The most important "headline" you'll write

Issue #103—August 7, 2020

Now that I've got a full house again, we're all settling in to a comfortable groove. Both "kids" (they're now ages 20 and 23) are at home in part due to the pandemic. The youngest is about to enter her junior year of college and is stuck at home doing her video editing internship remotely and gearing up for fall online classes. The oldest had the misfortune of graduating college in the midst of a pandemic and the worst economy since the Great Depression. He and his roommates moved out of their group house in Baltimore, and he's yearning to head back to "Charm City". We're all now (somewhat) seamlessly co-habitating together again as closely as 4 separate adults can, ignoring each other as much as possible (okay, I'm kidding, kinda) while living our lives...daughter and I working in neighboring rooms remotely, retired hubby puttering around with endless house projects, and son busily applying to jobs so he can GTFO. I know we're all doing a lot better than many folks out there, and things are likely to get worse for many who've lost their jobs, and who will be stretched ever thinner as other supports run out for the time being. And my heart goes out to those parents desperately trying to work with much younger kids who aren't anywhere close to being independent like mine are. But having my family around me has been a blessing...and I think the kids are actually enjoying it more than they let on, too. (Let's face it--the food and drink here at home are top-notch!) So before I get interrupted for a third time (yes, there have been two interruptions just during those first 6 paragraphs lol), let's move on to today's topic: the most important "headline" you'll write for your promo. By promo, I'm talking about an online sales page or video sales letter (VSL) promo that you drive email traffic to. Those direct mail magalog headlines, as well as the ones on your sales pages or Facebook ads, are just as important in their own way. Okay, so what kind of "headlines" am I talking about? They're ones that all too often get short shrift when copywriters write them. Yet they're crucial to your promo's success. I'm talking about email subject lines! They're the "headline" for getting your email opened and read, instead of passed over or deleted. It all starts or ends right there, depending on what you put in that subject line. Because if the prospect doesn't open your email and read it, they'll NEVER click on your link inside it. And if they never click on that link, they'll never get to your sales page or VSL. So no matter how great that copy is, it'll never convert them to buyers if they don't get there in the first place! Think about how many hundreds of emails flood your inbox each day or every week. You scroll through them looking for some reason to skip over them or hit "delete" to clear out your inbox. It's the same thing as back in the golden days of direct mail, when you'd get a stack of "unsolicited third-class" mail stuffed into your mailbox each day. Once you brought your daily haul inside, the next step was to sort it over the trash can. In both cases, it's in that flash of a second that your prospect is deciding what to keep and what to toss. I remember back when I worked at Phillips Publishing how much time and scrutiny we'd put into reviewing and PERFECTING the main headline or front cover copy of any direct mail promo we sent out. Entire meetings with multiple smart people participating were devoted to the task. That's how important it is! We KNEW it had to grab the prospect by the eyeballs and overcome that intense human desire to repel sales messages and throw that darned "junk mail" away. Yet here are the most common mistakes I see made with email subject lines, which need to do the SAME thing...

  • Sounding too vague about who it's for or what it's about

  • Lacking any kind of news, curiosity, or benefit

  • As dull and boring as watching paint dry

  • Coming across as impersonal with no connection to me

  • All about THEM and not about ME

  • Too openly salesy (unless I'm a warm audience)

