6 quick tips for writing headlines that hook readers

The-Saturdays-headlinesIt can be a real challenge to write an effective headline.

If you want your readers to do something such as buying a product or subscribing to a newsletter you need to convince them right away.

And the best place to start doing that is with the very first word of your headline.
If you are new to the business of writing headlines, here are 6 tips to get you started.

1.Include a deadline

It’s often the case that people take action when they are fast running out of time.

That’s why it’s important to create a sense of urgency with your headline by telling your readers that your offer only stands up to a certain date.

You can also make it a do-or-die offer; if they let this opportunity slip them by, it will be gone forever.
But be careful if you decide to use this type of headline. Make sure you that you withdraw your offer at the stated time.
And if you extend the deadline, have a good explanation ready because otherwise you could find yourself losing credibility.

2.Use Numbers

The advantage of using numbers is that they are easy to remember – the headline of this article is one example of that.

They also sound impressive. A fairly bland headline such as Tips for belly fat can be substantially improved by adding a number, for example 8, so it becomes 8 tips for losing your belly fat.
It encourages people to read on because they know they have eight tips to look forward to in a single article.

3.Cater to customers’ self-interest

If you have something to offer to your readers, something they need and in exchange for what you’re going to ask them to do, make it immediately clear with your headline.

When people start reading something online and they aren’t actively seeking information, they want to know what they’re going to get if they continue reading and they want to know what it is right away.
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4.Simple and powerful words work best

Website copy, and indeed print ads, needs to be simple if you are going to catch the attention of readers who are often quickly scanning for what grabs their interest.

So, it stands to reason that, as headlines have to be simple as well.

Forget about using long and difficult words or detailed descriptions of your products and services.
They are irrelevant if no one understands them. Instead aim for words that inspire action and call strong images immediately to mind.

For example, the headline Give Your Home Business Longevity can be improved if you replace passive-sounding words with forceful ones so that the headline now reads Make Your Home Business Thrive. Which headline do you think has the greatest impact?

5.Keep it short

This is something that is closely linked to the above tip. Online readers especially scan what they read so try to lessen the use of particles, prepositions, linking verbs, and other words that won’t make a difference to your readers.

6.Dont Try Too Hard

Naturally, funny and witty headlines are better but trying too hard could backfire on you. If there’s no way to make a headline funny or clever then leave it simple. As long as you get the key benefits you’ll have done the most important thing you need to do.


A final word…..


Once you have finished writing your headline, it’s important to review and revise. You may think you have written the perfect headline made a perfect headline upon typing the last word, but give it a minute or two and youll be able to view it more objectively. Good luck on writing those headlines!

Out of ideas for interesting new blog posts? Here are three simple techniques you can try

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Blogging can provide a great low cost way to promote your business, highlight your expertise and the products and attract potential customers.

But it’s vital that if you do have a company blog, or are thinking of starting one, it’s regularly updated with fresh content.

Regularly adding new posts that your site’s visitors will find useful is what keeps visitors coming back.

This after all is the goal of any marketing campaign.

And of course, search engines such as Google love unique content. It’s a key factor in helping your business to rank well for the keywords that describe your business.

But small business owners and solopreneurs are in many cases trying to juggle several tasks and an ever growing to do list.

So, it can be a challenge to consistently come up with fresh ideas.

If, for example, you run a local insurance company, you might be tempted to think there’s only so much you can say every month if you have been running the blog for a year.

But the truth is, it’s not that hard to do.

And here are two simple techniques you can use to produce original content for your blog.

Use your individual voice

In the work that I do as a copywriter, one of the comments I often hear from business owners is that they don’t think they have the talent to write well.

They either struggle with writer’s block and don’t know where to start with a potential blog post. Or, if they have written about a topic before, they struggle to find interesting ways to say new things about it.

However, the key to being original and authoritative and connecting with an audience is just to be yourself.

It’s often repeated advice and I always tell the business owners who tell me they’re not good writers to take it on board.

You may be worried that you write is not what an experienced wordsmith would write.

But keep in mind that it is your personality and unique perspective that will go furthest in appealing to readers, just like it does in any form of writing.

For instance, take this blog post from writer Carol Tice about running a freelance writing business.

She could have written the type of post that has done several times before and would tips such as:

-where to find work
-how to create a writer’s website
-how to network with potential clients and other writers and how to negotiate over fees.

