The Ultimate Guide To Writing Great Sales Letter Headlines

by TomAndrews 12 replies
If you want to write headlines that stop your ideal prospects dead in their tracks, so they read the rest of your copy and ultimately buy from you, then this post will be one of the most important things you've ever read.

(Or you can watch the video - its the same thing.)

Right, what's the most important part of any sales copy?

The bullets?



No, no and no again. Instead, it's your headline.

Now, I know what you're thinking...

How can something as small as your headline be the single most important thing in your entire copy?

Well, look at it like this:

It doesn't matter how good your offer is, how enticing a story you write, how powerful your testimonials are, if no one reads your copy.

So the first "win" you have to get when writing copy, is getting your prospects to actually read it.

You do that through your headline.

With me so far?

Good. Moving on.

Now then, how do you write the best possible headline?

Well, here's what most people do:

They build a swipe file of all the greatest headlines throughout history.

Good so far.

Thing is, instead of using these headlines as inspiration for writing their own headline, they literally swipe them word-for-word.

They just add and subtract a couple of words here and there, so it applies to their own product or market. And that's that.

On the face of it, you might think it's clever.

If it's worked once, it's gonna work again, right?

Well, not so fast.

You see, there's a reason those headlines worked so well. And it comes down to this:

The copywriters who wrote them knew their markets inside-out.

Specifically, they knew two things:

1) How much the market knew of their product.

(This included what the product did, the mechanisms involved, and how well it satisfied a problem or desire they had.)

2) How AWARE their market was of any problem or desire they might have been experiencing at that time.

In his book "Breakthrough Advertising", one of the great copywriters of all time, Eugene Schwartz, called this the market's "state of awareness".

And he said you have to write your headline with your market's CURRENT state of awareness in mind.

If you don't, then your headline won't hit home with your prospects...

It will flop...

And the people who otherwise would've bought from you, won't even read the rest of your copy.

Which would be a bit shit, right?

Anyway, there are 5 different states of awareness you have to be aware of. (Get it?)

These are:

Stage 1: Your prospect knows of your product and wants it, but just hasn't got around to buying it yet.

Stage 2: Your prospect knows of your product but does NOT want to buy it yet.

Stage 3: Your prospect is NOT aware of your product, but IS aware of a desire he has which your product would fulfill.

Stage 4: Your prospect is not aware of your product, though he has a NEED which has to be fulfilled.

Stage 5: Your prospect is not aware of your product AND he is not aware of any need or desire he has relating to what your product does.


You MUST know which stage of awareness your prospects are in, in that moment of time.


Because you have to use a different headline "formula" for each stage.

What are these formulas? Let me tell you...

Stage 1: Your prospect knows of your product and wants it, but just hasn't got around to buying yet.

This one's easy.

All you really need to do in your headline is state the name of your product and a bargain price.

People in this stage of awareness will then buy.

For example, everyone knows what an iPhone is. And there are millions of people who want one, but haven't got round to buying yet.

If iPhone wrote a headline which said something as simple as:

"iPhone (whatever the latest model is): Now Available At Half Price," people would flock to it.

Thing is, most products don't fall in this category. And if they don't, then this type of headline would stink worse than my balls after ten sets of squats.

On that nice thought, let's move on...

Stage 2: Your prospect knows of your product but doesn't want to buy it yet.

Things are now slightly more complicated...

But not much more.

Here, you just need to strengthen your headline in one of the 7 following ways:

1) Reinforce your prospect's desire for the outcome your product can help him achieve.

2) Sharpen the image of your product in action, in the mind of your prospect.

David Ogilvy's famous 'Rolls-Royce' ad headline is a great example of this:

"At 60mph the loudest sound in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock."

You can now imagine driving a smooth-as-**** Rolls-Royce, right?

Amazing imagery.

3) Emphasise WHEN and WHERE your prospect can make use of and benefit from your product.

For example, I never bothered with Netflix.

Until, that is, when I went travelling around Thailand and wanted to watch some movies in my downtime.

I didn't think I'd be able to get Netflix on my phone.

But guess what? I saw a headline saying there was a Netflix mobile app, and I could stream movies from anywhere in the world.

Of course I then signed up, because I was no longer limited to watching movies in my bedroom back in England - I was able to watch them anywhere in the world, at any time I wanted.

4) Emphasise new documentation or proof that backs up the quality/effectiveness of your product.

5) Mention a new mechanism in your product that makes it "perform" better than before.

6) Mention a new mechanism in your product that overcomes a previous limitation it had.

E.g. If there was a brand-new ingredient in a beer that prevented hangovers,that company would be stupid not to mention it in their headline!

7) Finally, you might wanna change your prospect's image of your product altogether, to remove it from competition and/or to enter a new market.

Lucozade did this.

It used to be a drink people had when they were ill. Then they re-positioned it as an energy drink you can have daily.


Right, that's "Stage 2" on the Scale of Awareness done.

Let's move onto stage 3...

Stage 3: Your prospect is NOT aware of your product, but IS aware of a desire he has which your product would fulfill.

