Using “Points of Entry” to Capture the Prospect's Attention … and the Sale

When you read a direct-mail package, notice how the designer guides you through the copy … exactly where he wants you to go. Like an invisible yellow brick road, you follow a specific path that leads you from page to page and element to element, until you arrive at the final destination – filling out the order device and signing the check.

One of the ways a designer creates this path is by using “points of entry.” These are graphic and text treatments that show you where to start reading. Let's take a look at points of entry that can be used in a variety of projects, including sales packages, brochures, newsletters, magalogs, magazines, websites, and more.

  • White space – Entering a crowded room of strangers can be intimidating … and so can looking at a page filled with too much text. While it's tempting to get as much information on a page as possible, it's important to give the reader's eyes some relief.

    White space offers this relief, and it also helps hold the reader's attention. A good way to judge whether you have enough white space is to hold the page at arm's length and squint. If the page seems gray and cramped, you'll want to add some breathing room with white space.

  • Color – Color sets the mood of your publication – from fun-loving to formal. It also attracts readers. Readership increases as much as three times when a second ink color is used. And one excellent way to use it is to set off points of entry such as pull quotes, headlines, subheads, drop caps (capitalized letters at the beginning of paragraphs that are two or more lines tall), and graphics.

  • Kickers – A kicker is a line of copy in smaller type that's placed above the headline. Kickers are generally used for regular features in newspapers, newsletters, and magazines. They help readers quickly find editorials, news briefs, updates, etc., while allowing the writer to create a new headline each time. But you'll also find a type of kicker in direct-mail pieces. In DM, kickers (also called pre-heads) are used to add credibility or an additional benefit to what's included in the headline.

  • Decks – Sometimes called large subheads, decks are lines of copy that go under the headline to provide more information or to attract attention. An effective deck guides readers into the body copy before they even realize it.

  • Headlines and subheads – These are some of the strongest points of entry – especially when you put them in a second color. You can also center them on the page to make them stand out from the text even more.

  • Captions & pull quotes – Any time you use a photograph, include a caption. Captions help explain the photo … and they should also help move the sale along. A photo of a book with a caption that says “Yours Free!” can't help but get attention. In addition, a pull quote every page or two can redirect wandering interest.

  • Text treatments – The copy itself can be designed to guide readers through the message. You can start the letter or article text with a drop cap. You might put the first line of the first paragraph in italics or bolding. You can also add indents at the beginning of each paragraph, and extra leading between paragraphs. Remember to use text treatments sparingly and purposefully. Long underlined or italic chunks of text are very hard to read.

These are just a few ways you can use points of entry to pull readers into the copy … and keep them on the path you've paved for them.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: January 12, 2006

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