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How to Use The Rule of Seven to Get More Readers

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

The Rule of Seven is a standard marketing principle based on repetition. If you’re a writer, you want to know what the rule is and how to use it in your content in order to get more readers and get them to respond.

But first, you want to make sure you don’t confuse this maxim with other “Rules of Seven” in other industries.

  • The Rule of Seven in investing, for instance, asserts that an investor will double his money every seven years. If you invest $1,000, so the rule goes, in seven years you’ll have $2,000.
  • The Rule of Seven in dating dictates that a prospective partner should not pursue a person who is younger than half his age plus seven – meaning a 40-year-old should date others who are at least 27 years old. (Half of 40 is 20, plus seven equals 27).
  • The Rule of Seven in Project Management … well, the Rule of Seven in dating was complicated enough to explain. We will leave this particular rule to the business professionals. Fortunately, the Rule of Seven for writers is much simpler.
The Rule of Seven for #writers with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #FreelanceWriting #Freelancing #MarketingYourWriting

What is The Rule of Seven?

The Rule of Seven suggests that your reader must hear or read your message at least seven times before she takes action.

And you want your reader to act, don’t you? You write content to elicit a response, whether it’s to click, comment, opt in to get your freebie, make a purchase, or share your content.

But your reader’s attention is pulled in many directions. She reads your content but may not act right away because she reads a deluge of other information. Or maybe right at this very moment, she doesn’t need what you’re offering. But down the road – when she hears from you again or reads your content in another format or at another time – she will.

Repetition is persuasive. It reinforces your message and gives your reader multiple opportunities to respond.

It’s a principle worth learning because The Rule of Seven is backed by hard data. A recent study by global marketing firm the RAIN Group reported that 98% of all outreach attempts – “interactions” or “touches”– require more than one action to get a response. In fact, the study showed it takes an average of 8 touches for a communicator to prompt action from a prospect. 

Where does The Rule of Seven come from?

The Rule of Seven has been around for nearly a century. During the Golden Age of cinema in the 1930s and early 1940s, Hollywood executives wanted to get more viewers into movie houses. They faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge of promoting entertainment in the wake of the Depression.

So they did a bit of research. Studios learned that a moviegoer needed to see a movie poster at least seven times before they’d line up at theatre doors.

You still see posters at movie houses today. But think of all the other ways Hollywood entices you to see a flick: television ads, radio ads, internet ads, articles, interviews, polls, billboards, reviews. The Rule of Seven (or more) continues to be in play.

How The Rule of Seven is useful for writers

Today’s communication landscape allows anyone to be a marketer.

Bottom line: you can use The Rule of Seven to get more readers. That includes finding more freelance clients, adding new subscribers to your email list, engaging more blog followers, selling more books, driving more traffic to your website, and extending your reach on social media.

“Social media (alone) affords retailers the opportunity to engage a customer often 7 times every day,” says retail advisor Kathi Kruse. “This is accomplished by sharing content, interacting with users and targeting ads to people who are interested in what you sell.”

Not all interactions have the same impact, but they’re cumulative.

For example, let’s say your reader is looking for a gift for her preteen daughter. She scrolls through her social media feed and sees a headline and graphic for a book about friendship for preteens. Later, she opens one of her favorite apps and reads a review about the book. And still later, she opens her email application and sees a subject line that offers the same book. What’s the chance that she will open the email? Much higher than prior to those touches.

Use this Simple Content Calendar Template to organize your content.

Make The Rule of Seven work for you

Repeating your message by presenting it in different types of content writing over time not only reaches more readers, but also reaches different kinds of readers. But what qualifies as an interaction? Here are a few examples.

  • Blog post
  • Email
  • Facebook post
  • Instagram post
  • Letter
  • Listing on a Google search
  • Online mention
  • Online article
  • Online banner
  • Online or print review
  • Phone call
  • Pinterest graphic
  • Print article
  • Repost or retweet
  • Social media link
  • Social media share
  • Tweet
  • Video

But the solopreneur or freelancer who feels pressured to implement all those methods at once will get overwhelmed.

Start small. When you write your next piece of content, choose two or three different formats in which to present it. Then repurpose that one piece of content into those different interaction formats, such as a blog post, a Pinterest graphic, and an email with a link to both. Schedule those interactions.

See how they work. Tweak your mix. Repeat.

And don’t give up. Your message or product or service worth sharing. Readers simply need to hear you above the noise. Keep repeating it – up to seven times seventy.

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