It’s Direct Marketing… but not as we know it

Website headers and subheads have a unique role

The mindset of online readers is different from any other medium. TV adverts interrupt the programme you’ve chosen to watch. The same goes for press ads, direct mail, poster campaigns… they’re distractions, imposed on you rather than chosen or sought.

In contrast most websites are found via a search engine, driven by someone looking for a specific business, product or service. Searchers have objectives firmly in mind. They’re task-oriented, intent on finding what they want.

So to be effective, website headers and subheads should address the needs of people who know exactly what they want. Which is very different from writing for traditional marketing, for instance press ads where you’re trying to steal readers’ attention from the editorial.

The bare bones – a visitor arrives at a website with three questions in mind:

  • Is this the right place?
  • Can I find what I’m looking for here?
  • Can I do what I want here?

In search of answers visitors unconsciously scan the screen, absorbing visually prominent elements – the headers and subheads – before deciding whether to read on.

So it makes sense for website headers and subheads to answer visitors’ three key questions clearly, frankly, fully, succinctly and confidently.

EXAMPLE: Planet Cocoa, a fictional online chocolate shop

What can people do there? Browse, test-taste and buy the world’s most exclusive hand made chocolate.

Off the top of my head, here’s one way to answer visitors’ questions succinctly, honestly and creatively. It makes clear up front that visitors can find out about, test and buy chocolate via the site. So their initial questions have been answered and, provided they’re in the market for exploring, tasting and buying chocolate, they’ll read on!

  • Header: Explore, taste and buy from the world’s greatest chocolatiers
  • Subhead 1: Browse a wide range of exclusive hand made chocolate
  • Subhead 2: Apply for your free ‘Choisir le chocolat’ taster gift box
  • Subhead 3: Buy the world’s finest chocolate (free UK delivery)