But linking the topic to her love of the computer game Bejeweled Blitz provides a fresh and entertaining perspective, one that hasn’t been done elsewhere.

Think up new angles on content you’ve produced previously

Let’s go back to local insurance company example mentioned earlier.

It’s likely that if the company has a blog it’s already written and published a general guide to the different types of insurance cover it provides such as travel, contents or buildings insurance.

You would probably expect it to cover topics such as the cost of buying insurance, how payouts work in different scenarios, and how much should you insure your belongings for.

So the team responsible for running the blog is thinking of producing another general guide, maybe to coincide with a conference or event that is happening locally, they may well be tempted to think there is only so much you can say a second time.

However a fresh take on insurance might look be to look at the problems faced in getting insurance among a particular group of people.

They could, for example, write an in-depth post looking the challenges that people living with a disability face in getting insurance cover.

The post could include the types of companies that sell policies designed specifically for people with disabilities or long term health problems, whether or not it will cost you more and legal rights if turned down for insurance.

You could look at other groups of people such students and the self-employed to create more fresh content.

Make your content topical

One of the best ways to make the topics you write about seem fresh is to peg them to topical events.

It’s called newsjacking.

Let’s say the media in your is covering news about a story about a local issue.

It could be planning application to build thousands of new homes in the area, or a major company that will be relocating near to where you are based which will create new employment opportunities.

Newsjacking involves thinking of a way to make what you blog about relevant and meaningful to the news story being discussed.

If you are an estate agent for example, what does the planning application mean for first time buyers in your region?
How could the announcement on jobs affect our local insurance company?

Where there is discussion around local and national issues you have a chance of picking up readers and links back to your posts when you reflect them in your blog posts and tailor them to the needs of your audience.

So there you have it. Employ these three simple techniques to create fresh content for your blog that speaks to members of your target audience you’ll find that will help push your blogging efforts to the top of your niche very quickly.

Want to engage more people through your content? Here’s one word that will work wonders

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As a business owner, you know how important it is to engage with potential customers.

Marketing through content – whether that’s blog posts, videos or social media posts – is definitely a great way to do it and it’s no surprise that it’s popularity has grown in recent years.

But you may have faced a problem that many business owners face when attempting to create content – they end up sounding like business owners talking to other business owners, rather than people talking to people.

Content marketing can really work for brands because it creates two-way conversation through the channels it is distributed through such as social media.

You educate and inform readers about a product or service, respond to potential customer feedback and use a range of tools to measure how engaged they are.

The key to creating marketing content that resonates with and engages an audience, gets your message across and gets people to notice your call to action you want your call to is to write for your audience.

In other words, rather than randomly throwing down your thoughts down on paper, think about the people who are going to be reading your content.

Rather than randomly throwing down your thoughts down on paper, think about the people who are going to be reading your content.

What are their biggest problems or desires? What makes them tick? What the values that are most important to them?

It’s advice that’s often repeated by writing experts and marketing professionals.

But for many new to content creation, it’s easier said than done.

Even after you have spent time getting a good idea of what matters to members of your audience, how do you begin crafting copy that engages and serves that them?

A great starting point when planning content that engages your target market is to keep in mind one word – you!

You is a very powerful word when creating content.

It makes a reader feel like you are talking to them – and that’s important if you are trying to make a connection with potential customers.

Your readers (your potential customers or clients) have chosen to spend time reading what you have produced for a reason.

They read because they want to gain something from it – maybe get solutions to a long standing health or DIY problem for example. Or get information that will help a situation they are facing much easier to deal with or learn a new skill.

Content that is written form the company’s perspective and uses words like our or we never answers the WIFM QUESTION ie what’s in it for me?

Readers (usually) want to find out how what you are writing can benefit THEM.

You is such a powerful one because it addresses an individual reader directly

Think about it. How many times have you read something or lost interest in a conversation because the writer or speaker seems overly self-obsessed?

When you’re writing blog posts or creating other types of content such as slideshare presentations or videos, using the word You is such a powerful one because it addresses an individual reader directly about the benefits they may be seeking or a solution to a particular problem.

Readers (usually) don’t care about how great your product is; they do care about how great it will be to them.

Use the words you and your to make your reader feel how much it is going to benefit THEM.

