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Skimmers, Sceptics and Soakers: are You Reaching Them All?

CARL QUESTED ANALYSES the different ways we read and process information. Our marketing needs to appeal to all three groups, so how can this be achieved?

WHEN AGENTS create their marketing, they rarely have a consumer testing group set up to check their message is on point. Usually they’ll write something they themselves would like to read, get it spell-checked and away it goes.

But as consumers (agents included) our reading style and the way we digest information generally falls into one of three categories.

  1. Skimmers – This group has no time to sweat the small details. They want the meat and potato, not the veg. They want to know what is going on in the shortest amount of time. They are generally very decisive, and will make their decision based on the information they have at hand right now, rather than go searching for extra details.
    Sceptics – Sceptics want to know who you are, and what it is that makes you qualified to tell them anything. This group will be looking for detailed testimonials, statistics and cold hard facts. The sceptics are the type who will research review pages and read feedback before making their own decision.
  2. Soakers – As the name suggests, this group will soak up every single detail you provide. They are likely to reread everything, and are the most likely to hold on to something to go back to later. Don’t be surprised if they contact you to let you know about a grammatical error; they just can’t help it. They are also likely to continue searching for information if it’s available.

If you read any of those three statements and found yourself nodding your head, the chances are you write in the same style. What you need to do is to recognise that and make sure all your letters, blog posts, social media and so on cater for all three groups from now on.

Each of these groups likes a certain style and presentation.


  • Clear headlines
  • Subheadings that tell the story quickly
  • Bullet points with key concepts
  • Summary of the story
  • Clear call to action – tell them what you need them to do


  • Testimonials – lots of them (don’t worry, the skimmers will ignore them)
  • Hard facts with numbers and percentages
  • Links to research from other trusted businesses or sites
  • Directions to find further information, testimonials and reviews


  • Make the story rich in detail and compelling
  • Any statistics and data need to have features and benefits
  • Make them feel comfortable about re-reading and keeping your communication for future reference
  • Provide links to further reading, community pages and so on.

If you need to get feedback from those in the other categories to yourself, just give them this magazine and watch how they consume the information. Is it a fast flick through the pages? Do they glance at it and frown in distrust? Or do they bury their head in the pages and not come up for air?

You can now look through your existing client base, and even your desired client base, and identify which of the three attributes are most often displayed. You will find that, on the whole, each group is likely to have the same attributes, whether they are investors, empty nesters, young professionals and so on.
The idea is not to write the copy based solely on them, but to make that your primary focus and then adjust it to include the other two less prominent groups.

This is also where segmenting your database and customising your message can play a massive role.

Any good CRM these days will give you the ability to segment your database based on any number of different profiles, from pet owners to families with children, downsizers, and so on. This can be via tags created on the record, or separate lists created for each one of your categories. Now you can take it one step further and segment it based on reading style. How do you do this?

The answer is testing. You will only get to learn people’s reading style over time by testing different types of copy to see which one they are most receptive to. It is a good idea to code your marketing, so that when you receive responses you can use these codes and overlay them against previous campaigns to see which is most effective with whom.

Like all worthwhile activities, building relationships takes time. You won’t necessarily get the perfect balance on your first communication. The good thing is that the more attempts you make the more you build up points in the relationship bank account – as long as you keep your content relevant, interesting and don’t constantly badger them about selling their home.

You can test whether certain headings will be more responsive to sceptics, or whether an image is more compelling to the skimmer. These are subtle changes that can have big impacts on your response levels.

And make sure that you only test one change at a time. It takes discipline and patience fully to understand your audience; resist the urge to change your document completely, as you will not be able to identify what it is that made the difference.

If you want to learn more about buyer behaviour, I have come across a couple of really good resources. Firstly, a study conducted by Google called Zero Moment of Truth – www.zeromomentoftruth.com. It is a great study that talks about the number of interactions and hours of content that people consume before making their buying decision.

Secondly, a book called Buyology by Martin Lindstrom. This book studies the human psyche and the role of the subconscious mind in what we buy. It can be a bit scientific and geeky, but getting deep on understanding who your audience is can be a very powerful tool.

Remember, you’ll see Skimmers, Sceptics and Soakers everywhere, and they’re out there reading your stuff.

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