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Do Your Headlines Pass the Mother-in-Law Test?

I was on a call the other day with Andy, one of my Google Ads coaching clients, and he said he was having trouble coming up with a good headline for one of his landing pages.

The original version that he was trying to improve on simply had a factual statement about the product and did not contain any benefits. It just said:

[PRODUCT] is Here!

The improved version that Andy wanted my opinion on said: 

Implement [PRODUCT] to Manage the IT Skills of Your Workforce

I agreed this was better than the original, because it contained a clear benefit about being able to manage the IT skills of employees. But I felt there was still something missing. The trouble was I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was.

And then it dawned on me. 

Andy's headline didn't pass the mother-in-law test!

What is the Mother-in-Law Test?

The mother-in-law test is named in honour of my wife's mother. She's a lovely woman (who I've just realised may end up reading this!) but it's a well known fact that her favourite response to even the most sensible or obvious suggestion is to utter the word "Why?" in a tone that implies you've just come up with the most ridiculous idea ever.

A good value proposition or headline is one that leaves no room for anyone - not even my mother-in-law - to ask the dreaded "Why?" question.

And that was the problem with Andy's headline. It begged the question: why would I want to manage the IT skills of my workforce?

To close this loophole we needed to do two things. First we needed to stop assuming that everyone would think that improving a workforce's IT skills was automatically a good thing. And then we needed to focus on the outcomes of having a workforce with better IT skills.

Tell Me Why

There's no doubt that implementing Andy's product does indeed improve the IT skills of a company's workforce. But what are the reasons why it's a good idea to have a workforce with good IT skills? 

Will it increase profits? Reduce costs? Improve efficiency? Put us ahead of the competition?

Once I started challenging Andy with these types of questions it became clear what the real benefit of the product was. In a world where around 30% of IT projects fail, having an IT-skilled workforce will greatly increase the chances of your IT project being a success and coming in on time and within budget.

And with that established, it became pretty simple to re-write the headline for the landing page like this:

Implement [PRODUCT] to Ensure Your IT Projects Work First Time Every Time and are Delivered On Time and Within Budget

Now that's something that no-one (not even my mother-in-law) can argue with!

In Conclusion

So, next time you're writing a headline for a landing page or any other marketing material, ask yourself:

  • Does my headline really convey the full benefits of my product or service? 
  • Is it focused on the final outcomes that my clients will get if they work with me?
  • And, most importantly, does it answer all those "why" questions?


About the Author David Miles

As a digital marketing consultant, author and trainer, I specialise in helping businesses in the financial services and healthcare sectors use the internet to get more enquiries and increase profits.

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