An example of this is when I recently wrote some website content for a client who wanted to market a weight loss e book.

It was a single page website from which the book could be downloaded.

It was a project the author had spent quite a bit of time researching and putting together, but it just wasn’t selling.

I re-worked the copy and thought up some new ideas we could introduce but it still didn’t improve sales.

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I then decided to create two version of the sales page using some split-testing software.

The first version included the copy I had re-written; the second one I changed by working in the words you and yours into the headline and body text.

So, in the first version there was ‘With our health eBook amazing weight loss results can be achieved’. In the second I wrote ‘Are you tired of diets and weight loss systems that don’t work? With your copy of this e-book you can start to achieve amazing results.’

The sales figures that followed were amazing – they increased by nearly 60 per cent.

A huge jump.

If your content is designed to directly address the most pressing questions your readers have, the chances are high that you will create meaningful engagements and conversations and thus keep readers coming back to your site.

A powerful way to get to this point is to think seriously about the word you when creating content.

PS As you may or may not have noticed, I have tried to keep you engaged with post by using the word you/your over 30 times (including this sentence).

I would love to know your thoughts on what makes content engaging.

A-maize-ing! How one urban farmer sowed the seeds of success and won over his target market

FLOURISHING: Maize farmer David Mwanaka

FLOURISHING: Maize farmer David Mwanaka

Despite being told that he was crazy and a dreamer, nothing was going to stop north Londoner David Mwanaka from pursuing his dream of starting a business.

Back in 1996 he came up with the seemingly improbable idea of starting a fresh food produce business on the outskirts of London growing white maize, a crop similar to sweetcorn, that is usually only found in southern Africa and parts of Asia.

After coming to the UK in the early 90s as a refugee from his native Zimbabwe, the former journalist missed eating the white maize that he had grown up with.

It had never been produced anywhere in Europe because it usually only grows in a hot climate.

“It was my favourite food growing up in Zimbabwe but nobody grew it in England when I arrived here” he says. “I tried to find it in shops that sold African and Caribbean food but nobody stocked it. I was often told that the climate in the UK wasn’t right for growing it because white maize usually only grows in a hot climate.”

Mwanaka’s dreams of starting his own business were met with derision and doubt

So Mwanaka thought he would grow it himself and maybe create a business out of it to escape a succession of day jobs, including he recalls “a spell as a parking attendant which I hated.”

He persuaded the landlord of his flat in Tottenham, north London, to use a small plot of the back garden to grow maize. Five years and many long nights later, he finally grew a successful crop.
Following that success he eventually convinced his wife Brenda that it was a project worth turning into a business.

In 2002, he set about trying to find farmland to grow maize
However his dreams of turning it into a business were met with derision and doubt.

Not having the necessary investment he needed to launch the business was just one of his problems.

One agricultural expert who Mwanaka contacted for help and advice promptly told the budding farmer he was wasting his time before slamming the phone down.

“That really was a turning point in my life. I thought that either I’m not going to grow it because it is not possible or I’m going to prove him wrong” he says.

Then there were other concerns that every start up business has to contend with.
Mwanaka had originally wanted to grow white maize just for himself and friends and family.

But now he was thinking of turning it into a business, who was his target market?
How would he find out where they were?
And how would persuade potential consumers to buy his white maize products over those provided by bigger and more established competitors in the fresh foods business?

From what looked like daunting odds, Mwanaka has created a successful business that employs seven people.

Today Mwanaka Fresh Farm Foods supplies maize products to major supermarket chains such as Sainsbury’s, Harrods and Selfridges.

And despite facing competition from much bigger farms and fresh produce businesses with years of experience, the company makes deliveries to shops and restaurants all over the country.

So, how did he overcome a challenge so common to many start –ups: finding a target market where none seemed to exist and connecting with them?

The three key steps that the Enfield-based entrepreneur took were:

1. Identifying the people most likely to buy white maize
2. Speaking to that target market to better identify what they were most likely to buy
3. Crafting a marketing message aimed at appealing to the target market

1.Create interest in your products among the customers you hope to reach by defining your target market

It’s a common for first-time entrepreneurs, when asked who they hope will buy their products, to reply “everyone.”

But this “spray and pray” approach to marketing (Link: why a spray and pray approach to marketing doesn’t work) in a bid to be all things to all people more often than not achieves below standard results.

