E. Haldeman-Julius never wrote a book, but he knew how to sell them. He sold literally millions of books in the 1920s. If a title didn’t sell over 10,000 copies a year, it went to a place in his office called “The Hospital,” where Haldeman-Julius gave it a new title. It the book didn’t break through with the new title, it went to “The Morgue.”

One of his books was first called Art of Controversy. It sold less than the 10,000-copy minimum with that title. Haldeman-Julius resurrected the book as How to Argue Logically, and sold over 30,000 copies. The contents of the book did not change. All that changed was the title – and its sales figures!

Another successful patient in his “hospital” was a book that sold only 3,000 copies when released as Patent Medicine. Haldeman-Julius simply added one magic phrase, and he found that The Truth About Patent Medicine sold a perfectly respectable 10,000 copies.

In fact, the phrases, “How to…” or “The Truth About…” have proven to be consistent bestsellers for marketers. Other winning phrases are, “The Facts About…,” “The Key to…,” “The Story of…,” and the all-important question, “Do You…?”

No matter what you’re selling, the most important part of your copy is its title or headline. Another legend of marketing, John Caples, wrote, “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. Therefore, unless your headlines sell your product, you’ve wasted 90% of your money.” He went on to say that your ad should offer a clear benefit to the reader, right in the headline, such as a “whiter wash” or “more miles to the gallon.” The content of your copy may be stellar, but if your prospect never reads it, where does it get you?

Today, some copywriters consider it hip to use clever headlines that make the reader guess at their meaning. If that’s your purpose, then so be it. But if the purpose of your marketing is to sell your product or service, forgo the trendy and tell your reader why they should continue to read and buy from you.

The magic phrases first discovered by Haldeman-Julius worked well, because they told readers exactly what benefits they’d receive from his books. They would learn to argue well, possess the truth about medicine, or get the facts they wanted.

Although short and simple is best in advertising, a long headline that really says something is much better than a short one that says nothing. One of the most famous headlines of all time was written by John Caples for the U.S. School of Music: “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano – but When I Started to Play…” You can adapt this ad to your own uses. It’s still being used effectively today.

Or follow the example of master copywriter David Ogilvy, who wrote out his headlines and practiced them on friends and family. He’s famous for this still-famous headline, “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in the new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock.” It was hugely successful and more than rewarded Ogilvy for the 104 other headlines his loved ones auditioned, before he came up with the winner.

You can use the wisdom of these marketing greats in your business today, no matter what your field. Try out your headlines on those around you. Remember to make the benefit clear to your readers. Play with Haldeman-Julius’ magic phrases in the title of your articles, reports or ad copy. With practice, you’ll come up with your own magic phrases that sell.

Author's Bio: 

Robert Greenshields is a marketing success coach who helps business owners and professionals who are frustrated that they're working too many hours for too little reward. Sign up for his free tips on earning more and working less at MindPower Marketing