Most marketers look at a promotion with straight-line logic. They assume all prospects come into it through the headline. And they’re wrong.

In fact, a well-planned, well-written promotion has five distinct ways to get prospects involved. These “gateways” are spread throughout the promotion. Each one is specifically designed to catch the interest of a different type of prospect and lead them into the sales message.

Your prospect opens your promo and scans it. The headline might catch her interest. But maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’s the bio piece. Or the sidebars. Or the order device. If the promo is a magalog, maybe it’s the centerfold. (That’s usually where the copywriter has summarized key data or important benefits.)

In my case, I almost always look at the order device first. That gives me a quick look at the offer — what the product costs and what I’ll get for my money.

For you, it could be one of the other gateways.

But regardless of how you are pulled into a promotion, it’s crucial to understand that these gateways are not afterthoughts to be slapped together at the last minute. They must be planned and written with the same care and consideration as the rest of your promotion.

That said, here’s what you need to know about the five main gateways:

1. Headline (including the envelope copy as a form of the headline)

Captures the prospect’s interest, begins establishing a trusting relationship with the prospect, gives a hint of the Big Idea of the promotion …

2. Bio piece

Establishes the credibility of the person signing the sales letter, and puts a human “face” to his or her name …

3. Sidebars

Emphasize important information and data, add credibility, and provide a way to present crucial information that might disrupt the flow or tone of the sales letter …

4. Centerfold (in magalogs)

Provides a way to accentuate a compelling part of the sales argument. This can include results data for investment promos, company history, explanation of core benefits, and much more about the premiums being offered …

5. Order device

Provides a quick and effective summary of the offer, key benefits, guarantee, etc. …

Let’s look at how master copywriter Kent Komae used a bio gateway to bring prospects into his million-dollar magalog promotion for a joint-relief supplement.

Before you read this, imagine that you suffer from joint pain. You’ve searched for relief — by taking drugs and supplements — with little success.

The headline on the cover page of the magalog reads “The Next Breakthrough for Joint Discomfort!” If you suffer from joint pain, you can see how these six words could attract your attention.

But attracting your attention might not be enough to get you to keep reading. So you scan the magalog. On page 4, you come across this:

The sole purpose of this bio gateway is to build Dr. Williams’s credibility.

Dr. Williams is decked out in a white coat and is holding a stethoscope. And he sits authoritatively in front of a lab table with test tubes and electronic instruments. The picture begins to tell the story of a physician who does a lot of research.

The picture goes a good way toward establishing his credibility and pulling you into the sales copy. Yet … you’re skeptical.

This doctor may be offering real, believable joint relief. But you’re not convinced.

Still, you’ve seen enough to want to find out more. Kent Komae has ushered you through one of the gateways into his magalog. And that’s where he convinces you that Dr. Williams has the solution to your joint problems.

Kent knows that successful promos don’t depend on having the prospect come in through the headline and read through from the beginning. Successful promos use these five gateways (and sometimes a few more) to open up different paths into the promotion for different types of prospects.

Learn them and you’ll be writing winners.

[Ed. Note: Will Newman is a freelance copywriter and member of the American Writers & Artists Inc. advisory board. With AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, you can learn the secrets of copywriting from some of his mentors, including, among others, master copywriters Michael Masterson, Don Mahoney, and Bob Bly.]
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