How to create powerful headlines

Headlines are absolutely vital for any good ad – in fact, it’s only the headline and/or photo that will determine if the prospective buyer decides to read the ad at all. Scary statistics show that, with all advertising, only one out of five people read past the headline of an ad.

When agents say “when they read my ad, they will understand that………..”, I point out it’s not when they read the ad, but if they read the ad. Your aim is to create ads where five out of five people, in the market you are targeting, will read your ad – then, you are on the path to great success!

Remember HOODOO from the first of my Top 10 Tips? Now, remember the WHO when you write your headline, then qualify it quickly, so the reader knows you’re both on the same wavelength.

Then ideally, reinforce or remind about the headline at the end of the ad.

For example:-
Headline: Swim in winter! (depending on which state you are in of course).

Reading that headline, one would assume that to swim in winter, the pool would have to be heated, so the qualifying statement might be:-

The solar heated pool will give you year-round family fun and entertaining.

When reading an ad, a persons attention is usually distracted by other ads, so, at the end of the ad it can pay to reinforce the headline and bring their attention back to what attracted them to the ad in the first place e.g.:-

So, if you’d like to be in the swim this winter, phone me, Fred Smith today at……

The rules for great headlines
Powerful headlines must contain one or more of the following:-

  • a benefit or implied benefit for the reader
  • something that is new, news or topical at the time
  • a curiosity element – but beware of gimmicks for gimmicks sake

For example, have you ever seen or heard headlines such as:-
Announcing the all-new XYZ dishwasher, that will save you time and money – we’ve all seen those kinds of ads haven’t we, for all types of products?

Think about it, how many of the “rules” above, does it have in that headline – yes, that’s right, all three of them. So, great headlines will contain at least one, often 2 and occasionally three.

Another example – “Hard work does pay” as a headline for a property that needs work done to it. That headline has two of the rules – a benefit and also the curiosity element “what/how much do I have to do? And, what will the rewards be?”

Now is probably a good time to explode a myth in the real estate industry, as it will pave the way for what else we are going to cover and help you to create better and better advertising – then enjoy the success that will bring.

Most Agents around the world believe they are selling houses and sadly, most real estate ads reflect just that – in fact most real estate ads only seem to prove that Agents can count – “4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1 study, 1 dining room etc.

It is vitally important to understand that you are not just selling the house, you are selling what it’s like to live there. You see, that is the picture the prospective buyer has in their mind – living in their new home, which may have an extra bedroom or two, so the kids can have their own space and privacy and the resultant family harmony. Or perhaps the extra entertaining areas, where both parents and their children can entertain their friends at the same time, but separately etc.

Once an ad matches the picture the prospective buyers have in their minds about what it will be like living there, you have a match and have now attracted the right buyer.

When I was speaking at the NAR conference some years ago, Colin Powell was the keynote speaker and he told a story about a military officer who was continually transferred from base to base, city to city. Their young son was asked if it was hard for him, always living in a different home. His response was “oh, no, no, no, no – we always live in the same home, we just put it in a different house”.

Nice sentiment – but isn’t it also so true? Think about it – ever been to a brand-new display home, when they are selling new houses – they are normally decorated exquisitely and as you walk through them, you can really imagine and feel yourself living there and enjoying what it has to offer.

However, when you buy the house and they take all the furnishings out, all you are left with are bare floors and walls – doesn’t look so good now, but then, you fill it with your furnishings, your knickknacks, your photos and make it your home.

But after that, you need all the information to know what living there is all about – what are the neighbours like, are they friendly? Which way to the schools and what are they? Where are the nearest golf courses? Where do we go shopping? What transport is available and where? What are the quickest driving routes to my work? Are there other children in the area for the kids to play with? The list goes on.

Great real estate advertising, particularly utilising the flexibility of the Internet and social media, will answer all these questions for them.

As an example – we sold our own property in Brisbane, before moving to the Gold Coast – the buyers lived a two hour plane flight away and only the husband had visited our home and made the buying decision (yes, obviously I created the ad campaign).

The day before the family was due to pick up the keys from our solicitor, we agreed to meet them there, run through the pool and the spa (hot tub), their operation and the chemicals that were necessary.

Their two children ran around the house saying “there’s my bedroom, the one with the V shaped bookshelf” etc – they knew exactly which room they would be living in, even though they had never visited the home previously – that’s what great real estate advertising does. Oh, by the way, we had four other prospective buyers lined up, waiting in case the sale fell through.

The headline for my campaign was:-

Relaxxx in privacy, after a hard day

And the photo – well, that will blow you away, but it takes us into a whole new realm of real estate advertising and will change the way you do your real estate advertising. And the results will blow you away as well.

But, that is the subject of the next article in this series, when I cover your photos in detail and how they work with your headline and body text in your ads — so, get ready for a paradigm shift in your thinking!!

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Ian Grace

Known internationally as “Mr Real Estate Advertising”, Australian born Ian Grace is acknowledged as the world’s leading authority on real estate advertising and customer service. For more information visit iangrace.com