Regardless of what your print marketing initiatives are, you need a headline to stand out. What makes a headline? In some cases, the headline is the only text visible on a printed piece. For example, yard signs offer little space for anything but a bold line of text. Other pieces, such as brochures, ideally offer headlines that suggest what will be discussed at length in the brochure. Regardless of the available space, the headline will be the first text your audience sees and reads.
Considering this, constructing effective headlines is a crucial part of your design and printing efforts. If your headline doesn’t grasp your audience’s attention, chances are that they will stop paying attention and turn away. To ensure that your printed materials get the attention they deserve, here are the vital components of successful headlines that help your print marketing in St. Louis stand out.
The first thing you need to know when writing a headline for any type of marketing effort, is just what your audience expects from you. When they open their mailbox and first see your postcard, what do they typically get from a business like yours?
Knowing your audience expectations can lead your headline-writing efforts into one of two directions. You don’t want to introduce cognitive dissonance, so you should not deliver text that differs entirely from what your audience expects to see. At the same time, you also need to stand out from your competition, so simply fulfilling expectations may not be enough to differentiate yourself.
In other words, a good headline fulfills audience expectations. A better headline plays with these expectations, and provides an entirely (but related) benefit. A real estate agent, for example, may use audience expectations of a postcard that proposes to help sell a home and provide gardening advice about how to increase curb appeal, instead.
Studies show that headlines, regardless of the media they are used in, perform best when verbs and adverbs dominate the text instead of nouns and adjectives. More active language will always resonate far more with your readers than passive language would. Consider these examples:
Headline 1: Improve Your St. Louis Print Marketing With Better Headlines
Headline 2: Better Headlines Can Help Improve Your Print Marketing In St. Louis
Which of the above seems more engaging? Considering you are reading this article, the answer should be easy: Headline 1 begins with an engaging and active verb. On the other hand, while Headline 2 isn’t necessarily bad, it’s not as immediately attractive. And the lesson remains true for printed materials. The more active, engaging, and action-oriented your headline, the greater the percentage of readers who will keep paying attention to your printed piece after reading it.
In addition to using active language, your headline should also speak directly to individual readers wherever possible. That means generally using the second-person voice instead of third person. Making “you” statements creates a personal connection between you and your readers on a massive scale.
Think about it from your audience’s perspective. A mailed brochure that merely addresses “customers” or “they” is unlikely to resonate with a large portion of your audience. But replace all that with a simple “you,” and you’ve immediately made the headline—and the entire printed piece—more personal and interesting.
In addition to playing with audience expectations as described earlier, your headline should make a conscious effort to surprise your audience. Science supports the importance of the element of surprise in headlines: when we experience unpredictable pleasant moments, our brains’ pleasure centers are activated and tell us to keep reading.
Using your headline to surprise your readers does not just consist of playing with audience expectations. You also need to ensure that your headline is unique, offering a benefit of fact that your audience hasn’t heard of before.
But be sure to remain honest and consistent throughout your printed materials. If your audience finds out that the headline’s promise is not fulfilled by the rest of the piece, surprise will turn into disappointment—and may result in loss of credibility. It’s the printed equivalent of the much-dreaded clickbait phenomenon.
The best headlines don’t only surprise their audience. Really effective headlines also convey a sense of urgency that compel readers to learn more. Behavioral psychology suggests that urgency causes us to abandon thoughtful consideration and instead act quickly to achieve desired results. For headlines, that means finding reasons your audience should act (or simply keep reading) quickly.
As this article points out, marketers can convey a sense of urgency in a variety of ways. Scarcity (only a few items left!) works well, as do time-sensitive offers and competitive offers. In many cases, even including a few urgency-inducing words such as hurry, quick, or close into your headline can help create this sense of urgency and compel your audience to act or learn more.
Even the best headlines will fail to be successful if they are not supported by proper grammar. While you should keep your headlines as short as possible, poor spelling or clunky sentence construction will result in losing both credibility and the attention of your audience.
As a result, you should read your headlines multiple times to ensure proper grammar. You may even want to read it back to front, which will enable you to double check each word on its own merits. Proper grammar is crucial, so there is no such thing as excessive proofreading.
In addition to the visuals, your headline will be the first thing your audience sees and pays attention to when receiving and reviewing your printed materials. Are you paying as much attention to it as you should? Use these tips to maximize the success of your print promotions with effective headlines.