By Jeffrey Dobkin, marketing consultant, author, and professional speaker
Face it: most people sort their mail over the trash can.
This process works fast. Think back: you are a kid and a friend is showing you baseball cards for possible trades: gott’em, gott’em, need’em, gott’em, gott’em, need’em, gott’em. 200 cards, 50 seconds. Today’s mail…same thing. Bulk mail credit card offers, magazine subscriptions, insurance solicitations, penny stock hawkers all get the briefest attention before being trashed.
But, post cards add another dimension to the view-and-toss sorting process. Readership can be quite high, instantly. Because – it’s all right there, right in front of the reader–in his hand. Post card readership is actually defined by how great the creative is for your card. The fate of your card starts in the hand of the mailer, which I believe is you, isn’t it?
I call it “Glance Readership,” a term I coined, well… just now, to explain what happens the moment a post card lands in a reader’s hands. Glance readership is the less-than-2-seconds spent on reading your headline: 1 second on topic; 1 second on copy; and the blink of an eye on graphics unless they’re really dazzling.
Like an ad in a newspaper (remember them?) you only get a second or two–readership reviews can be brutal and end in the briefest of time followed directly by the sudden downward spiral or your mailpiece–and your money – into the circular file below.
Or, you can instantly get extremely highly-rated reviews and have your postcard placed in the pile of “read with the rest of the important mail.” It’s your choice. So…what’s it gonna be? Right now, you’ve got to ask yourself, “Am I feeling lucky?”
When your recipient gets a good look at the card, you get either opportunity. Pass or fail. The decision is immediate.
For us on the creative end of direct mail, it just can’t get any better. Buy the right list and get one of my cards into the correct reader’s hands: that’s all I ask–I’ll get him to read it. Your direct marketing agency will too, and if they can’t, find another agency–plenty of good ones out there. Or call me–I can use the money.
OK, so your potential reader is now standing there with your card in his hand and that, my friend, is where the chicken crossed the road…er, the rubber meets the road. Or hit the road, or something about the road. I forget–I have Alzheimer’s. But…at least I don’t have Alzheimer’s!
Here’s where you need to force the reader to read the card: compelling headline, followed by intriguing copy and great, great graphics. Spend a little more time and money here and what happens? The reader reads the card.
Now, some nitty-gritty. How to do it.
“Glance readership” is 100% based on your headline hook, appropriateness of subject to your audience, layout and graphics, and certainly the value created in your offer. Wrap all these elements in great graphics and now your post card is presented in a fast 2-second visual bite. Visually it’s the print version of flipping channels on TV. The audio version is the sound bits you hear on the evening news or promos for the shows on MTV; which, come to think of it, appear to be written by the same writers.
While each post card reader has his or her own mental preference files that compels him or her to stay tuned into your card, some commonalities exist. Wait. Wait just a moment. This gender thing of saying “Him or Her” all the time has got to go–it’s too clunky to keep saying “him or her, him or her,” – so let me clear this up. I’ll just place everything in the male gender until I get complaints from, well, you know…
Glance Readership & the first round of sorting
So right on the top, your headline needs to be great. If you have a good headline, ummmm–no. No! Here, good is actually not good enough. You need something more than just good, you need “exceptionally great!” Create this one line correctly, viola–instant maximum readership.
The first work-order of the day is to create an unbelievably great, maximum-interest headline so the reader stays in the copy and continues reading. That’s the goal of the headline, nothing more: keep the reader reading. No selling.
Since your opening headline needs to be G-R-E-A-T, use the Jeff Dobkin 100-to-1 rule for creating G-R-E-A-T headlines: write 100 headlines, go back and pick out your best one, and use that. Oh, you like this idea?! Plan to use it? OK, send me ten bucks. Yeah, each time you use it. And you’re getting away cheap. OK, just kidding. Just send $5.
The founding principle of high readership: Headline = Great, or else. The objective of the headline is to grab the attention of the reader and yank him into the copy. This is NOT the time you sell your product.
The first glance is the pivotal point in your presentation that the reader has no commitment to read further. He hasn’t invested any time in your copy; he isn’t intrigued by whatever you’re selling at whatever price; he hasn’t seen your electrifying offer; he hasn’t followed your storyline for 10 paragraphs and wants to finish the other three to see how you close the sale or the story finishes. Nothing. No commitment – right now you’re just another piece of paper with no heart, no soul. Man, these first 2 seconds are critical.
At first glance, the card can be tossed without regret if the headline sucks. Kindly recall that the reader has lots of other mail, and has years of practice of a fast standing-there-over-the wastebasket first sorting time. You need to instantly deliver: survive this cut or your mail piece suffers death-by-wastebasket. Along with your money. It’s the changeover point where your post card stops being an “investment” and becomes an “expense.”
The second round of sorting
Ok, like my first wife said about our marriage, let’s get past this. Oh well, I thought it was a good first week. Then I found out while only some women marry you for money, they all divorce you for it.
OK, so you and your post card made the first cut. Congratulations. Great graphics, hellatious headline, compelling, convincing copy; opulent, irresistible offer. Having survived the first cut following the “Glance Readership” rules, your card now sits comfortably at the reader’s desk with the rest of the “important” mail. Nice.
This “Second Look” opportunity gives your post card the luxury of more time now that the reader has taken it back to the comfort of his office, a comfortable chair, a couple of beers, some good smoke, and a little more time to invest. Or is that just me? Anyhow, to survive the first glance means the reader has made the decision he has an interest in what you’re selling or at least in what you have to say. Congratulations. Welcome to level two.
—Source: This is the first part of “Glance Readership,” a 3-article series written by Jeffrey Dobkin. Jeffrey Dobkin is a copywriter, speaker, and direct marketing consultant. Call for his free instructional booklet of direct marketing tips: 610/642-1000 or visit his Web site at www.dobkin.com