Numbers (Arabic numerals such as 2, 15 and 783) are powerful fuel for copy and content writers. They can grab a scanner's attention; make your case faster with analytical-types drawn to numbers; and support benefit statements with credible detail.
Here are 14 quick tips for how to use numbers as a marketing tool. (Note: These tips probably don't follow the AP Stylebook or your company's style manual. Remember, they are from a marketer and for marketers.
1. Arabic numerals (e.g., 7, 10, 423) are easier and faster to scan than numbers written as words (seven, ten, four hundred twenty-three). Use them.
2. Numbers take up less space than words that reflect the same values. This is important when you're writing for social media and counting characters in subject lines. Examples:
7 vs. seven
10 vs. ten
423 vs. four hundred twenty-three
3. Monetary values shown in numbers with a dollar signs ($) are a faster read than those written in words. Here's an example from New York Life Insurance Company's homepage:
Payments to beneficiaries year-to-date: $1,578, 087,631
Payments to beneficiaries year-to-date: One billion, five hundred and seventy-eight million, eighty-seven thousand, six hundred and thirty-one dollars
Even $1 is easier to read and faster to process than one dollar.
4. Start sentences with numbers written as words: Two numbers next to each other are difficult to read which is why four 3-year-olds is easier to read than 4 3-year-olds. (A scanner might read the latter as 43-year-olds.)
5. Uneven numbers are more credible than even numbers that appear to be rounded off: 21 vs. 20. Consider the credibility of a nonprofit asking for a donation of $10.00 vs. $11.73 or $100.00 vs. $97.73 and supporting the specificity of the ask with detail. Test it and see what happens.
6. Percentages are easier and faster to read when shown with % vs. the word percent: 51% vs. 51 percent. (I know, I know. This drives anyone with a journalism degree crazy.)
7. Numbers support and illustrate benefit statements:
This life insurance is affordable.
This affordable life insurance costs $5.73 a week ... that's just 82¢ a day.
8. In the above example, notice the smaller the unit (day vs. week) the more affordable the cost is perceived to be (cents vs. dollars).
9. On the flip side, bigger numbers can be used to make people feel like they are getting a better deal. Which would you rather purchase-660 minutes or 11 hours of mobile phone talk time? When in doubt, test it.
10. Add a decimal with two zeros after it when you want a dollar amount to appear larger:
11. Conversely, drop the decimal and zeros to make the price appear lower:
Pay just $1/day
Pay just $1.00/day
12. There's power in the number 9 ... which is why prices frequently end with an 9 ($9.99, $49). Research confirms that these "charmed prices" can significantly increase sales. For more on this, check out William Poundstone's book Priceless, and this study done by researchers at the University of Chicago and MIT.
13. Kickstart readership, clickthrough and sales by using numbers in hot spots such as headlines, subject lines, outer envelopes teaser, buttons, Johnson Box copy, banner ads, twitter posts, Facebook ads, and landing pages.
14. Last but not least, test to see what works best for your audience, the context of your marketing message, and your business objective.
P.S. For more stealthy ways to influence how people perceive your numbers, check out this research by Virginia Tech marketers Rajesh Bagchi and Derick F. Davis. It's fascinating. And useful.