How Much Repetition Is Too Much?

Recently, I had a conversation with a client and an agency about sales copy. It was the agency staff’s contention there was too much repetition. I disagreed. Which got me to thinking: When is too much repetition, well, too much?

Recently, I had a conversation with a client and an agency about sales copy. It was the agency staff’s contention there was too much repetition. I disagreed. Which got me to thinking: When is too much repetition, well, too much?

When I refer to repetition, I don’t mean repeating a sentence word-for-word, but rather, rephrasing or reframing an idea in another way.

A strong idea or point deserves repeating. Why? People scan. Attention spans are short. And it’s repetition of an idea or unique selling proposition that reduces the chance that the casual reader will miss what’s most important. Skillful repetition of your idea builds long-term memory.

So why do some marketers think repetition is bad?

I think it’s because, all too often, marketers and their creative teams start to believe they are their own prospective customer and, thus, evaluate everything they read through that lens.

In addition, the marketer or copywriter has read the message multiple times, so it’s familiar — too familiar — to them. It’s not being read with a fresh set of eyes. So when they see an idea repeated, even when craftily reworded, it’s perceived as repetitious, and therefore it’s deemed bad, weakening the sales message.

In the not-so-long-ago days of the most successful of direct mail packages, where I had a hand in their creation, a strong idea would be:

  1. Teased on an outer envelope.
  2. Brought to life in a letter’s headline and lead (and probably repeated elsewhere, especially in a long-form letter).
  3. Stated in a brochure, lift note or other enclosure.
  4. And it sure as heck had better have been repeated on the order device …
  5. … and perhaps even snuck, yet again, into the guarantee.

Repetition starts the path to short-term memory which, as a minimum, is needed to clinch the sale. But well-crafted repetition — or reinforcement of an idea, positioning, or unique selling proposition — leads to forming coveted long-term memory. Long-term memory can succeed in converting a prospect into a paying customer. Better yet, with long-term memory of your idea or USP firmly in place, you increase the likelihood for repeat purchases in the future.

My advice: Don’t be afraid to repeat, or rephrase, a thought.

  • When using email, link thoughts from the subject line to the email copy, once opened.
  • For landing pages, use sidebars or other call-outs.
  • Video content can pass quickly — all the more reason to emphasize important points with repetition (and videos on landing pages should emphasize what the page says).

People scan. Their eyes dart around on a webpage or printed piece. Attention spans are short.

Don’t assume that one passing mention of an important selling message or concept is going to be quickly absorbed by the casual reader. It won’t. Repetition may feel too strong to the marketing team, but chances are your prospective customer is going to remember your message.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” is available on Amazon. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Fill in the Blanks: A Framework Where Strategy and Copy Writes Itself

A blank screen or sheet of paper is daunting when starting to conceive a strategy or write copy. There are formulas abound for getting started. But the framework I’ve found most impactful, based on experience and results, is …

copy strategyA blank screen or sheet of paper is daunting when starting to conceive a copy strategy. There are formulas abound for getting started. But the framework I’ve found most impactful, based on experience and results, is one that I have personally conceived and refined over the past years.

I use a seven-step framework to create copy strategy that aligns with how people naturally process information, think and lead themselves to a place where they give themselves permission to inquire, buy or donate. This is detailed in my new book, Crack the Customer Mind Code.

I used this framework once again last week when an organization called me in to meet about a troubled direct mail and online marketing program. I walked the team through the framework, and we were quickly able to identify the disconnect between the approach they were using and what they should be communicating instead. In an hour, a succinct “road map” was created. It became apparent why their recent marketing campaigns weren’t working, and in the second hour of our meeting, we wasted no time in talking through the implementation of a new copy strategy.

I use this framework when writing a letter, video script or content — virtually any copy that requires getting my point across with a story. With client input, we discuss and fill in the blanks in the matrix. The result is a framework that enables faster copywriting and testing.

Most importantly: The seven steps lead to short-term memory, and often the desired long-term memory that serves as the tipping point when the prospect becomes a customer (read how this framework creates new memory in The 3 Levels of Memory: Marketing’s End Game).

Here’s how it works: I create a matrix like the one below (download the PDF). I ask questions, and fill in the answers. Fill in the blanks in the right column and your strategy will reveal itself. Then use the information to start writing copy, and your message practically writes itself.

7-Step Framework for Creating Copy Strategy (opens as a PDF)

Gary Hennerberg gives you the details of his “Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” in his book, Crack the Customer Mind Code, available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways, and access to Gary’s videos where he presents them, go to CustomerMindCode.com

7 Reasons It’s Tough to Change Decisions

With each passing day, voters’ decisions are being made up, and not a lot is going to change their minds — no matter how much is poured into political ads. Changing minds is also a problem for direct marketers. The minds of our prospects are often made up before we have a chance to stimulate their emotion and present our message. Envelopes aren’t opened and are pitched. Emails go away in a click. The mind is …

FrustratedWith each passing day, voters’ decisions are being made up, and not a lot is going to change their minds — no matter how much is poured into political ads. Getting people to change decisions is also a problem for direct marketers. The minds of our prospects are often made up before we have a chance to stimulate their emotion and present our message. Envelopes aren’t opened and are pitched. Emails go away in a click. The mind is made up.

