Most people don't read past 5 words of a headline, let alone the content that follows it. So you need to make your headline count. One of the most successful strategies is to focus on arousing the reader's curiosity by asking a question in the headline.
Curiosity is a driving force behind much of what we humans do with ourselves. It drives decisions and motivates change in behavior. If your headline taps into that curiousity, you've got your reader hooked.
But how do you do it?
A good question.
No, really. That's the answer. A good question will make a reader curious enough to invest the time to read further. So how can you use this tendency to your advantage when composing your headlines?
in his book, Question Based Selling, Thomas A. Freese describes a whole new approach to sales and marketing based on asking questions. In a chapter focusing on how to generate curiosity in a prospect, he's found that he's been much more successful selling by first piquing the prospect's interest and then moving into positioning his products value, instead of trying to sell based solely on the features of the product.
It's a losing battle trying to get attention just by stating that you're the best or by trumpeting facts about your product. The headline isn't about reciting your product's features, and if it is, it's just going to get drowned out by the noise in our marketing-saturated society. You need to do whatever you can to get your prospect to read your material. And the question is one of the most effective ways to do just that.What are the 3 types of question-based headlines?
In his book on copywriting, U.K. marketing expert J. Jonathon Gabay outlines the three different categories of questions that you can utilize to create attention grabbing headlines.
1) The Simple Who?
Gabay splits the question Who? into two parts. The simple Who? includes the question explicitly in the headline. Who wants ice cream?
Who does fish better than the rest?
2) The Testimonial Who
Why a testimonial considered question? Because the 'who' in question is asked by the reader. Who is this person and what do they have to do with the product? Why did they like the product? Quotes and testimonials are very effective selling tools. They reduce the perception of risk, and if you've got a celebrity giving the quote, they can get you a little more attention based on name recognition.
However, it can backfire on you. The statement must be believeable, and the language used must be appropriate for the source of the quote. If not you run the risk of your potential audience rolling their eyes in disbelief, and that means they aren't reading your piece.
3)The What, Where, and How?
This category encompasses the remaining types of questions. How does free cable sound?
What $100k in water damage compared to the satisfaction of doing it yourself?
There are a few things to keep in mind when using standard questions. Avoid the self-answering questions and questions with explicit yes or no answers. The point of the headline is to entice the reader by promising to answer the question later in the copy, or even if they know the answer, you want to tease them a little.
Gabay uses the following examples of how not to write your question headline:Are you overweight?
Would you like some life insurance
These are dull, and they don't get people to read past the headline. If you feel driven to use this type of question in your headline, you can sometimes avoid the pitfall by answering the question in a sub-headline. Gabay, a Brit, has a great example of a subhead:Are you overweight?
Call us. We'll start saving you pounds over night.What 3 things do you accomplish by using a question based headline?
Here are the three things that you as a copywriter will accomplish when you use a question in your headline:
1) Questions arouse curiosity. We want to know the answer. By starting with a question, you've gone a long way toward getting your prospect to read on. Ask a question, and the reader naturally wants to know the answer.
2) Creates a predictable response. You can take advantage of our marketing-savvy world by stacking the odds in your favor that your audience will respond with curiosity, but that curiousity will be guarded. "Interesting...What's the catch?" is the reaction you can count on.
3) Copy can be written to address the question and the reaction, making the most of the opportunity to reach your reader.
By using a question in your headline, you can stack the deck in your favor. There can be lot of punch packed into a simple question. Take a look around and see just how the pros use that question mark to hook you and take advantage of that curiosity.
[Sources]Teach Yourself Copywriting
, J. Jonathon GabayThe Copywriter's Handbook
, Robert W. BlyQuestion Based Selling
, Thomas A. Freese