Increase Post Cards Readership – The First 3 Seconds.
Surviving the Instant Readership Test For Your Postcard.
By Jeffrey Dobkin
Face it: most people sort their direct mail over the trash can.
This process works fast, like flipping channels on tv or sorting baseball cards: gottem gottem needem gottem gottem needem gottem. 200 cards, 50 seconds.
Todays direct mail, post cards in particular, same thing: Direct mail credit card offers, magazine subscriptions, direct mail insurance solicitations, and junk mail with shitty offers from Comcast and Verizon all get the briefest attention before being trashed.
But wait, there’s more! Post card marketing adds another dimension to the view-and-toss direct mail sorting process. Create your card right, and post card 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 defined by how great the direct-selling copywriting and graphics are for your card. So the fate of your direct mail post card starts in the hands of the creator, which I believe is you, isn’t it?
I call it “Initial Glance Readership;” a term I coined, well… just now, to explain what happens the moment a reader glances at your direct mail post card that has just landed in his hands.
This defines the 3-seconds readers spend upon their initial glance at your post card: one second on headline and topic, one second on copy and the blink of an eye on graphics – unless they’re really dazzling.
Hummm… it’s the same as in life!
Like, when you meet a new woman: one second on headline and topic, two seconds on uh, copy, and a blink of the eye on graphics. Unless they’re all dazzling, then you take a longer look.
Hey, maybe this is a pattern of ALL life, you can describe everything by this phrase? Wow, this is like discovering plutonium…
Maybe I’ll get a medal for this discovery! The Nobel Peace Prize – yes, I’ve always wanted one of them, especially since Obama received one for doing, well… I’m not sure – so they can’t be that hard to get.
Or a Pulitzer! Yes, for writing this direct marketing article! OK, I’m pretty safe here saying this won’t happen.
Or, maybe, just maybe I’ve just discovered all this here writing is just a soliloquy for my own life? Help me out here, wouldja…
Glance readership of a post card is like seeing the headline of an ad in a newspaper (remember them?): you only get a few scant seconds to capture the attention of a fleeting reader, before they continue on to the comics or the TV page. Or is that just me?
Post card readership reviews can be fast and brutal and end in the briefest of time with failure resulting in the sudden spiral of your direct marketing mail piece directly into the circular file. As your money follows suit. Ouch.
Or, you can get an extremely high-rated review and have your post card read instantly, or placed in the coveted pile of “read later with the rest of today’s important mail.” It’s your choice. Right now, you’ve got to ask yourself, “Am I feeling lucky?”
Postcard Rule Number 1.
Write and design everything in your post card for the first few seconds.
When your recipient gets a good look at your post card, you get the immediate opportunity of pass or fail.
So… what’s it gonna be, sailor? Instantly read or tossed? Coveted “to read later” pile, or circular file? Yea, or Nay? Success, or failure? Prosper, or fludghum? OK, I might have made that last word up, but you get the idea, and the reader’s decision is immediate. Your choice.
Look on the bright side:
For us on the creative end of writing and designing post cards and direct mail, it just can’t get any better: clients buy the right mailing list and get their post card into the correct reader’s hands. If I’m writing and designing the card, 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 – writing post cards is a favorite pastime of mine, right up there with monopoly or tractor racing – but it pays better. A well written and well designed post card can enjoy exceptionally high readership – and get exceptionally high response.
OK, so your potential reader is now standing there with your wonderfully written, dazzlingly designed, properly prepared post card in his hot hand and that, my friend, is great alliteration. It’s where 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!
Postcard Rule 2: Force the reader to read your post card.
How? Compelling headline. Followed by intriguing subheadlines. With excellent lead sentences and brilliant body copy and great, great graphics. I’m sniffing “instantly read” here.
Spend a little more time (and money) here and what happens? Yes, instant read or the “definitely read later” pile, as outlined in paragraph 6a above, subsection 254, paragraph 20. The reader brings the card to his desk, and with no other option handy, reads the card you forced him to read.
Now, some nitty-gritty of how to do it.
“Instant readership” is based 100% on your headline hook, appropriateness of subject to your audience and the dazzling graphics of your layout.
It’s followed shortly by the value created in your offer, if they get that far. Wrap all these elements in sparkling printing and nice paper and now your direct mail post card presents itself in a fast 3-second visual bite.
Direct mail post cards are the visual versions of the sound bites you hear on MTV or promos for the evening news; which, come to think of it, appear to be written by the same writers.
Designing and writing post cards for instant readership has the singular objective of drawing the reader into the card, no more, no less. No, no selling at this time.
On the immediate receipt of your post card, each reader has his or her own mental preference files that compels him or her to stay tuned into your card, yet 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 once and for all. I’ll just place everything in the male gender until I get complaints from, well, you know…
Whiners! Yea, until I get complaints from whiners. What were you thinking I was going to say? Son of a gun, did you think I was going to say… women. How dare you. Do you think I’m a male chauvinist pig. I say to you, good sir, are you a chauvinist pig? So, why would you think I am? Of all the nerve…
Hey, do you know how many men it takes to change the toilet paper roll? No, me neither.
If your wife wants to learn how to drive don’t stand in her way.
If you want to know why they’re called the opposite sex, express an opinion.
If you want your wife to listen, talk to another woman.
Just kidding. I married a wonderful woman. And that’s not just my opinion… it’s hers. These one line jokes are from the e-book “Life’s Too Short!” by Danielle Adams Publishing. Just $9.95. 160 pages of jokes, one liners and quotes about man’s favorite subject: women. Please contact me by email if you’d like to buy a hard copy (+$5 shipping) – it makes a great gift to your wife on her birthday! Also good for bachelor parties, your bathroom, and for friends you go drinking with. Order several – I need the money.
