It’s time to master the headline, to get it right where the copy counts most by paying attention to those critical words that appear at the top of your email messages, whether they are viewed on desktops, laptops, tablets or mobile devices.

Why the headline? Because it’s part of the series of yeses it takes to work through the stages of getting someone to open your email. They start at the From name, then consider the subject line, then check out the Preview Pane and initial glimpse of your email…which includes your headline.

Plus you need great headlines on your landing pages, to smooth the transition from email to landing page and keep people moving forward toward the goal you want, whether that’s a registration, a purchase or something else.

The headline appears at the top of your email or landing page and has the job of leading the reader down into the text, or at least leaving them with an accurate–and lasting–impression of what this email or page is about. The best headlines will grab their attention, give them a hint of what’s to follow, and make them want to learn more. It’s worth taking the time to craft the best headline possible. Without the headline doing its job, the body of your email doesn’t matter.

To help you master the headline and get the words right where they count most, here are five techniques to try.

1. Go ahead: Write outside the box.

What I mean is, get a little crazy. It’s by going out of bounds that you sometimes find the best ideas. So go for it: Brainstorm and brain dump. You might find a diamond among all that rubbish. At this stage, don’t think about what’s good or bad, right or wrong. You are only looking for new ideas and fresh approaches to what might be rather stale for you.

2. Refine and focus it.

When refining that email headline, however, after the brainstorming, keep it focused. Remember that your headline doesn’t have to tell all or sell all…it only has to get your reader to the next stage, farther into your email message.

3. Give your headline a helping hand.

If you have the space, use a subtitle too. This post is called “Master the Headline” to get your initial attention and tell you right away in just three words what to expect. Then I added “Getting It Right Where the Copy Counts Most” to tell you a little more…and entice you a little deeper.

4. Talk their talk…not yours.

Be sure to use your customers’ language. A catchy headline using insider lingo might be off-putting to the customer who doesn’t “get it.” If you’re selling cubicles, don’t use the word workstations in your headline, for example. Those pieces of office furniture might be workstations to you and your sales staff, but not to your audience. Although the meaning will be the same, the recipient won’t know it, and the headline likely won’t grab their attention, or interest.

5. Test.

As with anything email marketing, test, test and test again. Run A/B split tests with different headlines, both for your email messages and your landing pages. Constantly test and refine. You might hit on a formula for headlines you can use again and again! At the very least, you’ll be optimizing those words, and those few words must be the best they can be to intrigue and compel people into your email.

Even if a recipient chooses not to read your entire email, your headline should at least make some kind of impression, so they click away with a seed planted, whether it’s about your brand, your message or your offerings.

Use these for better headlines, but try these techniques for improving your subject lines too. After all, it’s your subject line that will get someone to notice your headline in the first place!

About the Author: Marco Marini is the CEO of ClickMail Marketing and an acknowledged expert in email marketing with over a decade of experience in the field. Follow ClickMail on Twitter: @ClickMail