Five Ways for the Letter to Overcome Short Attention Spans
2. Make It Quick, Even if It’s Long
The trick to overcoming the perceived attention-span problem is to make a letter a quick scan, suggests Greenawalt, who says that the important words and ideas must pop visually.
She lists these examples: a great Johnson box, easy-to-spot subheads, underlines, highlights, color and handwritten margin notes, short phrases, short paragraphs, and a repeat of the words you want heard.
3. Make Sentences Short and Sharp
What about the letters with apparent flab? “Only badly written letters have flab. People who don’t know how to sell tend to write long sentences and to use proper grammar they learned in school,” asserts Greenawalt, who urges copywriters to write the way they talk. “If your ear can catch it, your eye can catch it,” she says.
Heidi Wells, copywriter and owner of Direct Marketing Creative Services in Chicago, states that the long, drawn-out openings don’t belong in today’s mail piece. “In general, if a letter doesn’t get to the point right away, the target will tune out,” she explains.
4. Distinguish Between Soft and Hard Offers
Of course, length and content also depend on the offer. “For subscription marketing soft offers, we’ve had lots of success with single-page letters,” acknowledges Todd Lerner, copywriter/designer and owner of Todd Lerner Advertising in Farmington Hills, Mich. Because he figures the prospect is getting a free issue to check out, the letter can be kept short and sweet—with the letter imploring the prospect to simply return his enclosed card and experience the magazine for free, then briefly talking about the benefits and features of the publication.
For hard offers, it’s a different story for Lerner. “What seems to be working these days are official/transactional-type packages with no letter at all,” he shares. He does, however, like to add a personalized, letter-like paragraph or two onto the form when he can, and sometimes he’ll test a little memo insert.