Learn how prospects read mail

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Dean Rieck
Dean Rieck


I'm forever amazed at how out of touch some marketing people are with the way real people interact with ad messages.


Take direct mail, for example. To hear some marketing gurus talk, you'd think people camped out beside their mailbox waiting for the mail truck to pull up.

True, people like mail a lot more than they admit. But real people have busy lives. The mail is just one of a hundred things they have to deal with each day. You may spend weeks or months planning, writing, designing, print­ing and mailing. But the people on your list may only give it a few moments.

First of all, only about 20% will even con­sider reading your mail. No matter what you offer, no matter how you offer it, about eight out of 10 prospects simply chuck your mail into the trash with barely a glance.

Those who remain will give you maybe 15 or 20 seconds. They glance at headlines, subheads, pictures, captions, offer statements and other hot spots. They're not reading. They're scanning to see if your mail is rel­evant. About half conclude that it's not.

About 10% remain. These people start skimming. They look at bullet lists, charts, diagrams, tables, illustrations and bits of copy here and there. They're interested. But about half see something they don't like or don't see something they want.

You're now down to about 5% who look for confirmation that saying yes is a good decision. They read carefully. Maybe half will respond if you're really persuasive. More likely, a quarter or less. So out of every 100 people, perhaps 1%-2% buy your product.

Brutal? Yes. But that's reality. Think about this next time you start quibbling about the exact shade of blue you want or whether the seventh paragraph on the back panel of your brochure needs tweaking.

If you want to improve your results, don't spend most of your time where the people on your list will spend the least. To you, maybe, it's art. But to real people, it's a few seconds of their day. Get real.


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