  • Lacking any urgency or not making me feel I HAVE to open this

In a moment, I'm going to share a handful of email subject lines I've written myself, plus some seen recently in my inbox that I felt I just HAD to open (they did a good job of NOT coming across as an unwanted sales pitch that I'd normally delete). But here's another big mistake I see copywriters make: when they submit their email copy to clients, they include just ONE subject line option. Yes, just one! Why would you put all your bets on just one subject line? Is it really that hard to write 3 or 4 more, each with no more than 5 or 6 words each, a total of just 24 words max? Even us A-listers don't bet the farm on one email subject line...or one main headline. I always submit several of my very best, pared-down options when I submit my copy to clients. And so should you! It not only lets you come across as more of a pro, it gives your copy a better shot at working, as many clients like to test more than one option. And with email subject lines, it's often fairly easy for them to do so. Okay, as promised, here are a few (because I don't have a lot of time this morning) email subject lines I saw recently that may give you some inspiration. Remember, your emails that you write should be unique and organic to your product and target prospect. But it helps to study good email copy just like it does other swipes! So here goes... What's in Kim's Mailbox? Email subject line: Got sinus problems? Try this, it works! Background: This subject line had been an unbeatable control for nearly 3 years. It was written by me as an email to drive traffic to the My Sinus Miracle sales page I wrote nearly 3 years ago for Green Valley. I recently beat this email control with a timelier new email subject line (and expanded email weaving in lung health benefits) using the same tactic: Got sinus or lung concerns? Try this, it works! Why it's working: It comes across as if it's a personal communication. I got the idea for it from a long-ago faux yellow "post it" note that everyone in the direct mail world seemed to copy about a decade ago. It had a hand-written note on it that had the person's first name and then "Try this, it works!" and for some reason was always signed by "J." The faux post-it note was often stuck on a torn-out newspaper advertorial and mailed in a plain #10 envelope, often addressed with a faded typewriter font to look personal. This email subject line is more proof you can take "ancient" direct mail tactics and adapt them to online use. *** Email subject line: Forget vitamin C…this gives you a 200% boost in just 20 minutes Background: My client tested this subject line in a new email I wrote to drive traffic to my long-running CircO2 sales page control. I decided to play up one of the big study findings that showed how boosting nitric oxide can dramatically boost immune health. This email on its own resulted in 33% higher revenue from an already strong sales page, which shows that emails and subject lines can be huge needle movers. Why it's working: Without coming out and making a potentially risky claim, it's inferring "immune system" boost, something that in these COVID times everyone is looking for. It also takes a contrarian angle by saying "Forget vitamin C" and at the same time makes you curious to find out what it is that's better. Unfortunately, despite this email's strong performance the product spokesperson insisted we change the subject line as she didn't want to come across as bashing vitamin C. My client is now using "Boost nitric oxide for immune health" as a more direct subject line, and the results are still quite good based on my latest quarterly royalty check! *** Now let's take a quick look at some other people's email subject lines that struck my fancy recently, for various reasons... The "lazy" way to greater muscle mass--from my same CircO2 client, it's a great play on the timeless "The lazy man's way to riches". It creates curiosity by making a paradoxical statement about something that's normally hard to do being made easy. The Audience Building Challenge has begun! You in?--this came from Podia, a course platform I used for my recent Copy Teardown Master Class (a new virtual version is coming out soon). It puts a benefit right out there that they know appeals to people on the list, and throws down a challenge, which is hard to resist. Secret “bliss molecule” boosts cartilage-regrowing potential by 700%!--I got this email from INH teasing about a new joint health supplement from Nulogic Nutritionals and driving traffic to their VSL. I have no idea what a "bliss molecule" is, but I want it and wish I had thought of it myself! And this one, from Michael Senoff, who not only creates super-valuable (and affordable) copy and marketing training products, but sends out highly entertaining emails when he sells them, arrived in my email inbox last night and made me LOL... The John Holmes Line Up for The Hard of Hearing ... --this was the umpteenth email about a special offer and in this email, Michael did the "tl;dr" version by listing the very long line-up of speakers you hear from in the product (if you're too young to know who John Holmes was, you're not going to get it! Trust me, it's funny.) Okay, now that we're ending on a raunchy note, let's clean things up here. I've got an important announcement for you, and a fantastic freebie to reward you with for reading so far, assuming you take action. My good friend and fellow A-list copywriter Carline Anglade-Cole just wrote her first book, and it's a doozie that you'll want to get your hands on right away. It just became available in paperback (you can also get it on Kindle) and in it she reveals how she went from her humble beginnings as a Haitian immigrant to becoming a million-dollar copywriter! It's called My Life as a 50+ Year-Old White Male: How a Mixed-Race Woman Stumbled Into Direct-Response Copywriting and Succeeded!” and it's all about how Carline has made an absolute fortune as a health copywriter pretending to be her target market, vs. who she is in "real life". From what I've heard, the book is packed with stories that will have you rolling on the floor laughing and more importantly, give you valuable lessons and takeaways you can apply to your own copy and career. Go ahead and order your copy here. (I got one yesterday, as soon as I heard it was available in "hard copy" format, and can't wait to get my hands on it!) Carline is KNOWN for writing some of the most intriguing, craziest, and yes, sometimes raunchy or "bathroom-oriented" headlines for her countless direct mail control promos in the health and supplement niche. Frankly, I don't know how she comes up with some of the stuff she does, but they do one thing: they make you want to find out more! So that's why I'm excited to tell you about a special bonus Carline is letting me share with my Copy Insiders: it's a brand new special report she's put together called "27 Kick Butt Headlines that Crank Up Your Sales Copy Cheat Sheet". You'll want to keep this invaluable Cheat Sheet right next to your computer to spark ideas for your headlines (and email subject lines, too!) When you order Carline's new book (this doesn't apply to getting it on Kindle only), you'll get your own copy of this Cheat Sheet as a "thank you". Simply send an email with your Amazon receipt to her at Be sure to put in the subject line of your email, "Kim said to order your book, Carline!" That will be your code word to let Carline know to send you this special freebie as a fellow Copy Insider (yes, she's on my list, too!) And that's not all. When you get Carline's new book, she'll also give you access to over $950's worth of her killer control PDFs. They're the same promos that have created millions of dollars of revenue for her clients...ones you'll definitely want to study and learn from. All the details are in the book (which costs less than half what Carline charges for just ONE of her control PDFs!) That's all I've got for you today (I know, it's a lot...I saved up all week!) I'll be back at you next week, and keep an eye out for a special end-of-summer bundle of my A-List copy training you're not going to want to miss! (If you don't already have it). Yours for smarter marketing, Kim P.S. Speaking of interruptions, I'm reminded of something Carline told me years ago when her 4 kids were younger and living at home. She had one rule: no one interrupts her while she's working...unless you're BLEEDING! Sounds like I need to adopt the same rule here at home, or maybe just shut my door... Okay, before you forget, click on the book cover image below and order Carline's book now! (No, I'm not getting an affiliate commission...just helping you and her out!

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