Beware of the ‘guru’ who tells you that you must always have a sub-headline – or never have a sub-headline – because there are no hard and fast rules. Although that makes things trickier in some ways for the aspiring headline writer, it opens up a wonderful opportunity when you understand the principles.
On the one hand there is no magic formula that everyone can use to win, but on the other hand there are established psychological principles that you can apply in your own way to persuade your buyer to buy.
Each time will be different
You will use a different structure of headline and sub-headline in each piece you write, depending on what it is you’re selling. The principles will be the same but they will be applied in different ways.
Like it or not, your reader has only one focus – ‘what’s in it for me?‘
Why should they read your web text or sales letter or email? What benefit will they derive from reading it?
So what is the role of the sub-headline? Why might we have one?
Sometimes it will be more effective to use a sub-headline: sometimes not. It depends on what you’re selling.
The headline that leads people to buy one of my books, for instance, does have a sub-headline.
It starts with the headline: “Almost every book you’ve ever read about copy writing completely missed the point” which is followed by a sub-headline: “Let the Headline Hero Show You How to Write Winning Headlines That Can Increase Your Sales By 1600 per cent”
The purpose of the headline is to attract your attention and empathise with your situation. You’ve read a load of books about copy writing but your sales haven’t gone up because the books you’ve read have missed the point.
That should be enough to get you to read the sub-headline which explains quite clearly what’s in it for you – you will learn how to write the winning headlines you’ve been wanting to write all along and which, more specifically, can lead you to dramatically increase your sales.
In another advertisement, we dispensed with the sub-headline and made the headline do all the work by itself.
“How to Write Winning Headlines That Increase Your Sales 1600%”
In that example we’ve managed to encapsulate the number one benefit (what’s in it for the reader) within the headline. More often than not you will need the support of a sub-headline, but sometimes you can manage just as well without. This is one case where you can manage without.