80/20 Series: Most Effective Headlines

In this 80/20 series, I’m going to focus in on the leverage points in sales copy structure. I’m doing this for you for a couple of reasons.

One, so you can begin to see where the “magic” lies inside of your copy.

Writing persuasive copy is a beast.

There are countless interconnected persuasive elements connected by one overarching strategy. If they are out of place or disjointed, it’s like pineapple pizza. It’s a pizza but it’s an abomination to the diehard Chicago deep-dish pizza fan. You don’t want your customers to have the same reaction when they come to a particular part of your sales process.

I’m a big believer in the “frictionless” experience. Your customer has certain expectations as they through your sales process. They are on the lookout for anything wrong so they can have an excuse to bail. Your message has to be engaging to keep them going on that journey with you. The moment they hit a speed bump they are going to flee.

By breaking down the your salesletter into its separate pieces you can polish and improve it.

Second, these sections within a salesletter are responsible for the lion’s share of the ROI.

And, the most important part of the salesletter is the headline.

To get your creative juices flowing, here are 10 of the most effective headline strategies to draw more customers into your sales letter.

Breaking News!

The “Breaking News!” headline is a pattern interrupt.

Think of it as if you were watching a herd of gray elephants go by and then you see a pink elephant. It shocks you out of the hypnotic trance of observing the common to getting a cold splash of the uncommon hit you in the face and shock you back to your senses.

It’s an attention-getting headline designed to introduce new information with a major benefit to draw you into the rest of the message.


“Guaranteed to Make You !…Guaranteed to Help You Lose Weight!…Guaranteed to Save You More Money On Your Taxes!…We Guarantee You Will Achieve _ Or We Will Refund Your Money, No Questions Asked!…

These types of headlines target a market that desires security before actually purchasing. By offering the guarantee upfront, you are transferring your confidence in your offer to the reader. This pulls them in to read the rest of your message.


“Got Milk?…It’s 10:00 PM – Do You Know Where Your Children Are?…Do You Feel You Want More To Do With Your Life?…”

Questions draw a reader in and make them consider things that they hadn’t considered before. It’s a powerful way to draw someone in to a narrative that you’ve designed to get someone to take an interest in your offer.

Most people run on auto-pilot due due to our psychological makeup. Human beings run on efficiency so people conserve energy by considering things in their field of awareness.

By crafting the right question in the headline, you get your reader to pause. This pause is your opening to get them and consider the relevance of your offer.

How To…

“How to” headlines introduce solutions to a market that is looking for answers to a problem.

“How to Lose 10 lbs. in 10 Days…How to Reach Retirement With A Million Dollar Portfolio…How to Find the Love Of Your Life in 30 days…How to Get in the Best Shape of Your Life, Guaranteed!…”

“How to” headlines are most effective when they have elements of urgency, uniqueness, ultra-specificity, and useful.

Not all “How to” headlines have all of these elements but the more they have the stronger the influence on the reader.

Reason Why

Your copy needs to give your reader a valid reason to act now.

The “Reason Why” headline introduces that compelling idea to the reader to take action.

“If You’re 55, Buy This Stock or You May Never Retire!…If You’re 55, Buy This Stock and You Can Retire This Year!…If You’re Diabetic, You Could Lose Your Feet If You Don’t Do __…”

These headlines are powerful when selling ideas versus physical products because ideas can be abstract and vague. But, by communicating consequences, ideas move from the realm of vague abstraction to having real world consequences.

Those consequences speak to the personal experience of the reader to becoming a source of motivation for them to take action.


Losing weight, making more money, meeting the love of your life, forming greater benefits with your children, achieving greater health, overcoming life-threatening diseases, and more are all benefits that are deeply personal to the human experience.

The “Benefit” driven headline seeks to communicate those benefits in a personal way to grab the reader’s attention.

