Just my luck – sometimes a thing just falls right into your lap.

Like on LinkedIn the other day, I saw this:


Wow, a great side-by-side case study on good and bad headlines, and a cautionary tale of poor click through execution.

Grab ‘Em By The Eyeballs

Your headlines are supposed to get attention. They’re the thing that makes someone stand up and take notice. It’s the waaaah! of a foghorn sounding after a hockey goal, telling you to check the JumboTron for the replay. It’s the bright burst of fireworks against the pitch-black sky signaling that you’d better look that way. It’s the thing that pulls you out of your regularly-scheduled post-lunch stupor and kicks your butt into gear.

In order to make this kind of effect, your headline has to be dramatic. It has to command attention. It has to be succinct, yet also powerful. Which one of these two meets that criteria – “Helping Franchise Owners” or “WE’RE SO DISAPPOINTED”.


In fact, this was so intriguing to me that I read the subhead. I did exactly what this ad wanted me to.

Helping Franchise Owners may be factual, it may be short, it may be on-target.

But it’s not attracting my eye. So in that sense, it failed.

It’s not just the ALL-CAPS that do it for me, either. What this headline did was create some kind of mystery or question in my own mind.

Why would they be disappointed? That’s exactly the opposite of the traditional marketing message. “Hey, we’re so good, we can’t wait to tell you about it.”

Not this time. “Uh oh, something bad happened!”

Oooh, It. Just. Got. Interesting. What might the rest of the content be?

As for those who are helping franchise owners, I don’t really care. I’m not a franchise owner, I don’t have any intentions of being one, I don’t know those who might be, and so I’m not really attracted to their message. I’m not going to pay attention at all.

At the outset, most of those statements could also be said of BHG, as well. I likely don’t know their business model, their target audience, or even their industry. It’s more likely that I’m not a prospect than that I am. So, again, why did I pay attention to this headline, and not the other?

Because of that mystery factor. That shake-up to the traditional marketing message of “Have you heard how wonderful we are? No? Let me shove some sales collateral down your throat then!”

You know what we (in the audience) feel like when that happens?


Yeah, that doesn’t sit well with us.

So, how do you help your audience move from nauseated to interested?

Various ways. Here, it’s the the mystery factor. “WE’RE SO DISAPPOINTED” is much less ramming something right down my throat and more welcoming me with a gentle aroma, teasing me, inviting me to come investigate the unknown on my own.

Other ways to create great headlines may include a major promise or claim, or really digging in the audience’s pain point with a targeted message, like a precision deep-tissue massage.

Generic “Helping Franchise Owners” doesn’t speak to any kind of mystery, big promise, or pain. It’s blah. It’s bland. It’s forgettable.

And it’s only survived this long because of the side-by-side comparison to something good.

That good headline, WE’RE SO DISAPPOINTED, drew me in. It grabbed me by my eyeballs (a Clayton Makepeace original) and intrigued me enough to read on.

So I did! And I found the subhead: We really want to show you why so many health care professionals choose BHG.

That’s a good line, right there.

Subheads Are For Closers

This sub-headline (subhead) continues to build the mystery. “We really want to show you…” implies, again, that there may be some nefarious force holding them back.

Might it be a regulator, who might not let this new product hit the market, because of the disruption it will bring? Bad for oversight power, but good for customers! I’d want to know about that.

Might it be company management, who are afraid of the news of a special discount getting out, leading to more orders than they can handle and tanking their profits? Again, good for customers, bad for shareholders. I’d want to hear about that too!

Might it be the industry giants, who are so protective of their own market share that they’ll go to great lengths to suppress this information? Once more, bad for greedy fat-cats, but good for customers. Gimme gimme gimme!!!

The point is, the subhead continued the theme of a mystery, drawing me in further and convincing me to click through.

BHG – 2;

Mental Barriers to Sale – 0.

Folks, this means BHG is winning. They’ve converted a previously unaware random person on the internet (me) into someone at least remotely interested in what they have to say. Good on them!

[As an aside, does anybody know what the other subhead said? The one about helping franchise owners? I don’t. Because there was absolutely no reason to care.]

