Updated: Sep 12, 2020
They met in a smoky bar: low lights, smooth jazz and expensive liquor. He was magnetic, she was provocative: a killer combination.
They knew they had to be together. He said, “Hey Baby, let’s rule the world. I’ll be the hook while you reel them in”.
So goes the greatest love story in the history of advertising. This sexy dream-team went on to make billions of dollars for their clients. They haven’t stopped. You’ve been at the mercy of their charms countless times even though you tell yourself, “I’m not a fool for advertising”.
That’s consumer marketing. Let’s talk B2B. Any need for show-stopping headlines and riveting opening paragraphs?
The Science of Seduction
B2B IT folk know the science of seduction and it has nothing to do with headlines. All you have to do is listen to us chatbot about digital twins, artificial impishness (AI), hyper-converged conversational interfaces, blockchains of bitcoins, digital mesh, interoperability of Bimodal IT and open philosophies. I could go on – just making the point that you can’t get any sexier than that.
True. But there’s a lot of racket in the marketplace so it’s unlikely anyone can hear your chatter about transparently immersive experiences, as wonderful as that sounds. And I’m not sure if customers are paying attention to your shouting and desperate waving of arms while they’re being schmoozed by a new breed of IT hustler selling their version of disruption.
More noise. More competition. What to do? According to advertising gurus, you’ve got three seconds to be relevant to your reader or listener. Three seconds is about how long it takes to read a headline.
Three Seconds To Relevancy
No one wants to be irrelevant. So use the power of a headline as an attention-grabbing hook, then reel them in with a great lead-in paragraph. Useful for:
Prospect outreach via Inmail on LinkedIn
Lead generation campaigns across print and video
Sales proposal’s executive summary, solution summary and main response
Press releases to media and analysts
Customer success stories
Corporate blog post
Advertising and brochureware
Okay so pretty much anything you write, record or film needs an enticing headline and a winning opening paragraph.
Relevant, Useful And Urgent
When coming up with your main heading and opening paragraph, be guided by these: is the theme or topic relevant to my reader? Is it useful? Is it urgent? Does it tap into a current need or a pressing business challenge?
Purpose/ Audience/ Benefit
Before you start to fashion your headline and opening paragraph write down the answers to these:
What is the purpose of the communications piece?
Who is my audience?
What is the one major benefit they will receive?
Types of Headlines That Resonate with B2B Audiences
In B2B, shorter headlines are better – keep them to about 8 to 12 words. Here are some examples of headline formulas:
Use numbers (5 Reasons it’s Risky to Invest in Bitcoin)
Go with a benefit (Automate Help Desk and Halve Your Costs)
Ask a challenging question (Why Big Data is All Hype?)
Start with “How to…” (How to Protect Your $50M Dollar IT Investment)
Be aspirational (Imagine A Future Without Car Fatalities)
Other Important Things to Note
When coming up with your headline, be compelling and if you’re brave enough, be bold (or sassy like me). Just don’t exaggerate or lie.
Make sure there is a clear link between your main headline and opening sentence just like my opener for this article.
Avoid using clichés and over-used phrases like digital transformation.
Turn technical speak into human speak – even better if it sounds odd because that’s more attention grabbing. Instead of, Face-detecting Systems Manage Payments, use, Pay With Your Face.
Use Active voice. Instead of, In 1997, G Kasparov Was Beaten by Big Blue, say, Big Blue Beat G Kasparov in 1997.
Consider inserting a sub-heading as part of your opening paragraph, useful for white papers, cold emails and executive summaries in sales proposals.
The Attractor Factor in B2B IT
Keep in mind that while emotion plays a part in B2B persuasion, headlines that hint at business value are the most appreciated. Articulating your promise of value is all about getting your audience to see, feel, touch or experience anything you want them to through the power of imagination.
Start flexing your imagination today by practising writing headlines with a hook. Don’t stop there. Craft a strong opening paragraph and your audience will happily fall into your arms.
Always leave them wanting more.
To read more about creating headlines, see my post, 'Headless Body in Topless Bar and B2B Technology Writing'