Yesterday we touched on some of the fundamentals of basic copywriting. Thanks to the huge quantities of advertising materials being bandied around these days it’s not enough to have great direct mail marketing materials, however. You also have to know how to write a headline that zings!

Studies show that today’s marketer has exactly three seconds to convince their audience to listen to what they have to say. That’s right. Three. Not thirty, not ten. Three. If you haven’t hooked their attention by then, your direct marketing materials are going in

Are you familiar with the power of 3?

the trash and your customer has moved on to someone else’s marketing materials-and if that someone else knows the secret of how to write zingy headlines, they’re going to give that someone else their business.

The first rule of writing effective headlines (and my personal favorite, may I add) is the one breath rule. Why is this rule the first? Because it’s the rule so many marketers get wrong. Remember, your headline is not a dissertation. You want to get directly to the point, with just enough information to hook their interest. A good rule of thumb is, if they can’t say it in one breath, your headline is too long!

Hence the reason this blog post is titled “3 Steps to Write Headlines that Zing” and not “How to Write Headlines That Will Convince Your Readers to Listen to What You Have to Say Instead of Throwing Your Direct Mailing Materials in the Trash with the Rest of the Junk.”

See what I mean?

Next, let’s talk about sizzle and steak. The oldest rule of thumb in the marketing industry is to sell the sizzle, not the steak; in other words, to give them just enough information to get them interested without overloading them with more than they need to know. This isn’t my favorite rule when you’re designing your direct mail marketing materials, since it’s easy to get caught on a wave of hype and forget to tell your customers what you’re talking about, but it’s a key element when you’re learning how to write effective headlines. Identify their problem, let them know you can solve it. There’s a reason “Learn How to Make $20,000 a Week Working from Home” draws the clicks like moths to the flame.

Finally, rule number the third: Incorporate emotion words into your headlines. Studies have proven over and over again that being able to reach your customers on an emotional level will do more to increase your sales than just about anything else you can do, and incorporating words that hold emotional appeal (for example, “Lose weight fast”) in your headline will immediately tap into that emotional flow of information.

A direct mailing piece with a real zinger of a headline is going to be seen. One with a headline that’s about as inspired as limp broccoli is not. I’ll let you decide which way you want to go.

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