Where Do “Breakthrough” Headlines Come From?

“Breakthrough”Headlines What Does That Mean Exactly?




As Brian Clark of Copyblogger says, On average, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” That means your headline isn’t just your audience’s first impression … it’s more than likely their only impression.


Where do “breakthrough” headlines come from anyway?  You know the kind of headlines that pop up, stop your market in their tracks, and compel them to read every word after it.


“The problem is most of us start out wrong because we start with us: our idea, our product, our service, our copy.…says Aaron Orendorff, Iconicontent.com……But……What if there was a way to systematically craft breakthrough headlines based entirely on your market”?


What if there was a proven formula to pull your prospects into your copy because it actually started with your prospects themselves?  And what if that formula worked because instead of coming from you, it came from inside your market’s mind?


In Aaron’s series……. The 3 Unbreakable Laws of Breakthrough Copywriting  he talks about the “5 to 10″ word” formula of legendary copywriter, Eugene Schwartz who says these words will make up about 90% of the value of your ad. Which means that the core of your copy, and in particular its headline, will always come down to 10 words or less.…..a single, all-consuming thought……that will make or break everything.


So where do all of these all-powerful words come from?  Not your product, not your service, not your copy, and not even you.




Where they really come from is your market’s mass desire.  But, harnessing these desires in your copy (especially in your headline) requires not only understanding what drives your market but understanding its “state of awareness.”  A market’s state of awareness is its consciousness — its emotional and intellectual grasp…..of two things: (1) its desire and (2) your product.



In today’s post I share where Aaron breaks down CopyBlogger’s “The 5 Types of Prospects You Meet Online, and How to Sell to Each of Them”  so you can see what each state means and how it applies to you so you can learn how to craft headlines from inside your market’s mind.  


State 1:  The Most Aware-(“Aware of Their Desire, Aware of Your Product.”)

  • Your prospect knows your product, and only needs to know “the deal.”
  • This is the most straightforward of all the states: The customer knows of your product — knows what it does — and knows he wants it. At this point, he just hasn’t gotten around to buying it yet.
  • If your market falls into State 1, then the content of your headline should be screamingly simple.
  • An aware audience is a captive audience.
  • They already want you; they just haven’t gotten around to buying you yet.
  • Get to the point … and stick to it.
  • To sell to prospects in State 1, you need do little more than remind them that you exist.
  • Next to crafting a straightforward headline, the most effective online tactic to accomplish this is what the geniuses over at I Love Marketing call the “Magic 9-Word Email.” Here’s the basic format:
  • Subject Line: Hi [Name]
  • Email Body:
  • Hi [Name],
  • Are you still interested in [Niche Product]?
  • Thanks,
  • Me
  • Stick to the basics: Present the product. Present the price. Close.


State 2: Product Aware-(“Aware of Their Desire, Somewhat Aware of Your Product.”)

  • Your prospect knows what you sell, but isn’t sure it’s right for him.
  • You display the name of the product — either in the headline or in an equally large logo — and use the remainder of the headline to point out its superiority.
  • An easy way to demonstrate superiority is to use one of the traditional 5 Ws:
  • Why is your product superior?-Focus on benefits, what the product does, gives, or provides for its user.
  • How is your product superior?-Focus on the actual use of the product, the product in action.
  • What makes your product superior?-Here, your headline should major on one feature (especially the newest or most novel feature).
  • Where is your product superior?-In what settings, contexts, or environments does your product perform? At work? At home? In the car? At the gym? In the rain? At the beach? (As always, be specific.)
  • When is your product superior?-Is there a specific time of life, time of year, or time of day in which your product outshines the competition?


State 3: Solution Aware-(“Aware of Their Desire, Unaware of Your Product.”)

  • Your prospect knows the result he wants, but not that your product provides it.
  • The prospect either knows, or recognizes immediately, that he wants what the product does; but he doesn’t yet know’ that there is a product — your product — that will do it for him
  • There are three steps to crafting a breakthrough State 3 ad:
  • In the headline … identify and present the mass desire. In other words, do not mention the product.
  • In the subheadline … intensify and/or “prove” that this mass desire can be satisfied.
  • In the body … focus on the specific feature or “mechanism” in your product that satisfies that mass desire.


State 4: Problem Aware-(“Unaware of Their Desire, Unaware of Your Product.”)

