Pretend for a moment that you’ve agreed to play in a community softball game. You’re not an exceptionally good player, but you’re interested in having some lighthearted fun. As you step up to the plate, the pitcher stares you down, and without warning starts her windup. She delivers a fast pitch over the plate, then another and another, and before you know it you’re back on the bench, planning your polite but speedy exit from the game.
Now picture yourself walking up to the plate again. This time, there’s a pitcher on the mound who smiles, gives you a nod, and then starts a slow-pitch windup. The pitch comes in arcing up and then down right into your strike zone, giving you time to find a connection and hit the ball. As you run the bases, you’re fully engaged, never doubting that you’ll stay in the game till the final out.
These two scenarios are like the different ways in which companies communicate with their customers through their print collateral. Printed marketing materials, such as sales brochures, catalogs, viewbooks, and some direct mail, are experienced differently than other forms of media. They often demand what we call a pacing strategy. This method starts out like a slow pitch, allowing the reader to approach the information slowly with low-density, compelling content. The messaging then builds to pages filled with high-density content once the reader is connected and engaged.
If softball isn’t your thing, you can also think of a pacing strategy as you would dating: to be successful, you’ve got to entice your prospect and draw them in slowly. Only then can you unload your life story and the fifty reasons you’d make a good spouse.
Pummeling your readers with too-much-too-fast may be a budgetary decision to squeeze as much information into as little paper as possible, or it may be that you’ve got a messaging prioritization problem. Either way — intentional or not — an efficient, fast-pitch approach often leads to a disconnect with your audience, and the few bucks you’ve saved on paper or messaging isn’t enough to cover those missed sales opportunities. New or ambivalent prospects aren’t ready for a barrage of information from the first turn of the page. They often need an emotional connection to your message before they’re ready to fully engage. That emotion doesn’t come from the details; it comes from things like a great photo, a captivating headline, white space, and eye-catching color. Once engaged, your reader will hang on — and read more.
Next time you need to create a critical marketing piece, take a moment to consider how it will be paced for the best audience engagement. Determine if a slow-pitch approach and a pacing strategy will make your message more persuasive and effective. Chances are, it will result in a home run.