“Get Your Dream Career in 3 Simple Steps…Would You Give 10 Minutes a Day to Gain 10 Years of Life?…Create the Life You Want, Not the Life You Settled For…”

These headlines imply benefits like a dream career, more quality of life, and reaching one’s potential. All of these ideas speak directly to the human experience and compel the reader to consider what are the inherent secrets of your offer and draw them into the message (which is what you want).


Emotions are the driving factor behind all buying decisions.

Every great salesletter has to have emotional elements in the copy to draw the reader in and drive them to buy.

The “Emotion” headline introduces feelings at the beginning of the message. This acts as the first domino to fall in a series of dominos taking the reader all the way to the end buy.

“Do You Lay Awake At Night Worrying About Money?…Regrets? Wish You Had Saved More Money For Retirement?…How to Have More Fun and Energy With These Tibetan Secrets…Not Feeling Like The Man You Used To Be?…”

A good strategy for “Emotion” headlines is to introduce a negative emotion to steer the reader towards a positive emotion in your lead or vice versa. Once you understand the power of appealing to emotions, you can craft several “moving towards, moving away from” elements within your salesletter to motivate the reader to read more of your message.

Personal Story

Stories are a powerful tool to create a personal connection to the reader. Emotional experiences create common ground with the reader and can become more personal.

“Personal Story” headlines set the stage to touch the heart of the readers.

“Thank God My Husband Did This Before He Died…People Laughed At Me When I Sat Down At The Piano To Play,…I Was The Ugly Girl That No One Asked To Dance, But Look At Me Now!…”

Vulnerability and authenticity are force multipliers of “Personal Story” headlines. Use them and it sets the stage for your buyer to take action. It also to creates raving fans for your offer instead of just customers.

Testimonial (social proof)

Certain audiences are skeptical within a market.

The need for proof, evidence, and facts to back it up can go a long way to convert cold traffic to red hot buyer.

“8 Out of 10 Doctors Recommend …Breaking New Research Reveals to Accomplish __…I Struggled With My Weight All My Life Until Science Showed Me _…Unknown Sociologist Reveals Science-Base Method Guaranteed to Add 50 New Clients Each Month…”

Engineers, attorneys, doctors, and other professionals where fact-based decisions are part of their daily working lives. And, as a result, they are good examples of consumers that need data to help make a buying decision.


Contrarian or contrasting messages to the status quo are a way to rise above the crowd and create points-of-difference between you and your competitors.

In marketing, it’s better to be different than to follow the crowd of regurgitated sales message in a market.

That’s what makes “Command” headlines a powerful way to reach your audience.

“Stop Buying Mutual Funds If You Want To Get Rich!…Stop Exercising If You Want To Lose Weight!…Want More Love In Your Life? Then Stop Asking Women Out! Do This Instead!…”

Consumers have varying degrees of awareness to solutions to their problems. Think of cell phones 10 or 15 years ago where they were pretty basic but then iPhone came along and changed the landscape.

In health, there was a time where eating carbohydrates were all the rage for a healthy lifestyle, but then Atkins and keto were introduced, and then carbs became a pariah. At the time, Atkins and keto advocates yelled from the mountaintops to “stop eating carbs, they are making you fat!” Both were criticized by “conventional thought” but are now accepted as fact.

Putting Them Into Action

Each of these headline strategies can be an effective launching point to grab your readers’ attention but it’s important to test different versions. Headlines are the first thing that your customer is going to see which gives you a split second to grab their attention.

A good copywriter will always offer more than one headline for you to test. Small tweaks in conversion can lead to big changes on your bottom line if you apply the painstaking process to improve them.

Also, a strong copywriter can combine different elements of each headline for countless variations to increase the power of their communication.

By focusing on this part of your copy and brainstorming new ways to reach your customer you can help more people as well as your bottom line.

Billy Williams

Billy Williams is a content marketing strategist and digital marketing consultant who has written for Askmen.com, Addicted2Success.com, and Futures Magazine.