11 Creative Secrets for Compelling Direct Response Headlines

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

compelling headlinesOur regular readers appreciate that we have a positive bias toward healthcare marketing and advertising that produces measurable, near-term results. Direct Response Marketing isn’t the only option, but for hospitals and medical practices—facing tough competition with a lean, cost-effective budget—it offers advantages over brand-based methods.

Experienced writers will devote half (or more) of their creative energy in producing a powerful and effective headline. After all, if the headline doesn’t grab the reader’s attention, and give them a reason to read the ad…well, no reader, no ad, no results.

Academic courses stress the importance of these first words. Tutorials such as American Writers & Artists, provide a “Four U” formula. Strong headlines, they teach, should be:

  • USEFUL to the reader
  • Create a sense of URGENCY
  • Present a UNIQUE benefit
  • Communicate these in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way

As further help, here are additional tips that creative professionals keep up their sleeve when writing (and rigorously re-writing) headlines for direct response material.

  • Highlight the benefit(s) to the audience
  • Arouse curiosity; ask a question
  • Ask an intriguing question
  • Begin with how to
  • Call out to a specific target audience
  • Evoke emotions
  • Frame ideas as special or exclusive
  • Numbers command attention and authority
  • Provide a forceful and persuasive promise
  • Say something counter intuitive or controversial
  • Use startling specifics

Headlines are the attention-getting gateway for your benefit-laden idea. It is an especially critical element in direct response materials, but these tips are also useful for blog posts, social media touch points, outdoor advertising and longer-form content.

Unfortunately, compelling headlines are often pulled off course by well-intended stabs at “cute” or “clever” misdirection. If your creative endeavor could benefit from experienced, professional guidance, checkout the additional articles below, or connect with us today.

Five Critical Questions in Creating Direct Response Advertising

Why David Ogilvy is the Father of Advertising: We Sell or Else.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA


Stewart Gandolf
Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.



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