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Let me ask you something… when you happen to receive some correspondence, whether it’s a letter or an email, where do your eyes go first? If you’re like most people, you likely follow something known as the “reading curve.”

Understanding How the Reading Curve Impacts Your Marketing Efforts

The concept of the “Reading Curve” was first posited by Professor Siegfried Vögele in his work in direct marketing, which he literally wrote the book on (Handbook of Direct Mail—The Dialogue Method of Direct Written Sales Communication) in 1992.

One of the critical theories that Vögele shared was the importance of the first twenty seconds after a letter is picked up (or indeed, an email is received). The moments are some of the most crucial to your marketing endeavor’s success, as it is during those moments that the decision of whether to read the letter is made. 

Let’s focus on the last 7 seconds of this time after the letter has been opened and unfolded:

  • First, the recipient checks the letterhead for a logo.
  • Next, the recipient checks the date for when it was sent and double-checks that it was intended for them (and that the sender cared to spell their name correctly).
  • Then they either skim the correspondence to pick up on the main ideas or skip right to the bottom to check who it was who sent it.
  • Their eyes land on any message left after the signature—the post scriptum, or “P.S.”—to figure out what the letter was about.
  • Finally, they might go back and read the entire document.

Seriously, the next time you open a letter or check your email, pay attention to where you first cast your gaze.

Vögele was chock-full of marketing theories and insights, so make sure to leave a comment and let us know if you want to hear more about what he had to say as part of his Dialogue Method. Today, let’s narrow in on just one aspect of it: the importance of a quality postscript.

Why the P.S. Matters

If we go back over Vögele’s methodology for a moment, we can see that the first time any real attention is paid to the contents of the correspondence only happens once the reader’s eyes find a P.S. at the end of it. Vögele went so far as to explicitly give it a value in his book:

Over 90% of readers read the PS before the letter. It is the first sentence, not the last.

It's true: people love to see a letter with a P.S. included. Not only does it give them a quick means of getting to and comprehending your real message, reading it first actually serves as its own reward. This is due to something called the Zeigarnik effect, as it was first recorded by 1920’s psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik after observing how waiters in a café could remember an order until it had been paid for. We’ll cover this in a little more detail below.

So, considering that reading a P.S. first could effectively just be a habit for many people, it just makes good sense to devote some attention to it—and there are many different reasons why this can be considered good advice:

Your P.S. Can Hook Your Audience with Your Complete Offer

Okay, so we’ve already established that your P.S. message is likely to be amongst the first parts of your correspondence to be read in full. That’s just a subconscious part of human psychology. We tend to primarily retain the first and last parts of a message. Your P.S. addendum can serve as a useful summary of your message, persuasively urging your readers to do what you want them to do.

Your P.S. Can Serve as an Easily Understood and Influential Call-to-Action

Let’s continue to discuss the whole “the P.S. is read first” phenomenon, and why it is so often the case. This can be attributed to the Zeigarnik effect that we referenced above: basically, human beings are uncomfortable with leaving something unfinished, so we often try to “complete” a task as quickly as possible—even if that means skipping to the end of something and backtracking.

By seeking out the P.S., your audience is simply looking for the payoff to your letter first, so incorporating the CTA there can be an effective means of getting their attention.

Your P.S. Can Add a Sense of Urgency

First and foremost, your marketing goal should be to make an impression—not the simplest thing to do nowadays, with so many distractions and stimuli to compete with in daily life. By including a properly written P.S., you give yourself one last chance to grab the attention of your reader and leave them with something that will hopefully stick with them and drive them to do what you want them to do.

Your P.S. Can Help You Connect with the Individual Reading It

If nothing else, your P.S. message gives you another opportunity to personalize your message to your recipient… even if that personalization amounts to referring to them by name one more time. The very format of a P.S. just feels more personal, helping to make your marketing that much more effective. On that note, it also gives you a little more freedom to be creative with how you want to share your message.

Your P.S. Can Grant You the Opportunity to Provide an Added Bonus

Okay, so the body of your email is where your main offer should be showcased—maybe you’re trying to drum up interest in a service, or you have a special promotion going on that you’re trying to draw attention to.

Including a P.S. at the end gives you the opportunity to sweeten the pot a little bit for those who follow your CTA’s lead. Maybe you have a discount you can offer them if they mention the email, or a deliverable to provide anyone who visits your website and fills out a form.

Your P.S. Can Serve as a Testimonial

Social proof, as we have said time and time again, is a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. A P.S. gives you the chance to share what others have said in a way that isn’t so transparently a testimonial, which helps to motivate your contact into action as well.

Some Final Advice from Professor Vögele (AKA the Albert Einstein of Direct Mail)

In his writing, Professor Siegfried Vögele also shares a few practices that he recommends:

  • A P.S. should be about two to three lines long, although longer letters should have a longer P.S., or even a few shorter ones.
  • The crucial benefit or reward to the reader needs to be clear in the P.S.
  • Every letter should include a P.S., unless you know for a guaranteed fact that it will be read in full.

Let Us Assist You with Your Marketing Efforts!

Of course, while this all sounds well and good in theory, enacting it may not be nearly as simple—especially when your time is otherwise devoted to running the business you’re trying to market. That’s where we come in.

We can step in to help you manage every step of your marketing, from content creation to strategizing to materials processing. Reach out to us at 888-546-4384 to find out what our services can do for you.

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