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

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?