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Which Headline Worked Best?

February 9th, 2009 by Bob Bly

I received 2 different mailings, promoting 2 different options trading systems, from 2 different companies. The headlines were:

Mailing A–Why Most Trading Systems Don’t Work … and Never Will.

Mailing B–Profit from the Only Market Timing System That Has NEVER Failed — and Never Will.

Which do you think works best, and why?


This entry was posted on Monday, February 9th, 2009 at 10:29 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

67 responses about “Which Headline Worked Best?”

  1. Kurt said:

    That’s an easy one. I would have to say that when you tell them that “most trade systems don’t work and never will” you have defined a hurdle to overcome before they will invest with you. How are they going to believe that yours will work when “most never will”?

    So I would go with Mailing B – I do not love the line but at least it is positive and opens the door for less doubt of the viability of the product.

  2. gene said:

    A tells me what won’t work. B tells me what will work. I would rather know what does work. B

  3. dianacacy said:


    Profit promises a benefit I’m interested in – Only draws attention by letting the reader know this is about one of the few working out there.

    Strong curiosity.

    I’m not a financial writer and it’s my husband who studies this, so impression beyond curiosity and worth taking the time to read it, is beyond me.

    But A feels like an article that I’m just not going to take the time and follow through with reading the rest of the way and will trash it.

    For a non-financial person like me, B works so that I read it. If the rest of the copy follows through with what the headline promises, I’d then pass it on to my husband. Otherwise, it gets trashed.

  4. Alison Harrison said:

    I’m very surprised by the answers. I looked at the two headlines and thought well,obviously, A. B is way too hype-y and I’d discount it straight away as too good to be true.


  5. Carol Schiller said:

    The difference in opinions just reinforces what we all know, but often don’t take the time or money to follow though on: split testing is the only way to be sure which headline will pull better.

  6. Chad Kettner said:

    If I’m looking to read an article – I’d open “A”.

    If I’m looking to buy a system – I’d open “B”.

  7. Norio said:

    The first one is short, grabs my attention, is easy to read and isn’t trying to sell me anything (yet) so I’d imagine it would pull the most readers.

    The second one is obviously trying to sell me something, is longer, harder to read and is clearly trying to sell me something.

    I’d say option A definitely pulled in the most readers. Then it’s up to the rest of the copy to convert.

  8. SEO Copywriting | Daily SEO copywriting candy-Feb. 10, '09: clickable headlines & fun campaigns said:

    […] Which Headline Works Best? Ah yes, as marketing writers we’re always seeking to compose that perfect headline. We push boundaries, we test headlines, we measure results. It’s a work in progress. Read Bob Bly’s latest blog post and share your thoughts on which of the two headlines works better. […]

  9. Note Taking Nerd #2 said:

    Mailing A–Why Most Trading Systems Don’t Work … and Never Will.

    This headline speaks to what the World’s Greatest Stock Trader, Jesse Livermore calls… Suckers.

    In the book written about this man it was said he divided these suckers into three classes:

    1. Ignorant novices who know nothing, and know that they know nothing, but still want to play the market, Life span 3 to 30 months.

    2. Second-grade suckers or, as Livermore called them, semi-suckers, who get their information from suckers of an even higher grade. The have gone through the first phase of being suckers and have now moved into the second phase. They quote market aphorisms and the words of market sages. They are intelligent enough to play the game for a longer time than the basic suckers. Life span up to 42 months.

    3. Suckers of the third kind, who look for bargains, buy at the bottom, and wait for the rally. They do okay until they hit a stock that never rallies, or keeps declining.”

    This is where the 80/20 rule comes to play. Any segment of society falls into this equation.

    The NFL, Musicians, teachers, internet marketers… theres 20% of the segment who’re head and shoulders above everyone else and 5% of that 20 are elite.

    Then you have the 80% who are just average and there’s probably 20% of the 80 who are horrible.

    Knowing that the 80/20 rule will always replenish the 80% of what Jesse calls “suckers” there’s always room in a market for making the argument that “everything you’ve been told is wrong and here’s why…”

    Or… “It’s not your fault. Here’s why…”

    This man made 100 million dollars shorting the market in 1929 during the Great Crash. He kinda of knew his bidniz.

    His words are just as true now. Even though we aren’t as harsh as he was in calling the 80% who buy stuff but don’t make it work for them, “suckers”, headline A is one that speaks directly to this segment of the market.

    It’s also comforting to have someone just level with you and tell you the truth. Especially if it mirrors your thoughts.
    Note Taking Nerd #2

  10. Morgan said:

    Mailing A for two reasons: No. 1, it caught my attention with a pretty bold statement. I want to know more. No. 2, the mailing B headline lacks credibility.

