For long, advertisers have used Maslow’s hierarchy to dictate the abstraction at which they need to write adcopy. While Sprite quenches thirst (physiological), Coke opens happiness (self-actualization). If Rolls Royce Phantom exudes luxury (esteem), BMW is driven by heart (self-actualization).
Rolls Royce - Rewriting Luxury and BMW - Driven by Heart
Coka - Open Happiness and Sprite - Obey Your Thirst
In today’s hurried copywriting, however, headlines are converging onto a very repetitive set of overarching, over-abstracted benefits that are desperate to show value to customers. Devoid of creativity and a premise, this trend is confusing customers between a plumbing service and a sophisticated piece of software. This can’t be good.
Evernote is the place for everything you do??
So how do you write a headline that is neither is keyword-stuffed laundry list of benefits nor a generalized benefit of your product that could apply as much to a vacuum cleaner?
Everything you need to sell anywhere? They also manufacture?
- Define the altitude based on the context
Your homepage headline cannot be as specific as your product page headline. And your product page headline cannot be as generic as your homepage one. For every section in your website, find the altitude at which you need to hover to reach your target persona. If you are selling a suite of business intelligence software, then your homepage needs to be broad such as “Are your decisions driven by reliable data?” On the other hand, your product pages need to be more specific, such as “Sales predictions are 82% more accurate with our software. Find out how.”
- Say it square, say it with flair
Once you are clear on what level you are operating at, make your headline catchy without compromising on the core message. Precision is persuasion’s best friend. Write for a very specific persona – if your product is going to be sold top-down then write for the CIO. If it will be bought bottom-up, then write for the IT Manager or the Product Engineer. Sticking with the above example, your headline could vary between “Get instant visibility on your entire supply chain” and “Reduce development cycles by 60%” depending on whom you are targeting for the same product.
Clear and attention grabbing messaging
- Check for uniqueness
After you write down a couple of options for your target persona at the right altitude, verify that the messaging is apt for your product. Does the headline apply to any other industry, or is your solution evident from the headline? Within your industry, does the headline communicate that you do something that is uniquely valuable to potential customers that cannot be offered by the competition? Make sure to check all your competitors’ websites and position yourself differently, yet in line with the product strategy. If the only option that you have is identical to your competitor’s headline, then maybe your offering is not that different from them, and that’s a whole different problem to tackle.
Optimizely - Test, personalize, and optimize. VWO - tweak, optimize and personalize
- Check for generics
Don’t make your business benefits about “saving time and money” or “increase sales” or “accelerate your growth”. While all of these could be real benefits of your offering, you have to realize that every company out there, including your competition, claims to provide the same benefit. Overcome the temptation to create such messaging and write a headline that conveys this high-level ultimate benefit while differentiating your product from the others. One way to go about it would be to ask yourself how you deliver this business benefit. Is it through automation? Or through a unique set of features? Or through a special delivery model?
Make the headline as specific as possible
- Religiously optimize
No matter how well you think you have written your headlines, the ultimate proof is in the publishing. A/B test your headlines to see which one works better. Remember that you have made several assumptions (such as what resonates with your target persona) while writing your headlines, so make sure to test these assumptions – one at a time. Once you see a pattern emerging, you might even have to revisit your persona and refine it.
ConclusionWriting B2B headlines can be tedious and confusing. It often infringes on strategic thinking, and you need to be fully aligned with it. You might even see a lot of pressure from the sales team to push product by using generics like "increase your sales instantly". A/B testing might quickly be able to establish a winning data-driven content style.