At this point, I still don’t know who BHG is, what they do, or who they do it for. But I’m doing what they wanted. They’ve got an eager prospect dangling on the hook, just waiting to be reeled in.

Now it’s time to close.

Don’t Bonk The Landing Page

Unfortunately for BHG, this is where things went wonky. They had me by my eyeballs –  interested! Curious! And ready to do something!

They had me taking action. I clicked to “Learn More”, just as they said. What special mystery was I going to uncover?

Unfortunately, none.

Instead of a compelling landing page with a big headline further developing the promise from the advertisement, I saw this:

snip_BHG_poor follow-up


As my daughter would say, big oof.

Total let-down after the intrigue promised, and curiosity built up in my mind. And, because I’m not that special, I know that others also felt the same way finding that page. More potential clients did the same thing as I did – they clicked on a link, then immediately hit a wall. BONK.

BHG missed out on keeping my attention, by failing to match my curiosity sparked by the ad with the landing page.

Where’s the mystery? What was it that you couldn’t say to us? Did it somehow get buried behind that loan calculator? If I just randomly click through a few times, will I get there?


Believe me, I tried.

It’s all about loan payment calculation.

As if that was any kind of mystery at all.

I think BHG lost like 10 points with that exchange. And I raised my barriers to sale by a comparable amount.

BHG: -2

Mental Barrier to Sale: +10

Now, I’m winning. And I have a bad feeling about BHG because of it.

It felt like a bait-and-switch experience.

I was promised a mystery. I got a formula.

Who gives a flip about a formula? I don’t need BHG to do that. I can call up my current banker and get a projection of a loan payoff, if that’s what I want. Or need.

I wanted to know that secret that they promised. I wanted to know the unique, special, insider tip that I, and only I, as a visitor to their website, was going to profit from. I wanted that special feeling that I would have had if I’d been given the handshake to get me in to the secret club.

I didn’t get it.

So they don’t get my business.

All they get is derision and scorn here, for being so close, and yet, so far.

Could They Have Done Better?

You bet your sweet bippy they could. Here are some headlines and subheads that would have 1) grabbed the audience by the eyeballs, and 2) stayed consistent with the theme of the landing page.

You NEED to Expand Your Healthcare Business

Don’t waste a minute with overpriced bank loans.

Get Money, Make Healthy

Your healthcare business can do so much more. Let us help you finance it.

Do More, Heal More, Pay Less

Join the growing number of healthcare professionals transforming their communities and saving money at the same time.

Any one of these would have been both eyeball-grabbing and true to the resultant landing page. It might not have gotten quite as many clicks from potentially disinterested people like me, but those who did would be much more likely to continue their buyer’s journey in an appropriate state of mind.

Alternatively, they could have written a true landing page to capitalize on the mystery they generated with the ad. That landing page would have expanded the headline, established credibility, promised value, etc. All of those steps would have drawn me, as a reader / user, through the process of learning to trust the business on the other side (BHG) as a lending partner, giving me access to something I didn’t have before, or maybe an advantage over my competitors.

At the end, then, when you’ve gotten me sufficiently hooked, I’ll give you my credit score, address, and phone number, because you’ve actually given me a reason to.

Without it, you’re just wasting time for both of us. You didn’t get a quality lead, and I didn’t get to improve my position, solve my problem, or advance my own career.

That’s what I wanted. I wanted to fulfill my naked self-interest.

Instead, I got sold something completely unrelated.

You know how I feel about that?

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Better luck next time, BHG.

In Case You Missed It: Good Headlines Work

Headlines which suggest mystery, solve a problem, or eliminate pain are great for grabbing attention.

A word of caution, though: They are a necessary condition, not sufficient in and of themselves.

Appropriate follow-through is essential. Don’t miss out and let a potential prospect get away because you bonk the landing page. Your business can’t afford it.



Hey! If you don’t want to leave your audience disgusted at the way you follow-through on your headlines, give me a call. I’ll help you make sure your headlines have intriguing, attractive promises, and that you follow-through effectively. It’s the smart thing to do.

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