  • Your prospect senses he has a problem, but doesn’t know there’s a solution.
  • The prospect has — not a desire — but a need.
  • He recognizes the need immediately. But he doesn’t yet realize the connection between the fulfillment of that need and your product
  • What’s the difference between a “desire” and a “need”?
  • A “desire” is a clearly felt emotion centered upon a clearly defined goal that already exists in your market. That goal may be to avert something (as in the case of pain) or to acquire something (as in the case of pleasure). Either way, the market knows the goal exists and it has a strong desire to achieve it or avoid it.
  • A “need” on the other hand is simply a problem.
  • In State 4, your market is experiencing pain.
  • You might say all they’ve got is a suspicion. They think something’s wrong, but they can’t quite put their finger on it. All they know is: “This doesn’t feel good.”
  • As a result, State 4 is ripe for what’s known as the “fear-agitation-solution” formula.
  • In the headline state the fear.-Keep it short and to the point. To state the fear, you only need to say enough to show that (1) the fear is real and (2) you understand it.
  • In the subheadline and body enlarge the fear.-This is the step at which most marketers fail. In “agitation,” the fear from your headline has to get real … realer than real. It’s gotta get huge, hairy, and hellish.
  • In the conclusion present the solution (i.e., your product).-If agitation has done it’s job, than by the time you finally get around to the solution, the heavy lifting’s over. Just like the initial fear, present your product in as clear and simple terms as possible.


State 5: Completely Unaware-(“Unaware of Everything.”)

  • Your prospect has no knowledge of anything except, perhaps, his own identity or opinion.
  • In State 5, ignorance reigns.
  • The prospect is either not aware of his desire or his need — or he won’t honestly admit it to himself without being lead into it by your ad
  • This total lack of awareness creates a “psychological wall” that bars all previous strategies.
  • For State 5 markets, you cannot focus on the……
  • Benefits
  • Product
  • Price
  • Name
  • Desire
  • Features
  • Needs
  • Why?-Because your market simply has no attachment to these elements. They mean nothing to them. And (because of that) they generate nothing.
  • A State 5 headline is all about “identification.”
  • What you are doing … is calling your market together in the headline of your ad.
  • You are selling nothing, promising nothing, satisfying nothing.
  • You are telling them what they are. You are defining them for themselves
  • Your prospect must identify with your headline before they can buy from it.
  • It must be his headline, his problem, his state of mind at that particular moment.



So, the key to crafting breakthrough headlines?  Simply put: your market.  



Start today by asking yourself or even better, by asking your actual audience — two questions:

  • Is my market aware of their desire — the driving emotional force behind my product?
  • Is my market aware of my product?



Once you’ve got a clear answer to those two questions, go back to the state that matches and systematically apply its insights directly to your headline.



If you enjoyed this post and found TONS OF VALUE, please take a moment and share….Thank you 🙂


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To Your Success,
Joan Harrington

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0 Replies to “Where Do “Breakthrough” Headlines Come From?”

  1. Hi Joan,
    Eye catching headlines are must important to attract readers. If you have not eye catching headline, no one will notice you and you will never get any exposure.
    Any one follow your steps will surely get benefited.

    Thanks for sharing

  2. Very interesting article. I do know that catchy headlines get read more often than boring staement kind of headings. Unfortunately, I do not have the gift of the gab as they say.

  3. Good information. I struggle with (as far as my blogging) with determining what “my market” is. Who reads me, and why? I’ve gone as far as asking in blog posts, but rarely get feedback.

  4. Hi Joan,

    I have to say you have given me lots to think about…that’s a good thing! I always struggle with headlines. It is like a trial and error for me, but I do keep track on what works and what doesn’t.

    These helpful hints in this post has given me food for thought! I can see a bit more clearly how to crack open what I need to do. So now it is back to the drawing board for me.

    I just love it when I read a post like this that I can learn from and take action on…Thank YOU!


  5. That was awesome!
    Such clever psychology… and these principles obviously apply for all copy with a headline. It really is about matching the product to the mind of the prospect… and of course that is where targeting comes in, although I expect in any audience there will be people that fit into all those categories above.
    If you know who you want to attract, those are excellent guidelines Joan!
    Thanks 🙂

  6. Hi Joan,
    Getting and even coming up with eye-catching headlines is a challenge, no matter where you are in the online marketing space. Any attempt to provide simple solutions to this must be accepted by those who will benefit. I have learned many things from this and a lot to take away. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Hi Vinton,
      Yes I agree coming up with eye-catching headlines can sometimes be a challenge!! So glad you had some take aways from this post! Thank you for your awesome feedback 🙂

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