There are plenty reasons why our copy and creative hit roadblocks. Some days our message just doesn’t connect. We have to work smarter, and know that changing the mind is often an uphill climb. So today I offer seven reasons why it’s often tough to change a decision, along with ideas you can use to overcome each area of resistance.

  1. Childhood Experiences: At an early age, like a sponge, we start taking in information, all a part of life experiences. We take away feelings about many things. We form opinions to keep us safe. It’s the primitive brain. So make sure you consider how your product or service reassures and keeps your prospect safe.
  1. Long-Term Memory: Deep-seated long-term memories stick with a person for their entire lives. To minimize a bad memory, another memory must be created to neutralize it. It’s a tall order to change a memory of any kind. But if you’re going to get through, you must create a new positive memory, especially if you need to overcome a bad memory.
  1. Perception Rules: For some people, changing an ingrained perception is impossible, even if their perception is wrong. And when you probe more deeply, most people won’t recall why their perception rules exist in the first place. This one is tough to overcome, so acknowledge to your prospect that you’re challenging their perception.
  1. Internal Conflict: Reason and emotion are in opposition to each other. Emotion most often wins. You must interpret your offer for the metaphorical left brain, setting you up to win over with emotion in the right brain.
  1. Regretting a Past Decision: People reflect on past decisions that disappoint. Regret and remorse set in. A person’s gut reaction is usually a product of bias. You need to assure, likely in a guarantee, that you stand by your product and make things right, if necessary, so your prospect doesn’t dredge up past regrets.
  1. Intuition: Intuition is activated before our minds consciously understand, based on stored emotional memories that a person keeps secret in their sub-conscious. Therefore intuition often guides decision making without much conscious deliberation. Keep your prospect focused on your message and set up a logical flow so intuition doesn’t creep in and move your prospect off your message.
  1. Noise: With the noise of competitive marketing messages across media at every turn, the mind becomes confused and numbed, which results in sticking with a past decision. That’s why you must stand out. Have a strong unique selling proposition and use stories to solidify new long-term memory.

Like it or not, the human mind works in mysterious ways. Today more than ever, it’s tough to change a mind.

As for candidates, those who have led in polls and snag voter commitments early solidify their position. How? By expressing positions that make the voter feel good, whether the position is credible or not. Ultimately, whoever attracts the most raving fans wins, because it’s the candidate that makes them feel good about the future who voters will support. There’s a lesson here for marketers, too.

The 3 Levels of Memory: Marketing’s End-Game

Why Is long-term memory a direct marketer’s coveted end-game? Because our minds are wired to remember certain types of messages. If you want a favorable outcome, your marketing and sales success is more likely when you instill long-term memory in your prospects. Creating long-term memory enhances your ability to …

Tom Marin brainWhy Is long-term memory a direct marketer’s coveted end-game? Because our minds are wired to remember certain types of messages. If you want a favorable outcome, your marketing and sales success is more likely when you instill long-term memory in your prospects. Creating long-term memory enhances your ability to make the sale and close the deal.

In today’s world of relentless distraction, it’s become challenging for our marketing and sales pitches to stick. So for today, here’s a look at three levels of memory, and where you can plug in to channels and approaches that will help create long-term memory of you and your product.

For a couple of years I have become increasingly intrigued with new discoveries of brain research. Parallel to that research is my analysis of the brain’s pathways of thinking and decision-making, and ultimately how people move themselves to take action.

It’s my belief that to be successful now, you must first create at least short-term memory, with the most desired and successful level being long-term memory.

Synthesizing memory to three levels, marketers often begin with glance and forget marketing, moving to short-term memory, and the ultimate place you want messaging to breakthrough is with long-term memory about your organization and product.

In a post from earlier last year, explaining in detail why direct mail won’t die, I shared these three stages of memory:

  • Glance and Forget means that in seconds we forget what we just saw or read. The vast majority of social media and mass media, just to name a couple of channels, is just that: glance and forget. That’s why in these channels, repetition is key to move the prospect up the ladder to short-term memory.
  • Short-Term Memory evaporates in just minutes or hours. This may be just enough time to move a person to action, but with the risk that there may be a misunderstanding of your product leading to cart abandonment, underutilized product potential, or cancellations.
  • Long-Term Memory lasts several hours, a day, maybe a week, and in a few instances, a lifetime. Once you achieve long-term memory, your odds of closing the deal are significantly enhanced. Moreover, this is how your customer becomes an advocate and sticks with you in the long run.

How do you move your prospect to long-term memory about you?

