I spend part of every day reading. RSS readers, email blog subscriptions and social media and sharing sites make it easy to get a fresh supply of content on topics I like to follow — mostly technology and marketing because that’s a big part of our business. And as massive amounts of content are being generated and shared online, one frustrating thing I’m dealing with is authors falling into the trap of focusing too much on the headline and failing miserably to deliver on content.
There’s a marketing tip you can take away from this. Stick with me for a minute.
A lot has been written and demonstrated regarding the value of a great headline. As it is often the only chance you’ll get to grab a target reader’s attention, without a good headline your piece may never get read. If your piece never gets read, what was the point in creating it? So it’s no surprise that a lot of effort goes into writing amazing, attention-grabbing headlines.
On the receiving end of a postcard or mailing, it’s pretty easy to figure out whether that attention-grabbing headline relates to something that may be valuable to you. If your truck needs a full set of new tires, you might be drawn into a headline such as “Buy 3 Tires Get 1 Free” enough to read the full details. A time-sensitive discount on dinner at that new French Bistro you’ve been hearing such great things about (“$26 between 5 & 6”) may wet your appetite enough to read the fine print. At the same time, if a headline concerns a product or service that doesn’t appeal to you, or perhaps it does but the offer just isn’t special enough, you can move on without wasting much time. Or you can set the piece aside for later consideration.
Online things are a little different. On the Internet, where generating marketing materials is “cheaper” and the content tends to be longer, readers need to spend more time with each article, blog post or web page to figure out whether the headline delivers what it promises. And, sadly, a lot of the stuff you find online is just regurgitated crap dressed up with a catchy headline. For example, if your piece claims to provide 7 Amazing Ways to Increase Revenue Immediately, but instead is really The #1 Way to Waste 3 Minutes Right Now (because it is just another Hubspot affiliate piece), you’ve got a problem. I’m leaving and not coming back. I certainly won’t sign up with Hubspot because of your article. According to your headline, your post was going to help me, not send me to another site where I need to spend thousands of dollars. You hoodwinked me.
Yes, headlines are important. But the content — your offer — is just as important if not more so. Your content drives the sale. If it is good, it can push your reader down the sales funnel. But to do so it absolutely needs to confirm what you claimed in your headline. Over-promise and you lose. Lie to readers to get their attention and you just wasted their time, causing far more damage than a traditional no-sale.
So if you create your own marketing materials, here’s the tip: stop wasting time and energy dressing up your pig with a fancy headline. You may get traffic, but you’ll get no sales. Focus on quality for both elements. Combine a great headline with an offer that meets (or, heaven forbid, exceeds) the reader’s expectations and you may have just discovered One Golden Way to Improve Your Marketing.