Post Cards: Instant Readership & the first round of sorting. How-To:
So right there in the top section of your post card, as in all highly responsive direct mail, your headline needs to be great.
If you have a “good” headline, no! That just won’t work. Strangely, here “good” is actually not good enough. You need something more than just good, you need great!
Actually you need G-R-E-A-T!
Create this one line correctly, viola – instant readership on a maximum level. That’s how important this single line is.
So the first work-order of the day is to create an unbelievably great, maximum-interest headline so the reader is instantly hooked into staying in the copy and continues reading.
Postcard Rule 3.
The goal of the headline: keep the reader reading. Nothing more. No selling. Just create interest.
Postcard Rule 4. Invoke The 100-to-1 Rule:
Since your post card 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 (as found in Dobkin’s book, “Uncommon Marketing Techniques”): write 100 headlines, go back and pick out your best one.
Oh, so you like this idea! Plan to use it? OK, it’s copyrighted. Send me ten bucks. And you’re getting away light. OK, jest kidding. (get it? Jest kidding!) Just send $5 bucks. Make that a Starbucks Card – they were going to get it anyway.
Postcard Rule 5.
The founding principle of high readership: Headline = G-R-E-A-T, response = G-R-E-A-T. Headline = good, response = good. Headline = mediocre… well, you get it.
The objective of any direct marketing post card, letter or in fact any direct mail headline is to grab the attention of the reader and yank him so far into the copy that if he throws your direct mail piece into the trash, he’ll come back later and route though the trash to dig it out.
Yes, and the definition of a R-E-A-L-L-Y G-R-E-A-T headline is: the reader digs it out of the trash even though he dumped his kitty litter in there on top of it. Is your post card headline really that great? Does it past the kitty litter test?
Postcard Rule 6. The headline is NOT the time to sell your product. Here’s why:
The reason? The first glance is a pivotal point in your presentation because the reader has no investment of time in your direct mail piece, so there is no commitment to read further.
Initially, your recipient isn’t intrigued by whatever you’re selling, at whatever price; because he hasn’t seen your electrifying offer, hasn’t seen any of your product benefits, and hasn’t followed your compelling story line for 10 paragraphs and wants to see how your storyline finishes… or your price.
So right now, at this first glance – nothing: no commitment, no involvement – right now you’re just another blah blah piece of direct mail; a piece of paper with no message, no heart, no soul. Man, these first 2 seconds are tough. And critical. And without any involvement, all readers are ruthless.
If the headline sucks at first glance the card is tossed without regret.
Kindly recall the reader has lots of other mail, and has years of practice at “getting fast”” at his standing-there-over-the wastebasket first sorting time.
Death by Wastebasket
You need to instantly connect and deliver: survive this cut OR your direct mail piece suffers death by wastebasket. Cruel. The Cruelest death of all. And buried along with your post card, your money. Whoa… Crueler still.
Postcard Rule 7. The rule of readership survival.
The rule of readership survival as it relates to all direct mail including letters and post cards: it’s the critical changeover point where unless your headline, copy and graphics are great, loss of readership stops your post card from being responsive. What’s it gonna be – Good headline. Or great headline. Good graphics. Or awesome graphics. Your choices.
The second round of sorting: The Second Look.
Ok, enough blah blah about Instant Readership of post cards. Like my first wife said about our marriage, let’s just get past this. Oh well; I thought we had a pretty good week. Evidently she didn’t think it went that well. But opinions are like smelly feet – everyone has their own. I then discovered while only some women may marry you for your money, they all divorce you for it.
In reality – where I virtually think we live – I don’t think my wife married me for my money. But then, she didn’t have another way to get it.
OK, so you and your post card made the first cut. Congratulations, y’old direct mail guru. Great graphics, hellatious headline, compelling, convincing copy; opulent irresistible offer.
Having survived the first cut following the “Instant Readership” rules, your card now sits comfortably at the reader’s desk with the rest of the “important” mail. Nice. But you’re not out of the woods yet. Simply check your balance sheet to prove this seemingly minor point.
This “Second Look” opportunity gives your direct marketing 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, a couple more beerskies and a little more time to read it. Or is that just me? Anyhow…
To survive the first glance means the reader has made the decision he has an interest in whatever you’re hawking, or at least in what you have to say. Congratulations. Welcome to Level II. Readership. Level III — generating a phone call is still two articles away.
This is the first part of “Instant Readership” – A 3-article series on creating effective direct mail post cards.
Abstract: Direct mail post cards make sense in today’s bludgeoned economy. They’re cheaper to print than a full direct mail package, and post cards are easier to handle, and less costly to mail. Like most direct mail campaigns, post cards can be tremendously effective at generating maximum response from your target market if you create the cards correctly.
Bio, Jeffrey Dobkin: If you’re struggling with poor response from your direct marketing campaign, you can get help fast. Get great results by reading practical how-to marketing tips. Increase your phone calls – and customers – receive articles you can trust by Jeffrey Dobkin: Sign up for our email. We won’t overbear you with blah blah, and safe-unsubscribe anytime.
Dobkin has written 4 books on direct marketing including the cult classic, How To Market A Product for Under $500! that feature his practical marketing tips and successful direct marketing methods, all written in his own brilliant conversational style, just ask him. Jeffrey Dobkin can be reached at The Danielle Adams Publishing Company, Phone 610-642-1000. Read more of his articles on this website and lose weight. Just jog while reading them.