Spruce Up Marketing Materials
with the 30-3-30 Rule

By Debra K. Traverso

Copyright 2007 by Debra Traverso, OneCall
All rights reserved in all media.

The content of this article may be forwarded in full without special permission provided it is used for nonprofit purposes and full attribution and copyright notice are given. For all other purposes, contact Debra Traverso at dtraverso@makejustonecall.com.

One of the most powerful marketing "rules" I learned in graduate school is the 30-3-30 Principle. Stupidly, I expressed doubt in the too-simple concept at the time, so my professor used that as license to assign me extra work in the form of a research project. Let's just say that one month, 240 people, and six focus groups later, I begrudgingly admitted that my professor's advice and the rule was valid—that when presented with marketing materials (newspapers and magazines too), readers immediately became either a 30-second reader, a 3-minute reader, or a 30-minute reader.

What's more, 30-second readers can move on to become 3- or 30-minute readers if the information gleaned in the 30-second review motivates them to do so, thanks to crisp headlines, short copy, and easy-to-digest bullet points. (Of course, the 30-3-30 can become 10-1-10 or other weighted equivalents depending upon the length of the piece; the point is that you have three types of readers.)

That's powerful knowledge for any REALTOR® trying to write effective brochures, booklets, pamphlets or fliers about their services. Oddly enough, while most of the communication theories I learned in grad school have long escaped my memory, this rule remains etched in my brain, and has proven its worth time and again through the years.

So how do you apply the 30-3-30 Principle? And, for that matter, how do you write killer copy that gets results with each of the 30-second, 3-minute and 30-minute readers? Below are some tips to use with this Principle. (For ease and brevity throughout, I'll refer to all marketing pieces as "brochures.")

1. Use Loads of Headlines and Subheads (secondary headings)
Your 30-second readers are going to give your brochure just that—30 seconds. If you want them to grasp something from the brief effort, you better make sure your headlines do two things: (1) collectively tell your primary message, although in abbreviated form, and (2) tease them into becoming 3- or 30-minute readers.

2. Write Complete Headlines
If your brochure is short with lots of white space, AND it's well-written, chances are you can use headlines that merely tease readers to read more. However, if your brochure is long and you're in doubt about prospects reading it, then you should make your headlines as complete as possible. For example:

"Shoot for the Stars"—This vague headline can't stand alone and tells nothing useful. Readers might wonder if you're writing about a product (astrology book), a service (planetarium show), or career training (for astronauts). Instead, make the intent clear: "Shoot for the Stars—Let's Find Your Dream Home!"

3. Keep Prospects in Mind
The unspoken intent of most marketing pieces is to capture readers' attention and subtly convince them to part with their money in exchange for your wonderful services. Why then, do most marketing pieces read like a tome or egocentric tribute to their creator? When it comes to marketing materials, it's not about YOU, it's about THEM.

As such, your writing should focus on prospects, and clue them in on the results they'll get and how they'll benefit from doing business with you.

Consider: What are the screaming, burning, churning obstacles and problems prospects face? What are the fears and frustrations they experience when working with agents? What do they need to know to deal successfully in real estate? What results do they want when all is said and done (they've bought or sold a property)? Present your solutions in writing.

4. Start out with a Bang
Move the best, most powerful, most compelling information to the beginning. Remember those 30-second readers you've just turned into 3-minute readers? If you lose them because of uninteresting ho-hum stuff at the beginning, they'll never become 30-minute readers.

Take a lesson from journalists—they place the most important elements of a story in the first paragraph. Each subsequent paragraph carries information of lesser importance as the story grows in length. This allows a story to be cut at any point to fit available space, yet still present the essential information. It also allows readers to absorb the most important information should they decide to stop reading.

5. Be Brief.
Writer Robert Southey said, "If you would be pungent, be brief; for it is as with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn."

Unfortunately, we often think that the more words we give, the greater that burn will be. Fact is, just the opposite is true—tightly written, colorful, descriptive and pared-down copy will burn into readers' hearts and minds more quickly than rambling, redundant and unnecessary text. Make each word fight for its right to be on the page.

Next, break your information into short paragraphs. Don't worry about the rules of good paragraph writing you learned in school. For example, go back and look at the introductory paragraph of this article. It's grammatically correct and complete, but it's too long for many readers. Remember how you hesitated when you first saw it? Studies have shown that copy broken into short paragraphs and topped by compelling subheads gives readers a feeling that they can read any section quickly and independently without being obligated to read the entire piece.

6. Know What You're After
The key to writing a brochure is knowing where to strike the balance on what to include—include too much and you might lose your readers; include too little and you may never pique their interest. Before you start writing, determine two key items: (1) whether you want your brochure to persuade or inform, and (2) what you want your readers to do in the end.

At OneCall, we offer a service called Mobile Manager that REALTORS® can use almost immediately to revolutionize their communication with clients. As such, our copy tends to present proof, NAR statistics (i.e., "69% of sellers and 62% of buyers contract with the first agent they spoke to"), and fail-safe offers to persuade prospects to give the service a try. Unfortunately, your services may not be needed by prospects at the same moment that they read your material; as such, your goal is to provide information valuable enough to save (something, for example, that prospects will want to reference again), and, by giving the brochure a "don't-throw-me-away" look and feel.

As for knowing what you want your readers to do: You want them to call, to sign, to agree to working with you. Make sure it's easily understood how they can do so.

7. Weigh in with Proof
Just because you say it doesn't mean it's true. Heck, that's why I initially explained the origin of the 30-3-30 Principle and the graduate research that verified it. If you prove what you say by citing an example, giving a case study, sharing a testimonial (with attribution), telling an anecdote, or sharing a source whereby readers can verify it for themselves, then you'll go a long way toward bringing readers closer to becoming clients. What's more, examples and anecdotes often clarify points that are unclear in your descriptions.

8. Use Specifics
When citing that proof, (#7 above), be sure to be specific. Specifics are more believable than generalities or rounded-off numbers. Remember the ivory soap commercials—"Ivory soap is 99 and 44/100 percent pure." Wow, that's much more believable than "Ivory is 100 percent pure." Consumers know that in real life, in research, in tests and experiments, figures seldom come out perfectly even.

Copyright 2007 by Debra Traverso, OneCall
All rights reserved in all media.


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