Before you can market to anyone you MUST first grab their attention.

Consider that people are already reaching for the bin (or the delete button on an email) the moment they have your marketing in their grasp. Flyers that get delivered in mailboxes right across the planet are moments from the recycle bin. Straight from box to bin

So how do we stop them (your prospective customers) in their tracks, make them sit up, and DEMAND their attention?


Killer headlines are the 1st step in creating any good copy.  Whether its a webpage, flyer, email or anything else.

Until you’ve grabbed their attention with invested interest, they’re not about to pay attention to you… I mean they’ve already seen over 5000 other pieces of marketing today, what makes yours so special??

[5000+ marketing messages per day Yankelovich study and New York Times]

A great headline at the top of your marketing copy, or a great subject line in your email, will buy you some time.  You then need to give them reasons to keep paying attention, but you’ve at least been noticed. Better than all the other 5000 marketing messages people have been yelling at them today.  Well done!


A killer headline must either inspire or shock the viewer or reader, in to wanting to know more.

Note: I say view because the ‘Killer Headline’ can also be an image or auditory message.  It’s the first thing your prospect notices, therefor it doesn’t always have to be a headline in the traditional sense. Today we’re focusing specifically on copy writing Headlines in the traditional sense, but grabbing attention is always the purpose.

The Inspire headline creates possibility, such as “Win $50Million Dollars Instantly” or “You are 3 minutes away from financial freedom”.  They create a possibility the reader doesn’t yet have, but desires.

The Fear (Worry or Shock) headline is often better at grabbing attention.  “Humans will be extinct in 3 decades” or “Food shortages will hit suburban supermarkets by 2019”.  These Fear based headlines play on the fact that much of the population are ‘away motivated’, operating from Fear.

Without going in to too much detail about Spiral Dynamics, 6 Core Needs, and other profiling tools (incredibly useful and essential when marketing), to explain why so many people are away motivated. Let me simply cover the differences between Away Motivated and Towards Motivated people, to help you understand a core principal in learning how to write great, killer headlines for your marketing segment, prospect or niche.


Although motivation is a constant part of our lives every single moment, it comes in only two forms, Towards and Away. Towards motivation is inspiring and derived from creating possibility, or receiving a positive outcome or result. They are moving towards something. Away motivation is more fear based and the result of wanting to move away from some undesirable outcome or result (real or imagined). They are moving away from something.

An example of towards motivation would be an athlete who wants to achieve a gold medal. In fact most forms of exercise are born from towards motivation, unless they are the result of a health scare (not wanting to die).

Examples of away motivation would be running from a burning building, or working in a job where your only motivation is to feed yourself (in other words, so you don’t starve), or it’s “too hard to find anything else”).


In addition to (positive and negative) motivational headlines, that are designed to cause action in the reader, there are also rapport or engagement building headlines.

For example the Question headline makes us think.  It engages the brain creating a form of ‘buy-in’ to the conversation between us and them.  When someone engages with us in this way they subconsciously feel invested in the conversation.  Meaning they are more likely to continue with us, on the conversation we’ve started in their mind. Robert Cialdini refers to this in his book Influence: The art of Persuasion, as ‘Commitment and Consistency’.

[Book Influence available on Amazon]

By influencing someone to engage with us, even as simply as mentally answering the question we posed, they have now invested with us on some small level. Which means they have connected part of their identity with us.  Have you ever been encouraged to read a piece of marketing, then by the end felt uncomfortable, disgusted or even cheated? That’s the result of a good headline, with an in-congruent outcome. Meaning the headline was just an attention grabber (a lie) and the rest of the marketing was not a match for what you were first led to believe.


This is a colorful colloquial term, I like to use to describe the headline that is badly spelled or grammatically incorrect.  Like a bus crash, people have to look. It’s not appealing, it’s just human nature. Things that are ‘out-of-place’ or simply wrong, attract attention.

One of the greatest headlines in marketing history, was misspelled.


The “How To…” headlines are fantastic, especially in today’s easily searched online work. Some of the most commonly searched words (especially on YouTube) are “How To…”


The secret of making people like you

Are you ever tongue-tied at a party?

How a new discovery made a plain girl beautiful

Do you make these mistakes in English?

Hands that look lovelier in 24 hours, Or your money back

Why some people almost always make money in the stock market

When doctors “feel rotten” this is what they do

Five familiar skin troubles, Which do you want to overcome?

How I improved my memory in one evening

How I made a fortune with a “fool idea”

Can You Pass The Cholesterol Test?

I Can’t Believe It’s Happening To You Too?

Do You Know What Colour Best Suits You?

Are You Ready To Slash Your Tax Bill By Half?

If You Don’t Act Now, You’ll Miss This Chance Forever!

Enrolments End Tomorrow – Act Now!


Here’s a handful of ideas/formulas to get you started!

Are you…

Do you…

Have you ever…

How To…

Learn how to…

Can You…

I Can’t…

You can’t…

The secret of…

If You Don’t…


There is no single rule when it comes to headlines.  Always Test and Measure (Step 7 of the 7 Step Marketing Formula).

However a good marketer always does his or her research first (Step 1 of the 7 Step Marketing Formula). The best way for you to deliver killer headlines consistently, is to learn everything you can about your target market – Are they Away or Towards motivated?  Do they need to feel pain to act, or do they like to be inspired? Are they thinkers or action takers? What inspires them – i.e. money, time, freedom, generosity to others, or what else? What is their problem? How is that causing them pain? How would they prefer it to be? What is the solution they want? What headline is most attractive to them?

Good luck and have fun!

To your business growth and success,

Ross Pepper

P.S. To discover more marketing headlines, formulas, options, strategies and ideas, become a 7 Step Marketing Silver or Gold Member – Click here.



Bernadette Schwartz

Frank Kern

Sharon Pearson

Taki Moore

Robert Cialdini

The 100 Greatest Headlines Ever written

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