When someone stumbles across your content on social media or dropped into their inbox, you have just a few seconds to make them care enough to click and read more.  With more and more information thrown at potential clients every day, your challenge is to compete with all those other messages and get them to pay attention to you.

While there are lots of ways to get someone to notice you, one of the simplest techniques is to convince them they will avoid pain, or gain something from reading your content. So if you are writing titles for blog posts, subject lines for email newsletters, text snippets for social media posts, or headlines for print advertisements, brochures, or direct mail, these simple tips and examples will help you improve your digital marketing results.

The Gain Headline

Gain headlines answer the question “What’s in it for Me?”  To use this type of headline, be specific. Define for your reader how they benefit if they take the time to click or read more. Just be sure that your content lives up to the promise your headline makes.

Writing gain headlines starts with a simple formula.

Get [desired result] in [desirable time period]

Here’s an example of how this works.

“Get 30% more appointments this week” is more impactful than a title which says “How to increase open rates.”  A measurable result (30%) makes the first version much more compelling. When you add the specific timeline (this week) you have an irresistible combination. Just remember not to over promise or readers won’t come back.

Words such as increase, update, more, better, stronger, grow, and expand all fit the formula and can be used effectively in a Gain Headline. For the time period get creative and communicate to the reader it will be a short path to success. Consider phrases like “in just a few minutes a day” or “by tomorrow.”

Looking for the perfect word or phrase? Check out www.thesaurus.com for ideas to write create positive action alternatives. Example:

  1. Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days or Less
  2. Improve Your Handicap in Just Two Hours (Of course this will only work if your audience is comprised of golfers)
  3. Meet Thirty New People in 90 Minutes of Networking

The Pain Headline

Hardwired into people is the drive to avoid an unpleasant outcome. Human beings are actually more likely to take action to avoid negative situations than to achieve pleasant results. That’s why Pain Headlines work so well. They promise a way out, with simple tips to protect yourself from disaster. Unlike the Gain Headline there is no looming deadline, but a promise of a safe solution. The formula for this type of subject line bundles the danger and a way out:

[Threat] + [Promise of a solution]

 Your readers must believe the threat or potential danger is real. To grab attention, you can’t manufacture fear if it isn’t there. You must offer a clear course of actions, leaning on words like avoid, skip, sidestep, eliminate, decrease, escape, destroy, deflect, and dodge. Just like the Gain version of a subject line, make readers feel it will be easy to avoid the pain by adding words like simple, or manageable numbers.

  • Avoid Post Surgery Complications
  • Five Simple Steps to Avoid an IRS Audit

One of my favorite versions of this type of headline is a negative reverse where you promise a negative outcome. Your reader knows you are kidding and will actually click to see how you weave the pieces together for a positive outcome.

  • How to Go Bankrupt in Just Six Months
  • Drive Customers to Your Competitors.

Looking for more ways to punch up your headlines? Download our guide today.

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