Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Powerful Headlines…Powerful Copy…Powerful Sales


NOTE: I ran across the following article by John Schulte, president of the National Mail Order Association and author of Direct Marketing Toolkit for Small and Home based Business. It's really good. I asked John's permission to repost it on Comanche and he graciously gave me permission and sent along a complementary piece that will be posted later.

Bookmark this page and/or buy John's book because you will want to reference John's checklists again and again. If someone else creates your marketing, send a link to this page. I wish I'd written it. It's good stuff.


Powerful Headlines…Powerful Copy…Powerful Sales
By John Schulte

What words you use in your advertising and how you put them together can mean the success or failure of an advertisement. That’s why copywriters are called “wordsmiths” and the good ones get paid very well.

I have assembled this collection for you to have by your side when writing copy…so when you need an idea as you work you can refer to it as needed. Copywriting takes practice, to get good takes time. If you can’t afford to practice while you are selling, hire a pro. In the long run it will be better for you. Onward.

This is not a large-scale study, but the chief findings are significant; namely, the words you, new and how are outstanding.

Every copywriter should remember the value of hammering away at you, you, you, both in headlines and in copy.

Regarding new, David Ogilvy said: If you try hard enough, you can almost always use new in your copy.

Then there is the word how, which is in third place on the list. People want to know how to solve problems, how to get ahead, how to be attractive, how to win friends and how to end money worries.

So, the next time you write an ad or a direct-mail letter or a TV commercial, try to give your copy the benefit of these three important words: you . . . new . . . how.


  • suddenly
  • miracle
  • now
  • magic
  • announcing
  • offer
  • introducing
  • quick
  • improvement
  • easy
  • amazing
  • wanted
  • sensational
  • challenge
  • remarkable
  • compare
  • revolutionary
  • bargain
  • startling
  • hurry

Ogilvy also said: Don't turn up your nose at these cliché’s. They may be shopworn, but they work. That is why you see them turn up so often in the headlines of mail-order advertisers and others who can measure the results of their advertisements."

Max Sackheim seconded this advice by reprinting Ogilvy's list of words in his book My First Sixty Years in Advertising.


I would like to enlarge on Ogilvy's list and give the aspiring copywriter an even greater range of words to choose from. In order to do this, I turned to the following:

  • Successful direct marketing ads
  • Successful direct-mail letters
  • Mail order catalogs
  • Textbooks on advertising
  • Direct response classified advertising

I reviewed these and other sources, and tabulated the persuasive words that occurred most often. Listed below are the results of this analysis. For easy reference, the words are grouped under ten headings.

1. Words That Denote News
If you have news to tell, here are a number of ways to present it:

  • announcing
  • novel
  • introducing
  • modern
  • presenting
  • recent
  • today
  • latest
  • new
  • suddenly
  • now
  • revolutionary

2. Approval
People are more apt to buy if you can furnish evidence of the value of your product or service.

  • recognized
  • sanctioned
  • authorized
  • approved
  • commended
  • proven
  • recommended
  • accepted
  • honored
  • guaranteed
  • acclaimed
  • endorsed
  • complimented
  • certified
  • popular
  • tested
  • lauded
  • praised
  • admired

3. Large Size
Here are words you can use if large size is a feature of your product:

  • big
  • tremendous
  • large
  • massive
  • sizable
  • gigantic
  • huge
  • voluminous
  • vast
  • mammoth
  • enormous
  • great
  • spacious
  • colossal

4. Surprising
The element of surprise or unusualness is an attractive fea¬ture in some cases.

  • amazing
  • fantastic
  • astonishing
  • extraordinary
  • astounding
  • exceptional
  • startling
  • notable
  • surprising
  • noteworthy
  • singular
  • striking
  • sensational
  • strange
  • uncommon
  • stunning
  • unusual
  • magic
  • remarkable
  • miracle

5. Quality
Every reader or listener is concerned with the quality of your product.

  • good
  • first-rate
  • better
  • choice
  • fine
  • unparalleled
  • valuable
  • unsurpassed
  • remarkable
  • unique
  • exclusive
  • terrific
  • imported
  • selected
  • rugged
  • special
  • durable
  • personalized
  • improved
  • limited
  • excellent
  • rare
  • top
  • genuine
  • superior
  • authentic
  • greatest
  • outstanding
  • famous
  • wonderful
  • noted
  • surpassing

6. Interest
The following words denote interest and apply mostly to books, booklets, pamphlets, etc.:

  • absorbing
  • stirring
  • instructive
  • entertaining
  • informative
  • enlightening
  • interesting
  • fascinating
  • revealing
  • exciting
  • secrets
  • profusely illustrated

7. Appearance
Sometimes the appearance of a product is its most important feature.

  • beautiful
  • classic
  • elegant
  • distinctive
  • attractive
  • fashionable
  • flattering
  • appealing
  • handsome
  • fascinating
  • glamorous
  • exquisite
  • dramatic
  • scenic
  • captivating
  • colorful
  • charming
  • lavish
  • spectacular
  • magnificent


In writing your copy, do not neglect the tested words and phrases that are used in direct marketing advertising. Keep the lists in this chapter handy. Look them over before you write. Refer to them often. Put some you, new and how to into your ad, letter or commercial. And before you write your Act now paragraph, review the action phrases that experienced ad writers have found helpful in promoting the thing that every advertiser wants . action.

