The Two Paths Of Successful Sales Letters

By: Dan Kennedy on: June 18th, 2010 14 Comments

We have been talking about copy in direct mail and the job of the copy which is to SELL! In the previous Success Marketing Strategy I mentioned that there is a little trick used to improve readability of copy and to keep the reader moving through the copy as well as to sell the person who skims and does not read the copy no matter how short it is.

That trick is called a double readership path. It is based on the idea that there are two extremes of consumer behavior, the impulsive buyer and the analytical buyer.

The impulsive buyer is in a hurry. Makes quick decisions and rarely reads anything. He skims. In most cases he’ll read only headlines, subheads and photo captions.

The analytical buyer, however, is slow to make decisions, requires a lot of information to do so and will read lots of material.

Two different people requiring two different readership paths. Here they are…

Path #1 requires you to sell your proposition purely through the headlines, subheads, photo captions and major boldface sentences in your copy.

Path #2 follows the same order as one but let’s you flush out the details in between the guide posts.

Most amateur copywriters error in creating a piece with only one readership path aimed at the people most like them. By using a double readership path you greatly increase the appeal of your piece.

The other important step in making your copy readable and keeping your reader interested in your piece is what I call graphic enhancement. This can be done with:

  • Photographs
  • Captions
  • Varying type sizes
  • Italicizing key words and phrases
  • Boldfacing key words and phrases
  • Simulated hand written notes in the margins
  • Boxes or circles
  • Shading an area behind a paragraph

The only limits are creativity, costs and the cooperation of the production people you are working with. Your creativity can best be enhanced by studying as much junk mail as you can get your hands on, noticing the different techniques used and building files of the ideas you like.

You will also want to explore the costs of doing different things with your printers. How much to add a second color, for colored stock, to print the back, to do shading with screens? If you run a small business and are doing very small quantity mailings there are things you might consider doing by hand. If you’re only mailing, say a 1,000 units you could send out fifty a day for twenty days. At that rate you could add a second color by hand by using a yellow highlight pen to mark certain key sentences.

The third factor the cooperation of the production people, artists and printers is a difficulty you need to be prepared for. Their orientation is in getting the job done not on getting the job done in a way that will sell the most goods or get the highest possible response. As a result they will rush you. They will argue with you.

They will resist many of the little modifications you want to make. Do not be bullied, intimidated or stampeded. The italicizing or not italicizing of one sentence can make a percentage difference in response.


Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to

14 Responses

  1. I created my first direct mail piece this week with a dual readership path, using copy doodles and compelling headlines and sub heads, so I am testing to see what the results are.

    Can a dual readership mailing with lumpy mail work, or are they two different animals?

  2. Aaah, dual readership paths… one of my favorite topics

    Many people will only lightly skim anything that to them is sales writing, the point of the dual readership path mindset when creating your copy is to tell as much of the story as you can in the subheads (and sometimes in the bolding)… so people get the general idea even if they only skim.

  3. think of the back of a book cover, for instance. Some people read the whole thing, and others only the words that are headings and subheadings.

    Dual readership path means you consciously create these to paths so that someone reading the subheads can read an entire story, even if they skip the smaller print..

  4. Eric Barton says:

    Hey Simon-Any copy online and offline it can and should be used for.

  5. Jim says:

    Really quick, it is four colored stock not for colored stock

  6. Rob Anspach says:

    a marketing piece that is written for the dual readership path will attract different types of readers – but gain a positive response (customer spends money, calls to schedule, or clips a coupon for immeidate savings)

  7. Jason says:

    In his product launch video, Jeff Walker claims that the long sales letter is dead? What are your thoughts?

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  10. Shishir says:

    I wonder why this article talks about dual readership, and does not have it implemented on it?

  11. Nev Rodda says:

    Dan, loving your content as always. Double readership path is something that Frank Kern uses also. Very clever! I will be sure to add them in my long content.

  12. Mergenthaler says:

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