it out loud to several people to get their reactions. If you happen to have work colleagues, friends and/or family members who match up well with your target audience, all the better.
When creators don’t give much thought to their headlines and titles – and slap something together at the last minute – their target audience may not read their content, or take a pass on their presentations.
A good headline or title, on the other hand, gets people’s attention. That’s critical if you want them to take the next step.
For your next headline or title, remember to: 1) Speak to your audience’s interests, 2) Tease your audience and 3) Make it memorable. Follow these tips and you’re more likely to get the results you want.
About the author:
Lynne Beverly Strang is a freelance writer who helps small business owners meet their communications and marketing goals. Prior to becoming a solopreneur, Lynne had a long career in public relations where her writing projects ranged from speeches to newsletters. Lynne is the author of Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: Eight Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40. She has an award-winning blog, also called Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs. Her website is lynnebeverlystrang.com.