  11. Derek said:

    It depends…

    Who’s the target market?

    The frame of mind of the receiver has a lot to do with which one I would pick.

    Are they traders now, or are they newbies?

    Have the been burned by the recent crash?

    Need more info. 🙂


  12. Frank Irias said:

    I’m with Option A. It’s intriguing. “Oh really? It’ll never work? I want to know more.” Option B sounds too gimmicky, too good to be true.

  13. Art Derfall said:

    A reads “only” and “most” don’t and never will, leaving open the possibility that theirs does with an expectation of reasons why.

    B treads into dangerous claims – “never will”, which should raise the interest of the SEC if it has jurisdiction, but that statement would get most investors to want to know why. It’s basically guaranteeing a return on your investment. I think B would win, just to read what backs up the over-the-top claim.

    By the way… a great book that will be be republished with updates in April – “How to Make Money in Stocks” by William O’Neil. It combines technical analysis (market timing via the charts)with fundamentals. His proteges usually win stock picking contests.

  14. Matt said:

    B for sure.

    A is a curiosity headline. for someone who wants to make money on the markets the headline doesn’t address if they do have a solution or not. It’s not totally on target. If I read that headline I’d probably put it aside thinking “maybe I’ll read that later” then forget about it.

    B is a benefit headline with specifics (“market timing system”). They claim to have a solution and can explain how it works. For someone who wants to make money on the market… it promises exactly the kind of thing they’re looking for.

  15. Michael Lockyear said:

    Definitely B.

    The reason is simple: A is negative, while B is positive. Readers are probably more interested in making profit(B) than learning how the will lose money (A).

    That said, I would probably hit the spam button if an email arrived in my inbox with either headline as the subject (even if I had opted it).

  16. Bob Bly said:

    Answer: These 2 headlines were not split test. But “A” was tested against a positive headline very similar to “B.” Results: A generate 3X more orders than B. Reason: it resonates with the skepticism the prospect already has in his head about trading systems that make big claims and then don’t deliver.

  17. Nvestgrrl said:

    I don’t think your results are correct, Bob. A variation of headline ‘B’ has been used repeatedly for several years now, with aggressive testing against it. The more specific the head, the better it pulled. Especially when combined with a graph. The only way I would believe ‘A’ won is if the ‘B’ variations finally wore out. This company is a very aggressive mailer.

  18. Bob Bly said:

    We are surely not talking about the same company. And for the company that mailed A against its control, I know for a fact that it tripled sales and became the new control.

  19. Nvestgrrl said:

    In that case, the company is blatantly copying a multi-million dollar mailer. (No objections here.)

    But the fact remains, the more specific headlines have outpulled for that product. I believe it is because users of this type of system are very data and statistics-oriented. Facts are like chocolate truffles for them. And the headline does not stand alone — it is accompanied by a detailed chart with callouts. A veritable orgy of information for systems traders.

    I happened on your post here because I’m trying to take the temperature of investment promo respondants right now. Are we in a dominantly emotion or dominantly benefit phase for investment direct response? There’s anger in the markets, but I know of a few email and mail controls that are quite benefit-specific.

  20. Ken Norkin - Freelance Copywriter said:

    I was going to vote for A since B is not believeable, especially in light of recent history.

    But if someone here knows that a variation of B has been used successfully by some direct marketer, I can’t argue with results.

    However, I would ask: when you say that one headline tested better than another, was the headline the only difference between the pieces being tested? Or was the copy also different — which I would think it would need to be in order to pay off the claim of the headline.


  21. Bob Bly said:

    Nvestgrrl: almost ALL the purveyors of trading software and systems use headlines that promise big gains and profits in specific percentage and dollar amounts. Therefore, when the reader gets your mailing, he has heard it 100 times before and his B.S. radar is triggered. Headline A worked because it complete disarms the reader — agreeing with what he is thinking when he gets your mailing (that most systems don’t work) and therefore making him trust you more. You cannot say that “A” did not work like gangbusters. I know for a fact it did, because I collected many thousands of dollars in royalties for writing it.

  22. mai said:

    for me as a commoner with a common mind, i will probably take a look at A than B. A doesn’t sound as boring as B.

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    This one is good. keep up the good work!..

  26. robert said:

  27. happy mod said:

    Definitely B.

    The reason is simple: A is negative, while B is positive. Readers are probably more interested in making profit(B) than learning how the will lose money (A).

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  31. foodle said:

    The explanation is straightforward: whereas B is positive, A is negative:
    I’d open “A” if I wanted to read an article.
    I’d choose option “B” if I wanted to purchase a system.

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