Thanks for tagging me on this, Jess.
Hi Tommy. From a high level, here’s a bit about how I approach it.
I wouldn’t say that I necessarily start with polished headlines before writing the rest of the page, but I do typically start with a concept and working headline. For instance, it might be something tied to the main benefit or a unique differentiator. Or it could be more focused on a particular offer, really stressing urgency. There are many different tactics to take.
Usually I’ll come up with several concepts/headlines before deciding which to go with. Many times there are several good ones that are worth testing against each other.
I find it’s better to do this than to start with the rest of the page for a couple of reasons.
The headline is the first thing most people will read. So it sets up the whole page that follows. Everything else should support that main message. That’s easier to do than the reverse.
Often times, the concept influences images and phrasing choices elsewhere on the page. This would require more editing if I came up with the concept last.
Since you asked specifically about headlines, you may want to try this technique.
Start with a basic benefit-oriented headline, the add or adapt it. For instance, you could add curiosity, make it more specific, make it more targeted, etc.
But really, that’s far from the start. Before typing out any words, you need to consider a lot of factors.
Audience is probably the most important of these. The same benefit could have very different motivations to different people. If you want to maximize conversions, you need to use the right one with each audience.
You should know your audience in and out, including their pain points and fears, the hopes, how they speak, etc.
Timing and context are also important factors. By that I mean where users are in the sales process, what steps came before and what comes next. If you are driving traffic to a page from a specific PPC campaign, for instance, you need to make sure the messaging matches those ads for continuity.
Knowing what comes next is important, because then you can reverse engineer your messaging. If you are trying to generate leads, you don’t need to try to close the sale. Just focus on getting people to the next step.
Once I have the concept down and know the basic messaging I need to build interest and reduce friction, I typically work on section headings to form an outline. Then I fill out in each of the sections with body copy. Sometimes you can work from top to bottom, other times you might break it up and work on the sections out of order.
Editing is also a big part of the process. That’s where the real magic happens. David Ogilvy once wrote that he was a lousy copywriter, but a good editor.
With the first draft of anything, my goal is to get the thoughts down and keep the momentum going. It doesn’t need to be perfect at that point and I find if I try, the work goes very slow, the ideas come harder and it doesn’t flow as well. The final copy that makes it to the landing page is the only round that matters and each round of edits makes things a bit better.
I hope that answers your question.