How to Make Boring Facts and Figures Boost Sales

You’ve grabbed a few minutes during lunch to take a quick look at that investment packet you requested. You rip open the envelope, pull out the cover letter, and this is the first thing you see:

“Thank you for your interest in our real estate investment service. As of this writing, housing starts in Harrin County rose 50 percent last year to 1,200, up from 800 the previous year. That 2008 figure was an increase of 33 percent over the 2007 figure of 600 housing starts, which itself was up 50 percent over 2006’s 400 starts. In 2005, housing starts increased 33 percent over the 2004 figure of 300.”

OY! By the time you’ve slogged through that puppy you feel your eyelids twitching and your temples thumping. You toss the packet aside for later. Unfortunately, the chances that you’ll pick it up again are next to none. And that company just lost a sale.

Now, here’s the million-dollar question. Are you making the same mistake with your promos?

Let’s face it. Too many raw numbers can cause MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) Syndrome. And when that happens, readers have the perfect excuse to bail out.

Plus, numbers appeal to the analytical side of the brain — the left brain. And sales are made by appealing to the right brain — the part that  deals with emotions, intuition, symbolism, and art.

Still, numbers and statistics can add a great deal of credibility to your claims.

So how do you present them without bogging down your copy? You do it with right-brain friendly “infographics.”

Infographics are charts, graphs, and tables that present data in a simplified form. They help readers understand the information faster and remember it longer. They also help break up the copy and make it more visually appealing.

In his book Design to Sell, Roger C. Parker states, “Words alone do a poor job of communicating comparisons, hierarchy, and sequence. Consider this sentence: ‘East Coast sales are 20 percent lower than Midwest sales, which in turn are dwarfed by West Coast sales that are twice as large.’ Read as words, it’s difficult to obtain a mental picture of the differing sales from each territory.

“The same comparison takes on a new life when visually communicated with charts and graphs.”

So, how do you decide which infographics to use in your promotions? And how can you “dress them up” to make them visually interesting?

Let’s take a look at the ones you’re most likely to use:

1. Pie Chart

The pie chart depicts the proportion of parts to the whole. It is circular (like a pie), with wedges cut in various sizes to illustrate percentages. For instance, you might use a pie chart to show how a business’s budget is distributed between salaries, supplies, building maintenance, and so on.

Design Tips: Avoid splitting a pie chart into more than eight pieces. More than eight, and the pieces become too small to recognize or label. You can use a screen tint or bold color on the most important piece of the pie, or pull that piece partially out to separate it. You can also tilt the pie, add a shadow, or try a three-dimensional effect.

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2. Bar Chart

The bar chart displays the relative quantity, size, or frequency of data. You might use a bar chart to compare:

  • opposites (e.g., income vs. expenses over a period of time)
  • quantities (e.g., the number of active members in several organizations)
  • averages (e.g., the average amount of money spent on direct-mail campaigns over a five-year period)

Design Tips: Avoid having too many bars or they’ll look too thin. You could add a drop shadow, a three-dimensional effect, or a screen tint to make them stand out from the graph behind them. Or you could replace the bars with illustrations — maybe stacks of coins, chimneys, or building silhouettes.

3. Line Graph

The line graph shows changes over time. You draw lines from point to point to show progress made. Line graphs are frequently used, for example, to chart the price of a stock.

Design Tips: Avoid using more than three lines in one graph, or it will become confusing. You can use different colors or screen tints to help separate the lines from each other. For added interest, you might put the graph inside an illustration.

4. Table

The table gives more precise information — and a larger amount of information — than a chart or graph. Tables are left-brain devices. Readers need to study a table rather than merely glance at it. So  use it:

  • when readers need exact numbers, not just lines, bars, or pieces of a pie
  • when you have too much information to condense into a chart
  • when readers are already used to similar information being presented in tabular form (such as an expense report).

Design Tips: Use a different color, a screen tint, a wider border, or a double-rule to highlight rows or columns that should stand out.

When building your infographic, you’ll want to include a legend next to the graphic or labels within the graphic. To help readers understand what they’re looking at, add a caption, just as you’d add one to a photograph.

The infographic isn’t the only design element you can use in your promotions to increase sales. To learn more, see the American Writer’s & Artists Graphic Design Success program.

[Ed. Note: Kammy Thurman is an AWAI-trained copywriter, designer, and SEO Web content consultant who combines powerful direct-response copy, SEO strategy, and social media marketing to help clients ramp up their online sales and visibility. To learn more about her services, visit]