Creating the Perfect Advertising Headline

My background begins with a degree in advertising, running my own ad agency, followed by 25 years as an advertising consultant for the Yellow Pages. During those 35 years, I believe that I’ve learned a thing or two or three about what makes a successful ad campaign. I even wrote a book about my directory experiences and how to make more effective Yellow Page ads while saving money. But enough about me, this is about you and what you need to do to bring in that consumer.

From the title, you have already gathered it starts with the headline. Whether it’s a newspaper, magazine, or Yellow Page ad, the headline is like the ignition of the car. Without one or at least a good working one, nothing happens. The car may stutter or whine, but the end result is wasted time, for both you and the reader. I was always amazed at what my client suggested for headlines in their YP ads. Can you guess what they asked for?

Most felt that it should just contain their name. In most cases, they figured that was enough. Now if their name happened to be, “Jones Plumbing, where we fix all pipes and drains for a low price with 20 years experience and have a full, money-back guarantee,” I would disagree. Many only wanted their name, like “Harvey’s Appliance Repair” across the entire top. Now what does that really tell us? To begin with, the ad was already under “Appliance Repair,” in the phone book. And why would I want to give someone my business simply because his name was Harvey? Even if it was “Smith Toyota Auto Sales,” does that alone convince you to go there to buy your next Corolla when there are five other Toyota dealerships? I think not.

The headline is an opportunity to challenge the reader and offer a feature or benefit story. It can ask a question, provoke a response, or provide valuable information. Rather than describe every possibility, let me list a few examples:

  • “You Don’t Really Need Insurance, ask us why” (it’s for your survivors, family, etc.)
  • “The 7 Things You Must Do Before Calling a Locksmith”
  • “Are You Risking Your Life by NOT Seeing Your Dentist Every Year?”
  • “Don’t Repair Your Brakes Until You Read This”
  • “We Didn’t Go into Business to Make Money” (to help people)
  • “Take This Window-Washing Test Before You Call Anyone”
  • “An Ordinary Pest Control Service Hurts More Than Helps”(using harsh chemicals, etc.)
  • “Not All Pet Foods Are Made Equal. Ask Us Why.”
  • “What Painting Contractors Don’t Want You to Know”
  • “Why We the Most Expensive Dealer in Town and That’s the Good News!
  • “Learn the Secret to Better Carpet Cleaning”
  • “The One Thing that You should Know about your Real Estate Agent”
  • “Why We No Longer Sell Burglar Alarms” (we sell safety, piece of mind, etc.)

So, what happened to all the business names? They can be anywhere else in the ad that you choose. The main purpose of the headline is to get the reader to continue into the heart of the ad. Would you be intrigued by these headlines? Are they better than the name and phone number alone? You can use these as a springboard by plugging in your own type of business and then explaining in the sub-text what is really going on. Wouldn’t you like to know how you are risking your life by NOT seeing your dentist? It’s because improper flossing can lead to a stroke if the bacteria ends up in your bloodstream.

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