DIY advertisers: why titles don’t work, and headlines do

When you advertise your business, do you give the advert a title – or a headline?

Ads (a.k.a. “adverts”) with a title often are also “upside down adverts” which you need to avoid if you’re going to get the maximum number of leads and enquiries from each of your ads.

Never forget that an ad – even a small, low-cost ad in a local magazine or “handbook” – needs to offer readers something “in it for them…” not just a title being your name or what you do.

Don’t forget that old-but-very-relevant point … “what’s in it for me” is what sells.

That means, to grab attention and hold it, you need to start your adverts with a strong headline. Not a title.

Titles are what we used to write at school when we were writing essays or other pieces of work. Although they may identify who you are and/or what you sell, they do NOT offer any perceived benefit to readers.

A perceived benefit is what will get readers clicking, phoning, emailing or whatever your “call to action” suggests.

Titles versus headlines: how could we make these work better?

Here’s our first example…

(name) Garage Doors & Gates

Spares and Repairs
Quality Garage Doors and Gates
Automation to Existing Doors
Free Competitive Quotations
Established since 1984

(phone number)
(website URL)

There is nothing – and I mean, nothing – to suggest why these garage doors and gates are any better than anyone else’s.

OK, they might not be any better.

But doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t share why customers could benefit. Let’s explore the one main clue here: “established since 1984.”

In itself, the fact that the business has been going for 34 years doesn’t mean much. But what if we make those 34 years work a bit harder?

34 years’ experience to keep your garage and garden secure

Let us quote on providing you with the latest in top quality garage doors and gates – at sensible prices.

Fed up with opening garage doors when it’s cold and wet?
Let us automate your garage door, and gates, with state-of-the-art technology … super efficient and super cost-effective.

Need spares, repairs and other maintenance? We’re there with what you need, when you need it.

(name) Garage Doors & Gates
Established 1984
The technology to give you the latest value – and the experience to know how to.

Now, on to another classic example of an ad that has been devised by people who know little about marketing communication … with a title instead of a headline that makes it even harder to understand just what the ad is promoting.

It’s fair to say that this ad appeared in a publication that is local to the rugby team, so people with an understanding of rugby will recognise the name and know where the stadium is, etc.

But what about people who don’t?

Read on …

(name of rugby team) WITH STYLE

(4 big photos of banquet set up, restaurant set-up, gravy being poured over main dish, and frantic-looking rugby player running like hell while holding the ball.)

Contact us to discuss premium packages for the 2017/2018 season

Sales@(name of rugby team)

(phone number).

Why should anyone be attracted to your, er, ad (we don’t get what you’re selling until the bottom, if at all) because you think you play rugby “with style?”

What your ad is trying to sell, is some sort of stylish kudos associated with the amazingly great game of rugby football. OK, many people love it and I’m not saying they shouldn’t. But just slapping up a title that depends so heavily on people guessing what your actual offer is, even though you provide visual clues, makes your brand look conceited and arrogant.

Instead, turn that content around so potential purchasers of hospitality can grasp why they should…and before they do that, what on earth it is that you’re selling in the first place? “Premium packages” of what? How about the following…

Celebrate something special this rugby season – with (name of rugby team)

(photos brought down to a less vulgar size, with captions, e.g. “choose our banquet format for up to XXX guests” … “delicious catering with a wide choice of menus” … etc.)

There’s nothing more thrilling than watching the (name of rugby team) live, on the spot … and it’s even better when you can enjoy our hospitality at the same time. Whether it’s for a single table or for a large group, you and your guests will have an occasion to remember.

Get in touch now for more information about our premium private entertaining packages for the upcoming season … and to make sure you can reserve the dates you want.

(Name of human being, not “Sales) @ (name of rugby team)

(phone number.)

And our third contender for the titles-versus-headlines prize appeared in the last article in this series, as an upside-down advert.

It also qualifies as a title ad – such a shame, because re-written with a headline it is so much more powerful.

First, though, the original…

Cake Decorating Supplies

for Amateurs, Professionals and Enthusiasts alike

(two separate long lists of items, in random order)

We have all the Baking and Cake Decorating supplies to complete your wonderful creations!

(address and contact details)

Although it’s fairly clear what the ad is about, once again the fact that it has a title – not a headline – means you don’t get any idea about why we should buy from this supplier of cake decorating stuff.

The fact that they “have all the baking and cake decorating supplies” doesn’t offer much incentive to go there and buy from them. And the rather limp-wristed “to complete your wonderful creations” is a bit soppy, slightly patronising, and gives the impression of being a desperate last attempt at attracting business from readers.

So how about the following, instead?

Are you a cake baker who needs some help to complete your wonderful creations?

Whether you’re an amateur, professional or a keen enthusiast, we have all the best quality baking and cake decorating supplies you need, whatever masterpiece you want to create

XYZ Cake Decorating Supplies

Choose from …
(One list here, in alphabetical order)

(Address and contact details)

Have you ever used a title rather than a headline for your advertisements?

And would you now convert those titles into headlines?

Please share your views!


About the author: Suzan St Maur

Suzan St. Mauer

This article first appeared on Suzan St Maur’s award-winning writing resource website, HowToWriteBetterHTWB … with more than 1,500 articles and tutorials on a vast range of topics from business to fiction, training to comedy, by Suzan and many other writing experts from around the world. An experienced expert in marketing communications, Suzan is now an author coach, book publishing consultant, and best-selling author.

This article was first published by Suzan St Maur