Short vs long copy – the winner is…
It seems that the ‘long vs. short’ copy is more alive than ever. First, we have those who argue they’d never bother reading long copy. Then there are those advertising legends and copywriting masters who swear long copy works best.
Personally, I think your sales copy needs to be able to ‘romance’ your readers long enough for them to trust you and feel confident and excited about taking the action you ask them to take.
Legendary copywriter, Clayton Makepeace, says this: “So long as you’re speaking to the prospect’s self interest … so long as you’re deftly stroking his dominant emotions about the subject at hand … and so long as the copy is clear, concise, even fun to read, he’s going to stay with you.”
Keep in mind that when people read your sales copy they do so because the headline has hooked their interest and attention. The lead has KEPT their interest and what they want to do is find out more to make a decision. It makes sense to give them every possible reason WHY they should buy from you.
Chances are that you won’t be able to do that with a page or two… unless you make a totally irresistible offer nobody else makes for a product everybody wants. But, even then, you’d still need to prove your credibility, claims, and so on. After all, when it comes to spending money people are more careful and sceptical then ever before.
I’m going to give you several insights from some of the most knowledgeable and respected copywriters, combined with my own perspective, so you can once and for all understand the best copy to use to help you maximize sales and improve click throughs and conversions…
Legendary copywriter, Clayton Makepeace, adds: “writing long copy – copy containing every benefit, every credibility element, every reason why the prospect should buy the service — would be the best way to make sure that the strongest sales copy available appeared in every contact with our prospects. Just this year, I’ve tested several #10 envelope packages with 8-page sales letters against 8.5″ X 11″ self-mailers with 24 pages of text. The long copy beat the short copy by 50% to 70% each time.”
Now, Mr. Makepeace is one of the most respected copywriters alive today. He works with some of the most aggressive companies in the U.S. testing millions of DM pieces and online campaigns each year. He has countless controls under his belt and his ability to paint vivid pictures in your mind using skilfully articulated prose is, in my opinion, second to none. So, I guess, he knows a thing or two about copy… But let’s see what other copywriting masters have to say on the subject…
Joe Sugarman is a very prolific marketer and top-gun copywriter. Here’s what he says about long copy… “Will people read long copy? Let me answer the question in a different way by having you go through a little experiment. On the following lines I want you to fill in the blanks of a headline for an article as I direct you.
Headline: (Your Last Name) family chosen as heirs of (Your Street) in multi-million-dollar fortune. Family who lives on (Your City) was willed millions of dollars by an anonymous person.”
Now, that headline would make you either very sceptical or very excited, but it should hook your attention. Joe Sugarman continues: “If you saw that headline in your local newspaper, would you read the first sentence? Of course you would. Let’s say the copy read as follows: Wow, what a score! How would you like to inherit millions of dollars from somebody you don’t even know? Well, that’s what happened to (Your Full Name), who has yet to be found but…”
Now, would you read the rest of the article? Even a long 5,000-word scoop? You would, right? Simply because it’s about a large sum of money coming your way! I think the point Mr. Sugarman was making is that as long as your copy is credible and benefit-laden then your prospect will do whatever it takes to find out how to get the benefit.
Another copywriter, Ben Settle, says this: “It really depends on what you’re selling and who you’re selling to… [and] where the people you are writing to are at mentally.”
That’s why you need to understand your typical prospect’s goals, dreams and desires as well as their fears, worries and frustrations. You also need to understand their preferred way of acquiring knowledge and doing research. That should give you an insight into the ideal length, format and style for your sales copy.
Some people are skimmers and won’t bother reading every word you scribble down. That doesn’t means that short copy will do the trick. Even though skimmers won’t read word-for-word they still scan your copy and pick out various sections of the copy at random to ensure the copy is credible and consistent, so the copy needs to works as a ‘whole’.
You should also consider what your prospect KNOWS about the subject, what he knows about you, what his past experiences with similar products were, and the ACTION you’re asking him to take. Usually, short copy won’t give you enough space for you to develop a solid case for your product.
Another expert copywriter, John Carlton, whose clients pay obscene amounts of money to work for them, says this:
“A lot of people insist that ‘my customers are
different.’ I hear this all the time. ‘My
customers, they won’t read long copy. They’re
not going to sit down and read this. I need to
get in there really quick and I need to be really
breezy about this. And I’m afraid to do
anything that smacks of hard selling or
actually asking for the order because I’m kind
of embarrassed and people don’t respond to
that, anyway. They’ll get turned off.’ Well,
that’s exactly opposite of what you learn once
you get into direct response.”
Enough said, often those people who know little about copywriting argue that short copy does the trick but these experts, and many others, have achieved extraordinary results for clients using the exact opposite approach – using long but crisp and relevant copy.
Marketing genius and one of the highest paid copywriters, Ted Nicholas, says: “Write long copy. Don’t limit what you write about the benefits of your product. Copy can never be too long. Just too boring! So present your benefits with emotion combined with human interest and don’t worry about the length. Remember the old true saying, “The more you tell, the more you sell.” And killer copywriter Michel Fortin, affirms, “People object to reading copy because: a) they are not targeted and b) the copy is boring. Length is the excuse because it’s a common currency. Boring is subjective. Long is objective. When copy starts to bore you, you naturally are inclined to say it’s too long. It’s too long because of the fact that it started to drag, causing the reader to lose interest.”
So, there you go. I hope the ‘long vs short’ question has been answered for you, at once. In summary… If the copy is too short then the reader will have too many unanswered questions in his head and will hesitate in making a decision to buy from you. Your sales copy should give the reader as many reasons as possible for him to place an order while your offer is still fresh in his mind.