Remember this:

If your prospect doesn't know of your product yet, and doesn't know what it can do for him, do not mention it in your headline.

Got it?


Instead, you should start with the DESIRE your prospect has.

Your body copy must then prove that desire can be accomplished.

And finally, you need to show them that your product is the best/only way they can fulfil that desire.


Stage 4: Your prospect is not aware of your product, though he has a NEED which has to be fulfilled.

This is similar to "stage 3", so we're not gonna spend too much time on this.

Here, you wanna name the need and/or its solution in your headline.

Then, you wanna really rub salt into the wound so to speak, by making your prospect realise how badly he needs a solution to his need.

And as before, you then present your product as the solution.

Stage 5: Your prospect is not aware of your product AND he is not aware of any need or desire he has relating to what your product does.

Right, this is where a top copywriter earns his money.

If your headline can appeal to people in this category, you should get a ton more sales, and more money in your bank.

Thing is, how do you do it?

Well, as you might've guessed, you can't mention your product.

Nor can you mention a desire - they're not aware of it yet.

Price? Definitely not. At this stage, price is irrelevant too.

So what do you do?

You start with (drumroll please)...


Yep, when addressing a market in this fifth stage of awareness, you need to "call out" your market first, so they can identify with your ad.

If they don't even identify with it, then they won't read on. Fact.

Then, only after they've identified with your ad through your headline, you do the following in your main body copy:

First, you need to make them aware of the problem or desire.

Then, make them realise there's a solution.

And finally, same as before, make sure they see YOUR product as the obvious solution.

Anyway, all this might overwhelm you at first. It sure did me.

It's a lot to take in.

But if you can master this one aspect of copywriting alone, your copy's gonna convert better than 90% of your competitors.

Meaning more money for you.

Tom Andrews

PS- Copywriting legend David Ogilvy said your headline will get five times as many eyeballs as your main body copy.

Clearly, you wanna make your headline as powerful as possible.

If you don't, then your potential customers will ignore the rest of your copy.

They simply won't read it.

This means they won't see your offer...

Meaning they will never buy from you.

But if you nail your headline, then your sales should soar.
#copywriting #great #guide #headlines #letter #sales #ultimate #writing
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  • Profile picture of the author TMets5
    All great points here...without a captivating headline the rest of your copy most likely does not get read. You also must make sure you are approaching the correct audience
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    • Profile picture of the author TomAndrews

      A headline which appeals to one audience will completely bomb to another. If you don't write to the correct audience, then you're screwed.

      No two ways about it.


      Let's connect on Facebook because it's always good to meet fellow marketers. Send me a friend request:

      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[11049794].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author jessegilbert
    yep. I'm totally with you on this. Some fairly successful names in advertising would agree - Ogilvy and Kennedy to name 2.

    The big challenge I think is finding the sweet spot - the biggest possible audience that isn't so general that it appeals to none.

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  • Profile picture of the author tigerman424
    I completely agree. I am a writer and a copywriter. If anyone ever reads what you write then your headline is the most captivating portion of your intent for the person to continue reading. With a captivating headline you draw the prospective buyer in and then you must remain continually encouraging for the reader to get to the end and feel that they must have what you are promoting. If anyone wants a real professional course in copy writing then one should look at American Writers and Artists Incorporated (AWAI). They have a superb course in copy writing. I have taken their extensive course and throughout the course you are given various assignments throughout the course whereupon you are critiqued by professional copywriters. These copywriters provide inimitable insight as to where you should progress in the continuing aspect of what you are trying to convey to your reader. As a result, you become more prolific in the style of writing to enable you to capture your readers attention past the headline.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[11050878].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author TomAndrews
      Ben Settle's "Copyslacker" is another great course.

      Best few hundred bucks I've ever spent.

      Let's connect on Facebook because it's always good to meet fellow marketers. Send me a friend request:

      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[11051045].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author NCMediaInc
    That statistic is still true, you have less than 10 seconds to get the attention of those who visit your website. Your headline is the first thing the visitor will usually see, so a strong headline is crucial to your overall success. Even though the use of video has skyrocketed, the first words being spoken in the video must be powerful. All videos need a script, that script utilizes a powerful headline that's spoken or said in one way or another.
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    • Profile picture of the author TomAndrews

      If you're sending warm traffic there from an email, you buy yourself more time.

      But cold traffic?

      Well, your headline is VITAL.

      Let's connect on Facebook because it's always good to meet fellow marketers. Send me a friend request:

      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[11056856].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author selstar
    Thanks a lot for sharing this valuable tips with us
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  • Profile picture of the author yuvrajsinhspaceo
    If my memory is still working, these points were originally mentioned in "Breakthrough Advertising", right?

    Good share.

    Yuvrajsinh is a Growth Strategist at Space-O Technologies.

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    • Profile picture of the author TomAndrews
      Thanks mate.

      They certainly were. As I said in the article, Schwartz called it the prospect's "state of awareness".

      Best copywriting book out there by a mile, imo.

      Let's connect on Facebook because it's always good to meet fellow marketers. Send me a friend request:

      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[11071100].message }}
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