Last I checked, the average human attention span was shorter than that of a goldfish. We’ve been reduced to a scant eight seconds, compared to the goldfish’s nine seconds. And even eight seconds is a lot to expect when it comes to sifting through the headlines of direct mail.
Your audience isn’t going to spend a lot of time on a mailer from you unless you find a way to keep their attention.
Fortunately, your odds of success with direct mail are better than ever … as long as you know how to draw readers in.
According to a 2014 study by the U.S. Postal Service, 57 percent of households read all direct mail sent to their house. This number is actually up from 49 percent in 1987!
But if you want your direct mail marketing to do its job, you’ll need to focus everything you’ve got on grabbing their attention in the first place. The way to do that is with strong headlines.
May I Have Your Attention, Please?
Think of your headline as the ad for your ad. In that very narrow eight-second window where you have someone’s attention, you need to take advantage of the opportunity to capture their interest and make them keep reading.
That’s why you need to put a lot of effort into understanding what goes into great headlines, then write them until you come up with one that works.
Here’s what you need to know to write magnetic headlines that draw readers in:
- Speak to your prospects’ interest.
- Make the headline BIG, BOLD, and PROMINENT on the page.
- Don’t be too clever or cute — make a point and drive it home.
- FORCE the reader to keep reading by using an irresistible hook.
- Be honest — no using tomfoolery to trick them into engaging with you.
- DO NOT USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, as it’s hard to read.
A great headline highlights benefits that will interest the prospect, keeping their attention throughout the body of the piece and driving them to take action by the time they’ve finished reading. Incorporate the above tips for the best results.
How To Write Headlines That Influence People
If you need proof that good headlines can make all the difference, take the title of the legendary book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The advertisement for this book actually touted the same no-nonsense, straight-to-the-bottom-line headline as the book itself, and the book was an immediate hit.
If the book’s 75-year record as one of the most popular self-improvement books in history wasn’t enough to convince you, consider this. That one original ad, based on the headline alone, sold over 1 million copies via mail order — during the heart of the Great Depression, when there was hardly a penny to spare worldwide!
Without bells, whistles, or fancy language, this headline has cut to the hearts of hundreds of millions of people, simply by stating its purpose, making a promise, and forging a connection with every person who’s ever wanted to have exactly what this title offers: friends and influence.
Magnetic Headlines In Action
Like with any activity, you can get better at writing great headlines by studying the greats who came before. Legendary figures like David Ogilvy and Claude Hopkins were known for many amazing ads with fantastic headlines that captured attention and caused sales to skyrocket.
Ogilvy, the original ad master, once wrote, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
And that was well before our attention spans shrank and the number of potential distractions exploded in our modern information age. Ogilvy reminds us to hone the headline for our audience, no matter what we’re trying to sell.
As an example, here’s the best headline he ever wrote, according to Ogilvy himself:
“At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”
If you go back and check the list of tips for an effective headline, you can see that this Ogilvy classic really hits the mark on all of them — and makes the Rolls-Royce sound irresistible to a car enthusiast. It really drives home the point that this is a luxury vehicle, and it does so without artifice or trickery.
Ogilvy was particularly insistent that factual advertising would perform better than false promises and grandstanding without anything to back it up. And the Rolls-Royce ad proves that fact-based claims work.
Apparently, the chief engineer at Rolls-Royce responded to the ad by saying, “It is time we did something about that damned clock.”
Make Your Own Headlines Impossible To Ignore
So how can you make your headlines irresistible? Burrow down to the core features and benefits of what you’re selling and use those six tips to draw the attention of your prospects.
If you can produce an irresistible headline that’s tailor-made for your ideal buyer, you’ve accomplished 80 percent of your goal in overcoming short attention spans and getting readers to take action.
The next time you sit down to produce a direct mail piece, focus on crafting headlines that grab attention quickly — without mercy. If you can do this, your bottom line is sure to thank you.