Simple trick to turning scanners into readers

If you write any kind of long-form copy...whether it's long direct mail letters or magalogs or online sales pages or landing face a particular challenge.

It's how to turn "scanners" into readers.

While there are some prospects who will read every word, in the order in which you've presented your copy "flow", it's more likely that in today's hurried, overwhelmed, short-attention-span world that the majority of your prospects are "scanners".

They quickly scan through your copy, looking to see if there's anything worth their time before they mentally "pitch" and move on.

That's where sidebars can be useful. They're those blocks of text, kind of like inset boxes, with their own mini-headlines and often CTAs (call to action).

The goal of your sidebars is to turn these scanners into readers...and ultimately, via your copy resonating with them and presenting persuasive sales arguments, turn them into buyers.

That's why you want your sidebars to work just as hard as your main headline to grab your prospect by the eyeballs and make it impossible NOT to read further.

In my Copywriting Velocity Complete Virtual Program (which you wisely already own), I explain in detail one of the best ways to come up with compelling sidebars that turn scanners into readers. It's to start by writing as many great "fascinations" or bullets as possible.

You then take some of your strongest fascinations and flush them out further into a short (or long) sidebar. Focus on what has the most curiosity...what can give an extra layer of proof (think studies or social proof) or boost credibility...or what can put emphasis on the idea that it's a "no-brainer" offer or eliminate the risk of ordering.

Here's just a partial list of the many different ways you can use sidebars:

  • Highlight your guarantee (put it within a certificate-like border to make it "official")

  • Demonstrate the value of the product (i.e., what it'd cost to buy all those different nutrients)

  • Showcase the quality (see my Advanced Bionutritionals promos, most of which have a full-page "quality of ingredients and manufacturing" sidebar)

  • Pile on the testimonials (you can have one sidebar with a bunch all together, and/or sprinkle them throughout individually or in groups of 2 or 3 throughout your promo)

  • Tease about premiums (always show a visual, with a callout: Yours FREE! A $xx.xx value)

  • Build credibility with multiple study quotes or media mentions (use logos and journal titles/covers as visuals)

  • Feature a "side benefit" of the product your target prospect likely desires

That last bullet reminds me of one of my early supplement clients--and a funny story.

This was a client for whom I wrote many successful promos in the earlier days of my freelance copywriting career--and who gave me my first break to write a supplement magalog and earn royalties.

Because it was a small company, he (as the president) was the one I dealt with and who reviewed my copy. Almost always, no matter what type of supplement it was (joint, heart, memory, etc.), he'd ask if I could come up with a sex "side benefit".

And almost always I could...since many nutrients have mechanisms of action like boosting circulation, for example.

He knew, with an older market (and at least 50% male, sometimes much more depending on the list), this type of "side benefit" could be that extra kicker that pushes a prospect over the edge into ordering.

So think about what kind of "side benefits" your prospect desires and that your product or service can offer. Then dimensionalize them in a sidebar and/or elsewhere in your copy.

Now for the funny story. We've been talking a lot about the late Clayton Makepeace these days and I've shared a few personal stories. But here's one I later told Clayton and got one his famous big laughs from.

Back when his oral chelation supplement tabloids and magalogs were mailing well into the millions back in the mid-2000s, they were hitting my mailbox, too.

One of the "side benefits" he featured about this supplement was its ability to help men's sexual performance.

And he did so by including a racy sidebar like this one (this is just the top part of it...)

I'll never forget, a few years later when helping to organize some things in my then 10-year-old son's room, I found a few of Clayton's oral chelation magalogs hidden under his bed.

Apparently these sex sidebars were so titillating, my young son was reading them like porn! Clayton's copy was always so masterfully done, it could have this kind of impact even on someone who wasn't his target prospect.

That's the power of a good sidebar. They can really boost your promo's response by increasing readership and engagement. If you're not regularly including at least a few of these bad boys in your long-form promos, you should consider doing so.

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. I wanted to pass along an opportunity for you to contribute to a cause that's near and dear to Clayton Makepeace and his wife Wendy (a.k.a. "the Redhead)'s hearts. It's a fundraiser that supports the staff of their favorite local restaurant they loved to frequent. So many of their employees are struggling in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, and Wendy says it's helping her a lot to help others right now.

If you are so moved to make any donation of at least $5, Wendy will personally send you a copy of Clayton's famous Copywriting Checklist. It's an amazing reference tool. I made a contribution as soon as I heard about this great cause and got my own copy of it. 

It's much more than a checklist. It gives you a 20-point starter outline...40 headline idea starters...a16-point headline evaluator...a 12-step offer checklist...and more. Simply make as big of a donation as you can (minimum of $5) at the link below.

Then forward your receipt to me at and I'll get it over to Wendy. It's a great way to honor Clayton, and to help Wendy get through this tragic loss she's dealing with in the midst of an already extraordinarily difficult time.

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