There is a reluctance to think in terms of target a specific sector of the market because of the belief that it means fewer customers and smaller profit margins.

However, Mandy Porta who runs a successful Los Angeles based website design company wrote recently in inc.com: “Targeting a specific market does not mean that you have to exclude people that do not fit your criteria from buying from you. Rather, target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than other markets. This is a much more affordable, efficient, and effective way to reach potential clients and generate business.”

Defining your target market helps you better connect with people more likely to buy from you

In other words, when you define a target market you make a much better connection to people who are receptive to what you are selling.

It is a lesson that Mwanaka, faced with the challenging prospect of trying to sell a product that many people in the UK had never heard of, took on board.

“In my first year, I produced a successful crop but couldn’t sell much of it because very few people in the UK knew anything about maize” he says. “But then, after talking to friends, I realized that there were a lot of people who were like me, people from southern African countries such as South Africa, Namibia and Botswana who were living and working in the UK and missed eating maize as much as I did. From the conversations I had, I found out they had all faced the same problems as I had in not being to find it after arriving in the UK. I decided that this was the group I was going to target and it was much easier to go forward confidently after this.”

2.Stay ahead of the competition (and the doubters) by talking to your target market

Mwanaka strongly felt he had a viable business idea.

But there were still the doubters, friends who worried that just because there were people who might buy white maize, it didn’t mean they would.

Many business books and websites give some very valuable tips and insights about how to conduct market research which include creating and sending out surveys, reading trade and interest journals, and looking at where potential customers congregate online – social media sites, forums – and offline through networking or local events.

But in order to find out if there really was a demand for white maize, Mwanaka decided he was going to do something a little simpler: he asked people.

And he believes, the effort has paid off.

“I spent a lot of time talking to other people from southern African countries and people who had travelled to this region who enjoyed maize but were not able to buy it in this country” he says. “The same frustrations came up time and time again. I could have done research on the number of people from the southern Africa region who lived in the UK but these conversations were invaluable and it was from these that I knew the market was under served.”

Mwanaka also found out from conversations with large food retailers that new opportunities were opening up.

DREAM TEAM: David Mwanaka with his wife Brenda who works with him on the north London farm

DREAM TEAM: David Mwanaka with his wife Brenda who works with him on the north London farm

They were increasingly buying more products from small food businesses in the belief that entrepreneurs bring innovation and freshness to their shelves.

In an age when so much information is available online, Mwanaka’s methods might seem a little old school.

However, direct feedback from potential customers (Maybe a link here on this subject) is hard to beat.

It’s a great way to see the world through the eyes of your prospective clients or customers.
You can do a ton of research but nothing is more valuable than hearing directly from the type of people who are most likely to buy your product.

For example, are they asking for more options for the new audio device you have just developed?
Perhaps the bags you have made would work better with different colours.
One thing Mwanaka found out is that the learning process of a business owner never ends.
However it does run a little smoother if you spend more time listening than talking.

3. Make an emotional connection with buyers through your unique selling proposition

One issue that can cause first time entrepreneurs to be fearful about their business venture is the strength of the competition.

Among the questions that you’ll regularly see asked in online business forums are how can you make the competition irrelevant? How do you keep the attention of potential customers when they are bombarded by so much information and advertisements?

For Mwanaka, the answer came in paying attention to the things that members of his target market were telling him (Link: anything on paying attention/listening to the target market) and then using that to differentiate himself from the bigger players in the food produce market.

His marketing materials focused on the fact that white maize kernels, which can be used for a variety of dishes such as soup, corn fritters or as a side dishes with meat or fish, was a new vegetable that is low in calories, and are a good source of fibre.

That was a message that resonated not only with homesick Zimbabweans like himself, but a wider customer base of health conscious consumers on the lookout for new and varied fresh produce.

For the Enfield farmer, competition from bigger players in the market was actually a bonus.

Promoting and positioning your business is all about communicating how what you offer can help people

Extending his research into learning how he stacked up against the competition helped him better position Mwanaka Fresh Farm Foods and communicate what made his company unique.

Promoting and positioning your business is all about communicating how what you offer can help people achieve the benefits they are looking for or remove their frustrations.

And the future for Mwanaka Fresh Farm Foods?

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At the start of his business journey, Mwanaka recalls it was “very difficult” to convince people he was serious about growing the maize in the UK.

