Kevin Hogan

International Speaker

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Persuasion is getting people what you need them to do to be successful, happy, loved, cared for, employed or achieving in some area. It’s what you do to get people to make good decisions quickly in aspects of life you know will be valuable to them. It’s about making people behave quickly and wisely.

I was in Los Angeles two weeks ago for a marketing gig. Lots of well known marketers. Some do pretty well.

BUT some don’t. They had burned out their fans. They had turned fans into letters and emails on a list.

They should have known better. I don’t want you to think about it, consider it, decide…I really want you to blatantly accept this:

  • People are not lists. They might be fans, friends, customers, clients, but they are people. Important people.
  • There are no good “pitches.”

A list is a bunch of stuff I have to do. You know, finish the article, cut the lawn, stain the deck. Boom. A list.

A pitch is what you do in baseball or it’s a derogatory word for coercing someone to buy something that they couldn’t possibly utilize.

And boy do I hate that second one.

The big reason I named “Coffee with Kevin Hogan,” as I did (with the irony that I really prefer tea…but YOU probably don’t!) is because it’s nice to sit down for a cup of coffee with friends or people you meet that you want to be friends. It’s pretty safe. Not a dinner date. It’s Coffee. It’s friendly. We talk about fun stuff, cool stuff, interesting stuff, serious stuff. You’ve been a reader for 5 or 10 years. In my mind, you aren’t an email address on a list.

As far as “pitches…”

Get rid of that word from your vocabulary as well. Pitching is seen for what it is. Selling junk no one wants to and shouldn’t buy. Selling ideas no one wants to use and if they did, they would cost the team.

When you write copy, think of people…as people. Good people. Smart people. Are there jerks out there? Of course. But they still choose to read you!

When you present information that might be helpful to people, present it. Use respect and sensibility.

People are people. They have families and friends and you want to be numbered among them.

Get RID of the “list mindset” and ask me how many READERS I have. Then ask me if I’ll present something to my readers. “Kevin will you pitch ….to your list.”


I have no one on my list and I don’t “pitch” anything, ever.

If I was wearing a coat and a tie, I would now straighten same, take a sip of water, and proceed…as I did in L.A.

Last week we touched on some important stuff. You were reminded to know your future customer. You were reminded to be able to describe this person. To have an image of them. To care about them and do what you can to be valuable to them. Then we talked about copy, headlines, subheads, subject lines and writing people via email.

This week I want to go in depth on a few of the things I touched on last week. Next week, we’ll move on to the next “chapters” in our introduction to effective copywriting.

Reminder: Last week you learned that before you put one word of copy on paper, you want to have a clear picture of your best client or best future client. I showed you how to put that together so it is tangible. It’s the reason I can talk with you here today like you are sitting on that side of the sectional while I am over here typing away. Don’t mean to be rude…

Start with the Headline

The Almost Impossible to Comprehend Value of a Headline in Copywriting

The headline in copy is the most important part of your writing.

Lots of people think the most important part of a book is the manuscript. The story.

Unfortunately, and I do mean that, it’s not true.

The most important part of a book is your marketing and selling the book to a future reader. The second most important thing is the title. Then, sadly, comes the actual story.

I spent days on the whiteboard working on the title to my new book that will come out in the summer of 2013. This last week I’ve had over 80 sub titles on the board. Titles and headlines make or break movies, books, products, services, company names, and brands.

The headline is what grabs your reader’s attention and gets them to read the rest of the copy. It is the first thing they see and is the FRAME for the entire copy that is to follow.

It is essential for every copywriter to fully understand what it takes to write a good headline. It is also important for a copywriter to understand why the headline is so important.

A great headline encapsulates your message. The headline should be so compelling that it makes the reader want to read more. The headline serves the purpose of drawing in the reader and piques their interest.

Everyone has heard that first impressions are very important.

That’s an understatement if I’ve ever seen one.

You should think of your headline as the first impression you give off about you, your business and/or your product.

You want that first impression to be compelling, interesting and intriguing. You want the reader to be fascinated. You want them to want more of what you can share with them.

Your headline must accomplish three things.

It must capture attention.
It must communicate your most important message.
It must entice the reader to read on.

Your headline is the cover of today’s copy of the Victoria Secret catalog.

Eight Excellent Headlines

You don’t have time to read a book about each headline strategy. You do need to have them written down and on your Coffee Table so writing a headline is relatively easy when the time comes.

1. The first type of headline is a direct headline.

This type of headline is blunt and straight to the point. The reader should clearly know what is for sale and what the great offer is just by reading the headline.

I like direct headlines. They are effective and they can be compelling.

2. The second type of headline is an indirect headline.

Unlike a direct headline, this type of headline uses a subtle manner. The main goal of the indirect headline is to cause the reader to be curious so they feel they must read more. Indirect headlines use words with double meanings.

I like indirect headlines as well!

3. The third type of headline is a news headline.

This type of headline is an announcement. It is something newsworthy. The idea is to be compelling.

4. The fourth type of headline is a ‘how-to’ headline.

This type of headline is very popular. It works very well at selling almost anything. Basically, the headline starts with the words ‘how to’ or the “implied how-to” and goes from there.

5. The fifth type of headline is a question headline.

It asks a question that is something a reader will want to find the answer to.

6. The sixth type of headline is the command headline.

This type of headline basically tells the reader to do something. The trick to this type of headline is to use strong words that will trigger action in the reader.

I like command headlines because they move people quickly IF you have established credibility with someone or a group.


7. The seventh type of headline is the reason why headline.

This type of headline does not need to have the words ‘reason why’, but will include reasons “why.” It is going to highlight a certain number of things the reader will learn if they read on.

