The attention span of b2b buyers is getting shorter, as more and more information is thrust in front of them every single day across multiple marketing channels. But you can still cut through the ‘noise’ and create something that will intrigue them enough to read on.
Once you’ve written your next blog post, email or whitepaper content, and before you send it out into the wild to be devoured by your audience, stop for a minute and think about how you can wrap up your carefully crafted words and present them under a compelling headline. This is the first thing your reader will assess before deciding whether to continue reading, or not, as the case may be.
David Ogilvy rightly said of print ads “on average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
In our digitally-immersive world content is much more pervasive, and so headlines must be more eye-catching, more sensational, and more stand-out than ever before. So where should you start in planning a headline which stops your target audience in their tracks?
1. Focus on your purpose
Why did you write this content to start with? Do you have a new offer which you can’t wait to share with your customers? Or have you got some industry insight which will benefit the reader? Find the reason that your product or service can benefit your customer, and use that benefit by directing it right at your audience ‘between the eyes’.
2. Use the Ogilvy tried and tested method
Back to the godfather of copywriting, David Ogilvy, and the results of market research on effective headlines. He created the ‘4 U’ formula, claiming your headline should include at least one of the four U’s of headline crafting:
- Unique – Use your brand tone of voice and make it pop from the page:
‘10 steps to building an audience-grabbing b2b headline.’
- Ultra-specific – you want people to understand what they are investing their time in, and what they’re going to gain from reading your content:
‘How to write b2b website content in the age of semantic search’
- Urgent – Tell your audience how you can affect their life NOW. Creating a sense of urgency peaks audience curiosity, if they don’t read your content they will be out of the loop:
‘NEW RESEARCH: What B2B buyers are looking for from technology vendors in your market.’
- Useful – Demonstrate value by telling your audience something they want or need to know:
‘Thinking of a b2b rebrand? Five key things you need to consider before jumping in.’
3. Don’t stop the flow
The rules of the punctuation game have been drilled into us from our school days and so we all follow the rule that full stops end every sentence. Except in headlines. The aim of good headline writing is to keep your reader reading, not encourage them to pause before they’ve even started reading. So, when writing headlines, leave full stops until the main body of text.
4. Experiment with specialist headline development tools
There are so many websites that offer analysis of your headlines and score them so you can refine your wording before publishing your content.
AMI – The Emotional Marketing Value analyser from the AMI (Advanced Marketing Institute) analyses how many emotional words your headline contains in comparison to its total amount of words presented by a percentage. In addition to the EMV percentage, this tool will tell you which emotion is predominant and how this will affect the sentiment of your headline offer. The average EMV score of viral headlines (gaining over 1,000 shares) is 38%.
CoSchedule– This headline analyser tool takes into account the overall structure, grammar and readability of your headlines. It also breaks down the common, uncommon, emotional, and powerful word usage, gives a score (the headline of this article got a 64), and suggests how it could be improved. CoShedule also reads the overall sentiment of the headline and searchable keywords, and advises what length your headline should really be.
5.Treat each channel with respect
Your specifications for headline length will vary across channels and for different content requirements. An email subject line is most effective at between 61 and 70 characters for example, but then that’s too long for a Facebook post! Tone of voice also varies across channels, especially social channels, so you need to adapt your headline writing accordingly – what gets attention on LinkedIn, just won’t grab readers as easily on Facebook, when they may be in a slightly less ‘business’ headspace. And with Twitter of course, you really need to demonstrate headline craft, as you’re constantly up against a character limitation – a really good platform to use to build and test your headline writing, with likes and retweets instantly measuring your success (or lack of) of drawing people in.
One thing that all headlines must have in common is to glue eyes and minds to your headline and make it difficult for your reader to quickly move off page. Ad copywriting guru, Drayton Bird, says that to get a reader’s attention ‘find the emotion most likely to move them, build your headline around it – and if you can, tell a story’. So finding that empathy n your headline writing could be the golden nugget you need to connect with your readers and tell them a story that they just can’t tear their eyes away from.