Claude Hopkins on The Secret Power of Headlines

This is the third article in our ongoing series on Claude Hopkins’ seminal work, Scientific Advertising. You can start the beginning of this series here, or you can skip to the second instalment.

The Secret Power of Headlines

The writing after your headline convinces your prospective customer to buy. But it’s the headline, and only the headline, that make this a possibility.

A salesperson has the benefit of swapping tactics to re-engage a client. Your copy doesn’t. What’s there is there, and Hopkins, once again, realized this over a hundred years ago. He knew that an advertisement’s headline was the first essential component to making a successful sale.

But that doesn’t mean you can throw up any catchy headline.

Your headline must align with the content that will be presented in the body of the copy.

Your headline makes a promise, explicitly or implicitly, and the body of your copy must fulfill this promise. If it doesn’t, your potential customer will simply go elsewhere.

Hopkins himself spent hours refining his headlines. And he wouldn’t write just one:

“The writer of this chapter spends far more time on headlines than on writing. He often spends hours on a single headline. Often scores of headlines are discarded before the right one is selected. For the entire return from an ad depends on attracting the right sort of readers. The best of salesmanship has no chance whatever unless we get a hearing.”

Your headline is your chance at a hearing. Make sure you’re getting one.

Without attracting an initial spark of attention from the reader, the majority of your copy may as well not exist! So spend time on your headlines, rewrite them, compare them, see what appeals to you, and, as Hopkins would suggest, see what appeals to your readers!

Headlines are not universal

If you’re committed to writing great headlines, you’ll soon realize that whom your headline is talking to is just as important as what it’s saying.

This isn’t new advice, even for Hopkins’ time. But it’s so crucial that repeating it will be of great benefit.

You may have a headline that’s pulling in a massive amount of views and generating leads, but this doesn’t mean that you should stick with it for every venture. If your headlines only appear within a single channel and your audience is fairly stable as well, then sure, stick with what’s tried and true. But if you’re expanding your product’s reach then make sure you’re doing the adequate research to understand your new audience.

“You are presenting an ad to millions. Among them is a percentage, small or large, whom you hope to interest. Go after that percentage and try to strike the chord that responds.”

You must not only select the instrument, but you must also play the right chord, and play it perfectly. With anything less, you’re settling.

Hopkins’ advice on headlines was powerful and succinct — qualities that your future headlines should possess as well.

The next article in this series addresses Hopkins’ views on customer psychology and how a clear understanding of this topic can pay massive dividends. Missed the first two articles on this series? Check them out here and here.



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