8. The eighth type of headline is the testimonial headline.

The testimonial headline is where you what someone has said about your or your product and turn it into a headline.

The testimonial headline is one of the best!

Now, take your product, your potential customers needs, wants, desires and problems and play with all 8 headline types.

Once you figure out what style of headline you want to use, get writing. You have to make sure it is clear and well written.

No matter what style you choose, you have to use strong words and make sure your point is getting across.

Your headline has to have the following characteristics:

  • It must offer something useful to the reader.
  • It has to make the reader feel as if they must read more.
  • It has to include something that tells the main point of the copy.
  • It should be specific.

It is also important to not get carried away with a headline. If a headline is too wordy, then a reader may avoid reading it at all. In general, headlines should stick to a maximum of eight words.

I’ve seen five line headlines. That’s a lot. They CAN be effective but it’s a lot easier to make a short headline compel than a long headline.

I don’t like overly long headlines. Think book titles. Short titles.

Short titles CAUSE YOU TO WANT TO READ THE SUBTITLE OR look at the reviews on the back of the book.

The headline is so important to the success of copywriting that you should plan on spending as much time writing it as you do writing the rest of the copy.

The biggest mistake a copywriter can make is to simply throw together a headline.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Good headlines require work.

Be dedicated to writing your headline. It makes no sense to write a great copy and have a terrible headline because the chances of your readers reading the rest of the copy are slim to none if your headline doesn’t captivate.

Make a Hook with Your Sub Headline

The sub headline is like an extension of the headline. It continues to draw the reader in while providing even more intriguing information that keeps them reading.

It’s what stops you from walking by the new release shelf and over to the nonfiction rack, because it has not only captured your attention but gotten your full attention…you are CURIOUS. You are enticed.

Sub headlines are often one of the most effective ways to keep readers reading. They introduce each section of your writing, letting the reader know what they are about to find out. The sub headlines do not have to be as bold as the headline, but they must maintain the reader’s attention.

Sub headlines serve a few important purposes.

1. The first subhead can often gently imply that if your reader doesn’t continue reading they will lose out on something.

2. The first subhead acts as the first key point for people who will only read the subheads and bullets.

In general, there are two kinds of copy readers. There are those who are captivated by your entire story and will read you from beginning to end. There are also those who don’t need to know your story, your history, they already are sold on you, they simply want to decide if they want this service or product. These people read the Sub headlines and bullets and that’s about it. Therefore the subheads must tell an entire story of their own from top to bottom!

3. Subheads should all be the same font size. If your text is 10 point and your headline was 20 or 24 point then having subheads in 14 or 16 point is about right. The consistency allows the “skimmer” to easily read the story of the subheads without the seemingly unimportant details.

Your goal is to get a reader to read all the way to the end of your copy, so they can do business with you. With well written sub headlines you can do this easily.

You can use them as highlighted notes that give a hint that there is much more to come if the reader just keeps reading.

To write a good sub headline you need to think of it as a headline with a very specific and significant point.

Your headline is basically introducing the whole, general copy. Your sub headline, on the other hand, is introducing a specific part of your copy.

Where headlines can be very generic and broad in scope, a sub headline can not. A sub headline needs to be specific and pointed. It must be relevant to the following section of text.

“Don’t miss out on this incredible new handicapping system picks 57% winners against the spread in pro football.”

You will likely find that as you are writing your headline you may come up with some ideas that can work as sub headlines. Just keep your work documented, so you do not lose those good ideas.

Write EVERYTHING down.

When I was at the event last week, I watched people in the audience.

As always, there were a lot of people who didn’t take voracious notes.

Not real bright.

They paid $5000 and went home with absolutely nothing and they wonder why they still aren’t earning six figures.

There is NO WAY that the person who didn’t take notes will remember what anyone said and definitely no way they’ll ever remember what creative thoughts were given. You should write an almost verbatim transcript of what a valuable speaker says.

If you have a general outline for writing your copy you can probably take each section and brainstorm about the sub headline. If you do not have an outline, then you may just want to brainstorm about the different things you are planning to write.

Sub headlines work for a few reasons. They help to break up the copy, they help to highlight key points and they keep the reader intrigued.

Sub headlines:

  • Help break up the copy
  • Help to highlight key points
  • Keep the reader intrigued

Web readers are much different than people reading off line. Most online readers are looking to get through content quickly. They do not want to waste time reading long drawn out content. Sub headlines help to break up the copy so it does not look like a large block of text, which would turn most readers away.

Sub headlines also help to highlight key points throughout the copy. Many web readers simply skim content and really do not read through word for word. They skim by looking for highlighted text, bullet points and headlines. They just read these things and are able to get the basic idea about what the copy says.

The main point to sub headlines is to keep pushing buttons to keep the reader intrigued. Sub headlines help to build suspense and fascination. They become captivated…they can’t put the dang book down…they will stay up all night and read it….that’s what a set of subheads needs to accomplish.

Most copy that is effective and worthwhile that has been written for the web will have great sub headlines.

Sub headlines can be something that can really change your copy from just a piece of writing to a beautiful masterpiece. They can transform your carefully chosen words and masterfully crafted sentences into a pure form of copywriting art. Sub headlines are that effective and important.


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Author of The Psychology of Persuasion, Irresistible Attraction, and The Science of Influence, Dr. Kevin Hogan is trusted by organizations, both large and small, to help them help their people reach their personal peak performance and maximize influence in selling and marketing. Kevin is an internationally admired keynote speaker and corporate thought leader. In Coffee with Kevin Hogan, he shares his research, observations, and how you can apply them in your life – both in business and at home.

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