Want to write better sales headlines? Read Tested Advertising Methods.

If you’re serious about improving your sales copywriting skills, you absolutely must read Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples. Don’t be fooled by the generic sounding title, it’s filled with lots of great ideas for improving your sales copy.

Tested Advertising Methods_Copy Dojo

Where the book really stands out is telling you how to write effective headlines. Writing an effective headline is your first critical step to getting a prospective buyer to read the rest of your sales copy.

I first heard about Tested Advertising Methods when Dane Maxwell (The Foundation) mentioned it in an interview as a resource he found useful for coming up with effective headlines. Dane’s recommendation put the book high on my ‘must read’ list of copywriting books.

Summarized below are recommendations Tested Advertising Methods makes for writing high impact headlines.

Effective headlines often use one or more of these approaches

The most successful headlines consistently use one or several of the following approaches (listed in order of effectiveness):

  1. Appeal to the reader’s self interest (your headline needs to offer them a benefit)

  2. Arouse curiosity in the reader (if they are curious they’ll keep reading)

  3. Shares news or information (it has to be something they will find interesting)

  4. Offering a quick and easy solution (offer a solution to a problem they have)

Using these techniques can compel a reader to continue reading the rest of your sales copy, which obviously is the objective of your headline.

When using these approaches it is critical to keep your prospect in mind, as your sales copy needs appeal to what is in their interest, not yours.

Combining self interest with one of the other techniques listed is common to see and can make your headline even more effective. When writing your headlines keep these approaches in mind and make sure you’ve used at least one of them.

Proven headline writing techniques which compel prospects to keep reading

The 35 techniques provided for writing effective headlines was REALLY helpful. There is immense value in getting a headstart with a list of proven headline techniques. But ultimately it comes down to how well you use these techniques (leveraging the strategies above – appealing to their self-interest, sense of curiosity, sharing information with them or offering them a quick and easy solution).

Ok, here we go – the list of 35 headline techniques you can try when writing your headlines:

  1. Starting a headline with “Introducing”

  2. Starting a headline with “Announcing”

  3. Use words that make it sound like an announcement (this approach is often used in newspapers and magazines, making an advertisement sound like an editorial)

  4. Start the headline with “New” (e.g. “New cure for problem XYZ”)

  5. Start the headline with “Now” (e.g. “Now available for the first time…”)

  6. Start the headline with “At last” (e.g. “At last, a way to…”)

  7. Including a date in the headline. (e.g. “August sale on all ebooks”)

  8. Writing a headline using a news style

  9. Featuring the price in the headline (e.g. “All winter gloves now only $9.99”)

  10. Featuring that there’s a reduced price (e.g. “All t-shirts reduced to $9.99”)

  11. Mention a special merchandise offer (e.g. “Order the ebook now and receive access to exclusive video tutorials…”)

  12. Feature the availability of a special payment plan (e.g. “Buy today for just two easy payments of $97…”)

  13. Mention a free offer (similar to #3 above)

  14. Offer information of value

  15. Introduce a story

  16. Start the headline with “How to…”

  17. Start the headline with “How…”

  18. Start the headline with “Why…”

  19. Start the headline with “Which…”

  20. Start the headline with “Who else…?”

  21. Start the headline with “Wanted…”

  22. Start the headline with “This…”

  23. Start the headline with “Because…”

  24. Start the headline with “If…”

  25. Start the headline with “Advice…”

  26. Use a testimonial in the headline. (e.g. “Product X is hands down the best app I’ve used to solve problem Y…”)

  27. Offer a test.

  28. Use only one word in the headline. (e.g.”Lawyer” or “Accounting” – sometimes a single word can be enough to get your prospect’s attention)

  29. Use only two words in the headline. (e.g. “Itchy scalp” – again, few words may be needed to get the prospect’s attention if they have a problem/need for your offering)

  30. Use only three words in the headline. (e.g. “Kills bugs fast”)

  31. Warn the buyer that they should delay their purchase. (e.g. “Don’t buy your next pair of sunglasses until you have read these facts”)

  32. Communicate from the manufacturer directly to the buyer.

  33. Address the headline to a specific person or group.

  34. Use a headline that asks a question. (e.g. “Would you like to save over $1,000 per year on your home heating?”)

  35. Offer value through facts and figures.

I didn’t provide examples for all of the headline suggestions, but hopefully they’re all pretty clear.

How to improve the selling power of your copy

Another chapter worth studying in detail is the one on improving the selling power of copy.  Here are a few suggestions you can easily incorporate right away into your sales copywriting:

  • Always use present tense, second person. (e.g. “You enjoy peace of mind when you…)

  • Use sub-headings to tell your story to people who are inclined to skim the content

  • Include captions with any illustrations, which explain their meaning.

  • Use simple words and a simple writing style so the content can be easily understood by people of different educational backgrounds in your target audience.

  • Support any claims you make with proof and make the copy specific to increase the likelihood it will be trusted

  • Arouse the prospect’s curiosity, but don’t satisfy it too soon, or they may not continue reading

  • Urge the reader to take action, tell them what they need to do, step by step if necessary.

Why you need to read this book

Overall Tested Advertising Methods is an excellent resource for writing sales copy, covering all aspects of writing effective sales copy (writing effective headlines, great opening paragraphs, copy that sells, to split testing sales copy to see what pulls the best results, etc.).

The suggestions John Caples describes are easy to understand, and you can easily put his recommendations into action right away. If you want to improve your copywriting skills, I recommend you get it this book, read it, and start putting it’s suggestions into action.

Now it’s your turn – which copywriting books do you recommend others read? Also if you have questions about copywriting fire away, let’s see if we can get you an answer.

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About The Author

Eric Moeller

Eric Moeller is the Managing Director of Copy Dojo, an agency which helps startups improve their sales copywriting to rapidly grow their business. He has two decades of experience in high tech marketing and product management. Eric has an MBA in marketing, and completed Seth Godin's altMBA in the summer of 2015.

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