Understanding How People Read Your Direct Mail - Part 2

This is part two of our blog on Professor Siegfried Vogele's eye study: how readers look at direct mail. Today's post is on letter content.

Direct marketers know that we'll get better results when our prospect reads our letter. Duh, right? Unfortunately, readers don't do as we'd like, which is to read every golden word. Second best: seek out the "hotspot areas" of your letter and load your most compelling copy there.

In a nutshell, your reader will first look at their name (hopefully you've personalized your letter), address and salutation, then will go to the end of the letter to see who signed it, and from there to the P.S.

You can easily take advantage of this research to improve your own direct mail campaigns. Let's look at each area in the order your reader views them:

1. Your reader's eye pauses first on their name and address. What can you do with this knowledge? Make sure your data is clean. Correct any misspellings - the biggest way to turn off your reader is to spell their name wrong. After all, if you're marketing to a donor who has been faithful in gifting through the years, your job is to make sure their name is spelled right.

2. Then, they look to see who signed the letter. An interesting side note: when the signer's name is difficult to read, Prof. Vogele's team found that the eyes tended to go to it repeatedly, and body language indicated a negative response. Although it helps to have a printed name underneath, try to avoid signatures that are messy and unreadable.

3. After the signature, readers typically take in the P.S. Nine out of ten readers will look at your P.S. before moving back to the top of the letter. So this hotspot is where you should restate your reader's benefits or your offer. Don't write a tome, though. Keep it to two or three lines.

4. Your reader's eye will now move back up the page to any illustrations you may have in your letter. Drawings and pictures are another hotspot where you can be assured your message will be seen and read. The important fact to remember is to use illustrations (and captions) to stress benefits rather than your product or service. Also, put the largest of your illustrations at the top of the letter, to draw your reader's eye upward again from the P.S.

5. As the eyes skim downward, they will pause briefly at any highlighted or underlined text. While you don't want to go crazy with underlining, you  can use it to draw attention to important benefits, your offer or call to action.

Knowing where to put your most compelling copy will undoubtedly increase your response rate...and profitability.

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