Copywriters aren’t often too kind to subheads…
In fact, most of the time subheads are treated as nothing more than punctuation.
Indeed, one of the uses of subheads in long copy sales promotions is to punctuate copy… but it is just ONE use. There are many more.
The fact is, having strong subheads throughout your promotion can be the difference between copy that bombs and copy that sells.
So, let’s just take it as accepted that you need to spend longer on your subheads. The question now is: what can you do to make them stronger?
Treat your subheads like mini-headlines
To really supercharge a sales promotion, your subheads should be as intriguing and exciting as your main headline.
There’s no reason why you should disregard the rules you follow in constructing a main headline when you tackle your subheads…
For example, if you use the four Us (that dictate a headline should be useful, unique, urgent and ultra-specific) for your main headline then you should apply them to each of your subheads too.
As an absolute minimum, each of your subheads should communicate at least one clear benefit to the reader. This will help for two reasons:
Firstly, as a reader works their way through your promotion they’ll be motivated to carry on reading as they’re clearly reminded of a particular benefit by a subhead.
Secondly, for anyone who starts to skim your promotion the subheads will help recapture the reader’s attention. After the initial work done by your main headline, strung together the subheads act as an attention-grabbing safety net.
There’s actually a third, indirect bonus to concentrating more on your subheads. It’s more of a technical thing for your own benefit… you see, if your subheads are more detailed and benefit driven, they can act as a kind of contents page for you to ensure that the thread of your promotion is consistent and you’ve covered everything you should.
Overloading your subheads can actually make them more effective
When it comes to writing the main headline of your promotion, you should ensure it is as lean and direct as possible. It needs to crystallise a single idea in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
But with subheads, you can be a bit more relaxed.
That’s no reason to be lazy and start cramming everything and the kitchen sink in there without any thought, but because you’re aiming these subheads primarily at people who are losing interest (either skimmers or people who are not totally engaged in the narrative of the body copy) you need to make sure there’s plenty of good stuff in it to recapture their attention and force them to read on.
So, as well as an obvious benefit – providing a solution to a problem for example – you should also work into the subhead some secondary benefits.
Say the product you’re promoting is about reducing back pain, rather than a subhead that just says:
“How you could reduce back pain using this special heat pad…”
Add a second, third and even fourth benefit…
“Discover how this scientifically proven heat pad can reduce your back pain all through the day – it’s light, discreet and takes less than five minutes to start relieving the pain”
A crude example, sure. But you can start to see what I mean. The second version is a much stronger subhead that has much more chance of re-engaging a skimmer or helping along a reader who wants to know more but is losing interest…
Because there are a lot things mentioned in this subhead that you want to find out about – the speed of relief, the scientific proof, it’s discreet-ness – you’re more likely to read on a bit further to get the answers.
How to make your supercharged subheads even more effective
Having focused more on the copy you’re using for your subheads and having loaded them with benefits to grab the attention of anyone scanning your sales promotion… you’re looking pretty good.
But there’s something else you can do to really power-up your promo…
You see, so far we’ve taken it for granted that your subheads signal what issues are going to be discussed in the body copy that immediately follows and that when those issues are resolved you’ll punctuate the copy with a new subhead.
Indeed, most sales promotions do follow this pattern. Very successful ones do in fact.
What the most successful sales promotions do is something slightly different. It’s not a big thing but it really can make a big difference in the unconscious mind of the reader.
Instead of resolving everything that’s teased in the subhead in the copy that follows, leave one issue unresolved and deal with after the next subhead (which in turn will tease something that isn’t dealt with until after the next subhead and so on).
It doesn’t sound like a big thing, does it? But it works.
Remember that the readers of your sales promotion are wise… they read books, the watch films, they watch television… their unconscious is trained to note things down and keep a record of any unanswered questions until they can be checked off when an answer presents itself.
By leaving an element of your subhead unresolved, you can tap-in to this natural thought process and engage the reader on a much deeper level.
Focusing more on your subheads won’t make a bad promotion good, but applying these elements to an already decent promotion could make it great.
Seriously. It’s making small tweaks and changes like this that will help you write you become a copywriting pro and write breakthrough promotions time and time again.