8. Utility
There are times when the utility of a product is the important consideration.

  • handy
  • reversible
  • helpful
  • serviceable
  • useful
  • workable
  • usable
  • versatile
  • practical
  • powerful
  • washable
  • reliable

9. Money
Making money and saving money are topics of universal concern.

  • wealth
  • liberal
  • fortune
  • reduced (price)
  • profitable
  • lowest (price)
  • bargain
  • discount (price)

10. Miscellaneous
Here are useful words that apply in a variety of categories:

  • quick
  • successful
  • quickly
  • gift
  • easy
  • complete
  • easily
  • lifetime
  • immediately
  • absolutely
  • hurry
  • only (price)

The next time you write an ad, you may find it helpful to review these word lists. For example, if you have news to tell, take a look at the list of words that denote news. Do the same with the other lists.

Your copy will be improved if you include some of the persuasive words that have sold millions of dollars' worth of goods and services.

What are the persuasive phrases that are used again and again by direct marketing advertisers? Here are examples:

1. Free Offers
A review of direct marketing ads, letters, catalogs, etc., reveals that the most frequently used phrases are free offers.

  • Yours free
  • Free gift
  • Booklet free
  • Ask for free folder
  • Free guide book
  • Literature free
  • Moneymaking facts free
  • Free trial lesson
  • Free to new members
  • Free examination
  • Free demonstration
  • Free cost estimate
  • Free consultation
  • Try it ten days free
  • Thirty-two-page catalog free
  • Free plans for_________________
  • Free sample
  • Yours for the asking
  • Test lesson free
  • Free gift if you act at once

2. Charge Offers
Some advertisers charge a fee or require a postage stamp.

  • Moneymaking facts free
  • Free lesson, $.50
  • $.25 brings details
  • Stamp brings details
  • $1.00 brings complete______________
  • Free gift if you act at once
  • Stamped envelope brings_______________
  • Send $.25 to help cover postage and handling

3. News
If you have news to tell, it should be given prominence. It will increase response.

  • Just arrived
  • New here
  • It's here
  • New discovery
  • New, improved
  • New invention
  • Important development
  • The world's first ___________
  • Just off the press
  • Hot off the press
  • Just published
  • Just out
  • Beginning (date)
  • At last
  • New method of ________
  • New modernized__________
  • Latest findings

4. How-To
People want to know how to do things-how to get ahead-how to solve problems-how to make money-how to enjoy life. In each of the following how phrases, you can com¬plete the phrase with your own solution to the prospect's problem.

  • How to ________
  • How to get __________
  • How to have _________
  • How to keep _________
  • How to start ____________
  • How to begin ___________
  • How to become __________
  • How to improve your _________
  • How to develop __________
  • How to get the most out of ________
  • How to avoid ________
  • How to end ________
  • How to get rid of ________
  • How to conquer How I ______
  • How I improved my ___________
  • How to enjoy How you can ________

5. Information
People buy magazines and newspapers and listen to broadcasts to get information. You can successfully compete for attention by telling your prospects the things they want to know.

  • Seven ways to _________
  • The truth about _________
  • The one sensible way to _________
  • Plain talks with _________
  • Profitable tips for _________
  • Confidential chats with ________
  • Twenty tips for _________
  • The common sense of ________
  • Your one sure way to ________
  • Guide to ________
  • Helpful hints on ________
  • Practical hints on __________
  • Advice to _________
  • What you should know about _________
  • Facts you should know
  • Mistakes you can avoid

6. Confidence Building
No matter how attractive your offer is, you must build believability into your ad. Here are phrases that will help.

  • Award winning Seal of approval
  • Founded (year)
  • Established ________ years
  • You risk nothing
  • Make this test
  • Over _________ thousands sold
  • What others say (include testimonials)
  • See before you buy
  • Money back if not delighted
  • Proved in laboratory tests
  • If not delighted, just write Cancel on the bill.

7. Price
People are always looking for bargains. Here are some phrases that deal with price:

  • Sale priced
  • Only ten percent above wholesale/dealers cost
  • Save up to $ ____________
  • Less than half price
  • Fantastic saving
  • Price going up
  • Price goes up (date)
  • Order before the price goes up
  • Never again at this price

8. Miscellaneous Phrases
Here are frequently used phrases that can work in a number of situations:

  • Send no money
  • No obligation
  • No salesperson will call
  • Special offer
  • The key to ________
  • Only $.25 a day
  • Now you can ___________
  • You don't have to be rich to _____________
  • Money-saving offer
  • The secret of __________
  • Yours if you can qualify
  • Do you have these symptoms of ________?
  • Who else wants _________?
  • From manufacturer to you
  • Buy direct and save
  • For quick information, call _________
  • Orders shipped within 24 hours
  • Easy payment plan

9. Immediate Action
Most folks tend to delay action. Urge them to act quickly. Or better still, give them a valid reason for quick action.

  • Act now
  • Don't delay
  • Order now
  • Order today
  • Order now, pay later
  • Delay may be serious
  • Don't put it off
  • Send today
  • Send post card today
  • Get started today
  • Investigate today
  • Act fast
  • Be the first
  • Rush name for details
  • For a short time only
  • While the supply lasts
  • Price going up
  • Supply limited
  • Last chance

John Schulte is a Small Business Consultant and Direct Marketing Strategist. He is a 30-year veteran of advertising, marketing, publicity, promotions and sales. He is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of mail order, direct mail, cataloging and overall direct marketing. He is one of the few people in the United States that has been certified by a United States Federal Court as a Direct Marketing and Catalog expert, able to act as an expert witness in federally related corporate disputes. John is also president of the National Mail Order Association and author of Direct Marketing Toolkit for Small and Home based Business.

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