By Goke Ilesanmi
Most times when we look at a male and say he is handsome or look at a female and say she is beautiful, our compliment is basically based on the attractiveness of the head region which houses the face, teeth, lips, etc. That is why irrespective of how good the bodily frame or shape of a male or female is, if the head region is not attractive, he or she will not be seen to be handsome or beautiful.
The same is true of business communication. Effective headings are very critical to the success of our business/marketing communication. This is because we have just some minutes or even seconds to grab the attention of our prospects and sustain their interest to keep reading our pieces of marketing information, in the form of proposals, sales letters, brochures or even our corporate websites. Headings are the first thing the prospects read. Findings show that four out of five people decide whether they keep reading to learn about your products and/or services on the basis of your headings.
Level of effectiveness
Do your headings capture your prospects’ attention or discourage them? Are your headings prompting prospects to learn about your products and/or services or throw away your letter? You need to avoid the following heading mistakes.
What to avoid in your headings
The first thing is to avoid emphasising obscure company names. The names of most small and medium-sized businesses are not popular and unless your company name is among the most-recognised brands such as Suzuki, Heineken, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Honda, etc., there is a very good chance that people will not associate the name with anything, especially outside of your immediate business environment.
Have you ever seen a print advertisement where the unknown company name occupied the upper part of the page? How did you feel? My professional advice is that unless the name of your company describes what you do, e.g. “Dangote Cement”, “Sofunix International Schools”, etc., it is not going to grab prospects’ attention. Therefore, move it to the side and make room for a creative heading.
Avoid vague descriptions and statements
Another thing is to avoid vague descriptions and statements. Is your description of products and/or services specific or so generic that it could apply to other types of businesses? Does your heading focus on the selling points that distinguish your products and services from those of competitors?
For instance, research shows that people look at websites the same way they look at magazine adverts. They scan the pages quickly to see if the product or service is something they want. On the web or in a marketing brochure, if you capture their interest, they will keep reading.
The best way to do this is to give them a clear idea of the problems your products or services can solve and/or the benefits you provide. Charlie Cook, a communication expert says, “Use a few carefully selected words such as ‘Reliable Office Supplies, free next day delivery. In-home sports training for exercise enthusiasts. Web and print design that helps your business grow. Costa Rica Travel, Unique off-the-beaten track tours to jungles and beaches’.”
Your page headings should communicate clearly what you offer clients, which problems you solve and the benefits you provide. Therefore let your headings specify and clarify what you do; describe the problems you solve; define whom you do it for; explain the benefits; emphasise a key selling point and compel your prospects to keep reading.
Grab your prospects’ attention in the first few seconds with your heading. Then follow with compelling copy that clarifies the value of your products and services and you will generate many more sales.
Thomas Hilton, Jr, of Ails Marketing Corporation also stresses that testing the headings is critical whether it is the headings on your website, your subject line in your email or the first words you speak over the phone in a sales call.
You can write out many headings and only then begin to start narrowing your list down to the most effective one(s). Naturally your best heading would be the one that makes you the most sales.
According to Kris Mills of Words that Sell, a top selling copywriter and respected author of numerous publications, there are so many elements that play a very important part in every advertisement, sales letter, brochure or any piece of business communication that you write. And one of the most important elements is the heading.
The heading of your piece will either make your readers so excited that they will want to read the rest of your advertisement, letter, etc. or it will make them switch off completely.
Here are some tips experts say you can deploy to help you achieve effective headings in your business communication.
Flagging down your readers
The first one is to flag down your readers. If your product or service appeals to a select group of people, a great way of grabbing their attention is to flag your readers down. People like belonging, they like identifying themselves with select groups. So by flagging that interest group in your heading, you have instantly attracted the attention of your target group.
Promising your readers a benefit
Another thing to do to attract readers’ attention is to promise them a benefit. For instance, in writing a persuasive business proposal, one that identifies the specific problem or need of the recipient, which necessitates writing the proposal, the benefit of the idea is immediately emphasised in the heading, e.g., “Multiplying your school’s profitability and popularity through exceptional career seminar”; “Advertising your organisation on www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng for high local and global publicity and acceptability”; “Boosting your schools’ corporate image through solutions to identified challenges of Nigerian English”, etc.
NOTE: A persuasive business proposal is the one customised for one recipient. It cannot be transferred to another person or organisation. That is why it naturally elicits action from the recipient. For instance, if the school of your child sends a note to you, which reads, “Dear parent, the weather is very cold now, always wear a cardigan for your child, please”, you may not take necessary action because you assume that it is a circular sent to all parents and not specifically addressed to you.
But if the note reads, “Dear Mr. Goke Ilesanmi, as you know that the weather is very cold now sir, and Adebola cannot withstand it because he is just two years old, always wear a cardigan for him, please.” The second note will immediately elicit action because it is specifically written for the parent.
Some of the most successful headings convey something unique about a business. Are you the only business in your field that does something that the others do not do such as offering something for free or giving extra service and so on? What do you do that your competition does not? Do you go through a checklist with your customers to make sure you are doing a good job? Do you use a revolutionary process that saves your client time, money and does a better job?
Have you studied for many years with the world experts in your field? If you have, certainly include it in the heading but you must show how this expertise will benefit your readers.
If you do something that gives you a competitive edge over your competition, stress this in your heading. Likewise, if you are offering your clients something truly outstanding, mention it in your heading.
Using the word ‘You’
Using the second person pronoun ‘You’ is another way experts suggest that you can create good impression with your headings. The most important word in the English Language when it comes to advertising is the word ‘You’. It helps your readers relate to what you say. It also helps them involve themselves in your selling message. This factor comes back to the fact that most people are ‘Me, Me, Me’. If you can talk ‘You, You, You’, you have got their attention.
Read any personal development book and you know that the key to get people to like you is to talk about them, show an interest in them and praise them. If you cannot use the word ‘You’ in your heading, you can imply it by using the word ‘How to’ which has a similar effect because it still involves the reader.
What size should the text in your heading be?
To achieve effectiveness in your headings, try to determine the size of the text. The size of your text is very important. If you use a small typeface, it will disappear into your body copy and will not stand out. Make sure the typeface is 4 to 8 times the size of the body text and takes up about 20 to 25 per cent of your advert space.
Using an exclamation mark
Using an exclamation mark is another way to make your headings effective. According to Mills, “The simple act of putting an exclamation mark at the end of your headline makes people feel that the statement is dramatic so there’s more of a chance they’ll read further.”
Putting your heading in quotation marks
You can also put your heading in quotation marks to make it attract attention. Experts say putting your heading in quotation marks makes people feel that it is a quote so they are more likely to read on.
Mentioning your offer in your heading
Mentioning your offer in your heading is another way to enhance your business communication. Giving your readers a compelling reason to respond, makes you stand out from your competitors and accelerates sales. If you have a powerful offer in your advertising piece, in some cases, it is best to mention it in your headings.
NB: NOTE: You can now apply for UNO jobs FREE on my website. Just go to the “Links” section of the website and apply. Also, we have started regular public speaking and business presentation training as requested. You will find the details on my site. I appreciate your suggestions and interest.
GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is a Certified Public Speaker/Emcee, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker, Career Management Coach, Renowned Book Reviewer, Corporate Leadership Expert and Editorial Consultant.
Tel: 08055068773; 08187499425