5 Proven Ways to Create a Blockbuster Unique Selling Proposition

You’ve heard of USP. A strong unique selling proposition can produce more sales because it works to engrain new long-term memory. A proven way to differentiate yourself from your competitors is through repositioning your copy and design. If you haven’t examined your USP lately, there’s a good chance you’re not leveraging your unique strengths as strategically as you could. Here are five proven ideas to help you refine your USP and create a blockbuste

You’ve heard of USP. A strong unique selling proposition can produce more sales because it works to engrain new long-term memory. A proven way to differentiate yourself from your competitors is through repositioning your copy and design. If you haven’t examined your USP lately, there’s a good chance you’re not leveraging your unique strengths as strategically as you could. Here are five proven ideas to help you refine your USP and create a blockbuster campaign.

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate what repositioning a USP can do to skyrocket response. For client Collin Street Bakery, a number of years ago, we repositioned the product from what is widely called fruitcake to a “Native Texas Pecan Cake.” Sales increased 60 percent over the control in prospecting direct mail with a repositioned USP. For client Assurity Life Insurance, repositioning the beneficiary of the product, through analysis of data, increased response 35 percent, and for another Assurity campaign, response increased 60 percent (read the Assurity case study here).

First, it may be helpful to clarify what a Unique Selling Proposition isn’t:

  • Customer service: Great customer service doesn’t qualify because your customer expects you’ll provide great customer service and support in the first place.
  • Quality: Same thing as customer service. It’s expected.
  • Price: You can never win if you think your USP is price and price cutting (or assuming that a high price will signify better quality).

A strong USP boosts the brain’s ability to absorb a new memory because you’ll be seen as distinct from competitors.

Identifying your position, or repositioning an existing product or service, is a process. Most organizations should periodically reposition their products or services (or in the case of a non-profit, reposition why someone may be moved to contribute to your cause).

Here are five approaches I’ve used to better understand buyers, and create a repositioned USP to deliver blockbuster results:

  1. Interview customers and prospects. Talk directly with customers about why they have purchased or supported your organization. And for contrast, talk directly with prospects about why they didn’t act. You can interview by phone, but a better approach, in my experience, is in a focus group setting. Focus groups are an investment, so make sure you have two things in order: first, a completely considered and planned discussion guide of questions; and second, an interviewer who can probe deeply with questions. Key word: “deeply.” Superficial questions aren’t like to get what you want. Ask why a question was answered in a specific way, then ask “why?” again and again. Your moderator must be able to continually peel back the onion, so to speak, to get to a deeper why. Knowing the deeper why can be transformational for all concerned.
  2. Review customer data. Profile your customer list. A profile can be obtained from many data bureaus to review more than basic demographics, to more deeply understand your customer’s interests and behaviors. You need to understand what your customer does in their spare time, for example, what they read and, to the degree possible, what they think. Getting a profile report is usually affordable, but the real cost may be in retaining someone from outside your organization to interpret the data on your behalf, drawing inferences and conclusions, and transforming raw numbers into charts and graphics and imagining the possibilities. If you have someone on your staff who can lead that charge, another option is to have open discussions with your team as you review the data and to commit to describing the persona of your best customer. Make this an ongoing process. You’re not going to completely imagine and profile your customer in a one-hour meeting.
  3. Analyze only your best customers. As a subset of the prior point, consider analyzing only your very top customers. You’ve heard of the Pareto Principle, where 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. Over the years, I’ve conducted many customer analyses. I have yet to find exactly an “80/20” balance, but I have found, at the “flattest,” a 60/40 weighting, that is, 60% of a company’s revenue coming from 40% of its customers (this for a business-to-consumer marketer). At the other extreme, for a business-to-business corporation, the weighting was 90/10, where 90% of business came from just 10% of customers. Knowing this balance can be essential, too, to creating your position. If you were the organization who derived 90% of youir business from just 10% of customers, chances are you’d listen very closely to only those 10% of customers as you evaluate your position. In this instance, if you were to reposition your organization, you have to ask yourself at what risk. Conversely, in the 60/40 weighted organization, repositioning most likely doesn’t have the same level of exposure.
  4. Review prospect modeled data. If you are using modeled mailing lists, make sure you look at the subset of data you’re mailing for the common characteristics of your best prospect. Like the profile of customers (mentioned in the previous point), you need to transform the data into charts and graphs, to reveal trends and insights. Then have a discussion and arrive at your interpretation of results.
  5. Conduct a competitive analysis. Examine a competitor’s product or service and compare it to your offer. Be harsh on yourself. While conducting focus groups, you might allocate some of your discussion to your competitors and find out who buys from whom. As you look at your competitor’s products, make sure you analyze their positioning in the market. Much can be learned from analysis of a competitor’s online presence.

Follow these steps to smartly reposition your USP, and you’re on the way repositioning your own product or service that could deliver a new blockbuster campaign.