“Some people said they needed to see it to believe it – and then when they saw it, they said they wanted to taste it, to make sure it was really white maize.”

But after answering his own questions as whether there were enough people in his target market who wanted what he was offering, whether they wanted to pay the price he was asking and could he get access to them and then creating his marketing, the future look bright.

“I have got people from many countries who come to buy white maize from us – people from east Africa, west Africa, southern Africa, and some from Asia and South America as well. The fact that we are the UK’s only suppliers of maize and understand this market better than anyone else means that we have a wide network of people who already know what we are about and are willing to continue spreading the word about our products. That helps boost the profits we make as we have to spend less on advertising.”

How clothing giant Gap won customers’ hearts…..and then their wallets

092530-gap-ad-featuring-sikh-designer-and-actor-waris-ahluwalia-defaced[1]Why is it that some companies have more success in attracting new consumers and retaining them as loyal supporters than others?

Speak to any number of business experts and they’ll hone in on factors such as a product’s design, it’s marketing campaign, it’s packaging or it’s price.
But a recent ad by clothing giant Gap reveals a factor that can be just as important if not more important than the above.

And that is emotional connection.

Last year, the company featured a diverse range of models for its Make Love holiday season.

The ad featured artist and filmmaker Quentin Jones and Waris Ahluwalia, a celebrated jewellery designer and model who has been featured in several best dressed lists and is a highly regarded figure in US fashion circles.

Reflect the target audience – and see their support grow

Gap often features a diverse range of models in its marketing campaigns and poster ads.

But in an industry where you hardly ever see Sikh models, Ahluwalia’s appearance in the ad was something that set it apart from the crowd.

It also embraced how Sikh Americans wanted to see themselves. A Sikh model could be a mainstream fashion model and wear a turban.
Having had a long history of either being stereotyped or excluded from advertising, the mere fact of inclusion was enough to push the emotional buttons of fashion conscious young US Sikhs.

Even more remarkable was Gap’s response when it got news of the fact that one of its poster ads had been defaced by racist graffiti.

Gap immediately changed its Twitter banner photo to one featuring Jones and Ahluwalia.
And the Facebook page “GAP, Thank you for featuring a Sikh model in your ‘Make Love’ campaign” was born along with an engaged audience of new consumers.

Recognize trends – and stay ahead of the game

It’s an example of one major company responding to a trend that has been talked about in the US and the UK for well over a decade – the growth in the numbers of diverse consumers.

And not just ethnically diverse – we’re talking about the range of markets that include older consumers, people with disabilities, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The spending power of this market is huge.

Prior to the 1960’s most marketing ignored ethnic minority groups and concentrated on the vast buying power of larger demographic groups.

Recent figures highlight why that’s no longer a wise business move.

Figures like £280 billion (the disposable income of older consumers) £32 billion (the estimated disposable income of the UK’s ethnic minority market), £70 billion (the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender market) mean that this is a trend that cannot be ignored for long.
Whatever product or service you offer, an opportunity exists to follow Gap’s example and break into these under-tapped markets where there is significant consumer spending power.

Create strong emotional connections through your marketing

By recognizing these differences and tailoring your marketing message to reflect how these consumers see themselves you can create a strong emotional connection and tap into the buying power of these underserved and under tapped markets.

In these tough economic times that could well be a smart move.

But targeting diverse consumer segments is an idea that makes some folks just plain uncomfortable.
There are those who are of the view that this is more about ethics or doing the right thing than it is about solid business sense.

It’s prompted a number of passionate debates among marketing folk.

Should companies really develop marketing campaigns that reflect the consumer needs and aspirations of groups they might not have thought about before?

Is it right to target ads at older consumers for example who are often ignored in many a major campaign?

Is it worth the effort of a smaller company to translate its marketing brochure into the language spoken by a target market in a bid to boost sales?

My answer –absolutely!

And why?

Well, the rise of diverse consumer groups has prompted the need to take seriously the idea of micro targeting – identifying smaller subgroups of people who may have a shared interest or lifestyle and communicating with them regularly about their individual needs and wants.

A one size fits all marketing approach to communicating with and engaging customers is a thing of the past.

And as Gap’s success with the Waris Ahluwalia ad has shown, it has never been more critical to acknowledge it.

Companies who don’t could be see their marketing effortd achieve less than desired results.