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Opening Act

If your headline falls flat, your audience may not stick around for the whole show.

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This story appears in the January 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Suppose you were in the cabinet-refacing business trying to sell your services door-to-door. You walk up to a residence, ring the bell, and when the surly homeowner comes to see who's interrupting his ballgame, you utter only two words: "Cabinet refacing." That's it. Or maybe you make it into a question: "Cabinet refacing?" Either way, you're going to get a door slammed in your face and never again believe a welcome mat.

I exaggerate to make a point. Merely identifying what you're selling is no way to sell it--yet many entrepreneurs take this route in their advertising, claiming that creative advertising is not their forte. I'm here to tell you that shouldn't be a concern. Early last year in this column, I did an emergency headline transplant on a brochure that had the cover heading "Corporate video services." I found out that the company, among other things, tries to interest medical professionals in promoting their various procedures via video. So I recommended a new headline that asked "Doctor, have you ever considered waiting-room videos to promote your services?" It's not cute, clever, witty or creative, but it piques the curiosity of the prospect in a way the original brochure never would.

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