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HOW TO TEST YOUR 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.
Obviously, there is no absolute test. 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.
But there is a test – a very good 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.
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.
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Patrick Quinn is a copywriter, with 40 years' experience of the advertising business in London, Miami, Dublin and Edinburgh. Over the years, he has helped win for his clients just about every advertising award worth winning. His published books, include:
The Secrets of Successful Copywriting.
The Secrets of Successful Low Budget Advertising.
Word Power 1, 2 & 3.
© Markethill Publishing 2005.