Make Your Marketing Materials More Powerful with a Double Readership Path
Have you ever been to a national park, or driven somewhere wild and
beautiful, and stopped at one of those scenic overlooks?
You know…those paved pull offs that provide a fabulous photo op,
plus a few signs explaining what you are looking at?
Since I spent years working for the Forest Service as a naturalist (I
actually have a degree in leading nature hikes and writing these
kinds of signs), and I’m a readaholic, I can n ever resist reading
Some signs grab my attention right off the bat. Others don’t.
Now, I’m the kind of person who will happily read the back of a
shampoo bottle. So it’s got to be pretty bad writing if I’m not
interested in reading it.
In college we spent hours analyzing what makes one sign more readable
than another (fascinating stuff). Now, as a copywriter and marketing
strategist, I still do the same thing everyday.
Interestingly, everything I learned about writing nature signs works
equally well for writing effective marketing materials.
And there’s one secret I learned that cranks up the power of your
marketing materials without fail…
The Double Readership Path
Everyone knows that people don’t read anymore, right? We’re all way
too busy for that.
Instead, if you’re like most folks (IE in a hurry), you skim and scan
to see if the materials at hand are interesting. If the information
is well written, and what you’re looking for, you might read at least
some of it.
Or, a quick scan might be all you need to find out what you want to
know. Then you’re off to something else in the blink of an eye.
When I learned to write signs, we were taught to handle this reading
behavior by writing a big, bold headline. Then a couple sentences in
a slightly smaller font. Then a subhead followed by more information.
Plus maybe a few photo captions.
That way, even if you only read the headline you’d get the idea. But
it’s also easy to read a little-or a lot-more.
Your marketing should work in a similar way. In the copywriting world
we call this “creating a double readership path” because you are
writing for both readers and scanners.
Sadly, most entrepreneurs are still writing only to suit readers.
Their sales letters and Web pages are filled with giant blocks of
tiny text. And there’s not a headline, subhead or bullet in sight.
They’ve forgotten about the scanners and skimmers altogether. And I’d
be willing to bet they’re losing readers’ attention—and a ton of
business—as a result.
Now some people, especially if they’ve studied Website copywriting,
are starting to figure out the double readership path secret.
They keep sentences short. They use meaningful headlines and
subheads. And they know how to write benefits-oriented bullets.
A few even use formatting tricks like highlights, underlines and
strategic bolding to increase scanability.
But most fail to think this whole concept through strategically when
they write. And that’s the key to making the double readership path
Because if you use these tricks willy nilly you can actually make
your marketing materials more confusing instead of less.
Let me explain…
Beware the Arbitrary Emphasis
A while back I critiqued an ad where the writer used every double
readership trick in the book. Unfortunately, there were so many
highlights, fonts and boxes it was hard to know what to read. Plus,
random words were bolded, italicized or underlined for no particular
reason, while critical info—like the guarantee—was buried.
The whole thing was totally confusing. And worst of all, even the
headline “Get your F*ree CD” was worthless.
The ad failed to tell me anything at a glance because I couldn’t tell
what to read first. I didn’t know what was on the cd… let alone who
would want it, or why I should order it.
The sale was lost long before I started reading because I couldn’t
skim it first.
Here’s the key to making the double readership path work… You have to
highlight only information that’s most important to your target
market—or to making the sale. And these pieces have to read well on
So even if all they do is read the headlines, subheads, bolds,
underlines and highlights, they get a complete story.
If you’ve done it right, your ideal client should get sucked in to
reading the rest of the copy too. And voila! The sale is halfway made.
© 2010 Stacy Karacostas. All Rights Reserved. www.success-stream.com
Practical Marketing Expert Stacy Karacostas specializes in taking the
stress, struggle and confusion out of growing your business. Get tons
of marketing tips and ideas, plus grab a copy of her info-packed FREE
REPORT “The 7 Deadliest Small Business Marketing Sins: Are You
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The Unchained Entrepreneur / SuccessStream