Think back to your cold calling days. What was your opening line? Did you lead with your name and title? Or did you start right out by talking about the product or service? Actually, better question – did it work? Did it keep the other person on the line?
These days, cold calling might be dead—or at the very least on life support—but marketing still relies on many of the same principles. And keeping the other person on the line is still one of them. Except it’s no longer a phone line, it’s a headline.
Whether for an email, a newsletter, a blog post, or anything in between, a headline is what clients and prospects use to decide whether or not to read on. Unfortunately, headlines don’t always get the job done. On average, 8 out of 10 people will read a headline. Yet only 2 of those 10 will read on. That means 75% of headlines are failures.
However, there are plenty of ways to write engaging headlines that increase your odds of being among the 2 out of 10.
1. Be Honest and Set the Right Expectations
In a study of over 3.3 million paid link headlines, those with clarification (i.e. headlines that clarified what the reader could expect like [Interview], [Podcast], [Infographic], etc.) performed 38% better than headlines without clarification.
It’s common sense that people like to know what they’re getting themselves in for, which is why they react positively when they are given extra information up front. This doesn’t always need to be such a clear description of the type of content. But when writing, it is best to reexamine the headline once the content is final and ask yourself how well it describes what readers can expect.
2. Get Over Your Fear of Clickbait
Clickbait is the worst. (Click here to see seven reasons why – number four will shock you!) It promises to wow and amaze but invariably never delivers. Usually, rather than the amazing facts about a certain celebrity, you get an annoying slideshow full of so many ads you start to question whether or not you have a virus.
But when you think about it, the problem isn’t the title, it’s the dissonance between the title and the article that really gets under your skin. It’s the realization that you’ve been duped into buying snake oil by what was – in hindsight – a fairly ridiculous title.
So by all means, lure readers in with bait. But make sure the article delivers.
3. Know Your Audience – Especially Their Pain Points
Knowing your audience is simple in theory, but difficult in practice. Luckily, you have a wealth of client data that most marketers would kill for – right at your fingertips. You know what your clients have, what they want, and what they need to get there. You can leverage that knowledge to create compelling content and headlines that speak directly to clients and their peers.
For example, say you notice that many of your clients who are within a year or two of retirement often bring up Long Term Care insurance. After all, the number one concern most people have – especially as they age – is staying healthy. And as the thought of not working looms large on their horizon, not being able to afford healthcare is chief among their concerns. By using this knowledge and combining it with even deeper insights about related concerns from your existing data, you can craft engaging emails, blog posts, or newsletters with even more engaging headlines.
4. Maintain Trust Between You and Your Audience
There are two types of spam. There’s the kind that is just plain stupid and seeks to trick you – the most famous example being the Nigerian prince. And then there is the spam that bombards you with messages, day after day.
The former is fading, especially as email servers improve their ability to filter it out automatically, but the latter is the kind we still see every day. It’s the daily email we get after forgetting to uncheck that “Yes, I would like to receive offers” box at the online checkout. Or the constant offers from a certain department store that slinked its way into your inbox by encouraging you to “save paper” with online receipts.
“Spamming” inboxes is among the surest ways to be ignored. Once your messages get the “spam” label, recovering is near impossible and a shadow is cast over everything you send out. That means no matter how great the content or alluring the title, your audience will reject it outright.
One way to avoid this is to personalize email paths (i.e. having the reader select the frequency and type of emails), but the best way is to just send fewer emails. Practicing a more conservative marketing timeline ensures that your titles are not just read, but also well received.
Embrace other modern marketing tactics
Now that more and more potential clients are doing their outreach and research online, it’s time to consider digital marketing methods to meet them there. With our free Digital Marketing Playbook, learn simple strategies for elevating your brand online and ultimately growing your business through these digital channels.