A Headline Can Earn You a Fortune


Wednesday, June 18, 2003

***  ”The secret to success, in life and in  business, is to work hard at the margin. Relentlessly.  It’s as powerful as compound interest, the eighth wonder of the world.Those little marginal extra efforts will  inevitably grow into something big.” — Bill Bonner

***  Little things mean a lot

***  ”God is in the details”


It’s shocking to observe how poor the headlines are in all media.  The worst examples are on the Web.  This includes advertising as well as news stories.

It’s incredible to me, right in the middle of the Information Age, when it’s more important than ever,creating headlines has become a dying art.

Yet, headlines are responsible for 90% of the success of any piece of sales copy.

Numerous times just by creating a new headline, I’ve turned a loser into a winner. This is without any change whatsoever in the body copy or the offer.

The headline is not just important to the marketer.  It’s almost everything!

Whether the headline is on an outer envelope, at the top of a space ad or sales letter, it must be strong, powerful and grab

The subject line in an e-mail letter acts like a headline and should be treated with the same importance as in all
other media.

Here is what the late advertising legend, David Ogilvy, had to say:

”On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90% of your money.”

There are five main reasons why a headline is so important.  It:

1. Attracts attention
2. Communicates a strong benefit
3. Appeals to the self-interest of the reader – Answers the
question:  ”What’s in it for me?”
4. Sets the tone for the offer
5. Selects the right audience

To underscore the importance of the headline on the outside envelope, I’d like to take you behind the scenes for a case history from which you can glean enormous benefits.

The successful headline, or ”teaser,” original copy on the envelope reads as follows:

”How You Can Defeat the Dangers of the Toxic Environment in Which You Live”

Simply to try to beat the ”control,” even though extremely successful, I suggested we test four new teasers against the above control mail kit on the outside envelope.  Testing new headlines is the easiest and potentially THE most profitable thing you can ever do.

We would keep all the other elements exactly the same. This includes the sales letter, order form, and reply envelope without change.

Here are the new outside envelope headlines, or as direct marketers call them, ”teasers.”

Can a Natural Green Plant Miraculously Prevent and Cure More Diseases Than All The Artificial Drugs Put Together?

Can a Green Plant Supplement Contain At Least Twice The Nutrients and Health Power Of Any Vitamin Pill?

What is Nature’s Most Perfect Food?

Shocking Health Facts About the Miracle Green Plant  Pharmaceutical Companies Do Not Want You to Know

Which of the above four new headlines or existing headline (five total) would you pick as the winner?

I’ll give you the results in a moment. However, before you know the answer, to get the maximum benefit from this exercise, think about which one appeals to you most and why.

The good news is, in any form of direct marketing you do not have to guess. You can test and make decisions based on facts.

Here are the actual mailing results from this test.

Original Control Headline      Percentage response 7.08%
New Headline #1                Percentage response 8.60%
New Headline #2                Percentage response 9.32%
New Headline #3                Percentage response 7.92%
New Headline #4                Percentage response 9.00%

What happened was extremely unusual. The winner was number 2.  However, all four of the new headline tests beat the existing control, which was already extremely profitable!

My client, was not just surprised.  He was shocked beyond belief! He couldn’t get over changing a few words on the envelope would make such a huge difference on the overall sales and profitability of the mailing.

Another way to analyze the importance of what happened is to look at the numbers.

For every 10,000 pieces mailed using #2 (the new control) the gross profit increase over the former control is $10,800.  The gross profit increase is 40% over the original mailing.

On 100,000 pieces mailed, the additional gross profit is $108,000.  For a major mailer, on a million pieces mailed this is a cool $1,080,000.

Tip: Write down even hundreds of headlines before you get ready to sell anything.  Select four of the strongest ones.Every time you do a mailing or e-mail letter, create and test at least one headline against your original headline, copy and offer, whether or not it’s already working.

Can you now see how you are 17 words or less away from your first or next million?

Why 17 words?  Simply because only a handful of times have I made a longer headline work in my experience.

Here’s to better headlines and more success to you in all your endeavors.

Yours truly,

Ted Nicholas

P.S. Without excellent headlines, you simply cannot have a successful direct marketing business using any media.  If this headline ”lesson” has been of help to you, I’d like to hear from you.  There is much, much more I could share with you on this important topic.