It doesn’t matter whether you think that people don’t read long copy, or whether you think that they do. Sooner or later, you will need a communication piece that simply cannot be done on one side of a postcard. When that happens, dig out this post and read it again.
People are people and they do certain things predictably. They will either read every word or they’ll scan distracted by each new item that catches their attention. If they’re reading a multi-page communication such as a magalog or a prospectus, if they’re left handed they will probably flip through it from front to back. But, if they’re right handed – as the majority of people are – they will probably flip through it from the back to the front. Know why? You use your ‘clumsier’ hand to hold it, while your more dexterous hand turns the pages.
This presents you with a challenge. Where is the most important part? Where should you put your main points? What will capture their attention most?
The answer is easy in theory, but becomes pretty complex in the execution. Fortunately, experts in the direct response industry have been there, done that and have created ways of handling that tricky issue.
First of all, you have to write the ‘story’ from beginning to end, building the involvement and interest level and eventually drawing to a conclusion with a call to action in all it’s variables. This means a good , strong headline that hooks the reader as well as easy flowing copy with plenty of proof and persuasion.
So far, so good. We’ve now catered to the person who reads every word and is left handed. What about the rest of the bunch? Well, for those, we have back pages and sidebars.
Typically, the back page should have a response device as well as a summary of major benefits, bonuses and calls to action. The sidebars should contain any information that needs to be highlighted in order to add credibility, value, urgency and desirability to the offer being made.
For instance, sidebars can contain many types of information from testimonials, expert opinions, statistics, summaries, additional resources, behind the scenes revelations… anything that can logically and emotionally add to impact of the offering.
I view sidebars in the same way that I view sub headlines. A reader should be able to glean the gist of your message from the headline and sub headlines. The same thing applies to sidebars when taken in total. A reader should glean enough information from the sidebars that they are motivated to respond irrespective of whether they’ve read the rest of the copy.
Does that make the rest of the copy redundant? No. The rest of the copy INCREASES the likelihood that scanners will read the sidebars. An analogy would be a retail store selling clothing: the more choice and inventory in the store, the more likely the customer is to find something they like enough to buy.
Next time you’re faced with that dilemma: short or long copy, remember the back page and the sidebars….