Have you ever heard of K.I.S.S.?
“Keep it short and simple.”
It’s something I used to hear a lot back in college and probably, you did too.
My professors hated unnecessarily long essays with a deep, burning passion, and I don’t blame them.
In fact, this pretty much applies everywhere else. All of us can remember an instance when we just stopped listening to something because it’s boring.
And it’s not our fault.
Humans are wired to tune out background noise to keep your focus on other tasks like reading or even watching TV.
The same way, your copy can either be your audience’s focus—something that grabs their attention—or just the background noise they’d just skim through at best.
On the other hand, advertising legends like David Ogilvy swear and have proven that long-form copy converts better in their advertising campaigns.
Take a look at one of Ogilvy & Mather’s classic and famous advertorials:
Definitely would’ve convinced you to hire them if you were a business owner looking to create advertising that sells, right?
If you haven’t yet, read our previous blog post and learn more about sales funnels and how long and short copy can fit at the different stages of a sales funnel.
The Unending Debate: Long Copy v.s. Short Copy
As a direct response copywriter, I’ve written different types of copy for clients (both short and long copy).
And one of the most common questions I get from clients is…
“Raffy, this is what I’m selling. How long should my copy be?”
This is how most conversations with my clients usually start. Heck, it’s even almost always their first question!
There are a lot of ideas and opinions being tossed around about the “perfect length of sales copy.”
Some copywriters prefer to write short copy because, according to them, most people nowadays don’t like reading that much and don’t need that much convincing.
And for the rest, they believe that there’s no such thing as copy that’s too long and that long copy always works best.
I believe both have valid points…
I believe that the length of your sales copy depends on the offer…
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a copywriter is focusing too much on how long or how short your copy should be rather than how long your copy needs to be to convince the audience to buy.
If that makes sense…
Going back to K.I.S.S., even long copy can be “short and simple” when each word is necessary to compel people to act on your offer.
Different products have different objections and the more objections your audience has, the more persuading your copy needs to make them buy.
Think of it this way:
There’s no well-known brand offering a well-known product that’s ever going to need long-form copy from you.
Pringles has been around for long and is known for their crisp, tasty, stackable potato chips.
And for their newest bacon and egg flavor, long-form copy would be pretty much useless.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say that Pringles released a new potato-based product that can cure depression, turn back time, get you the girl of your dreams, and make you immortal.
And it doesn’t end there.
This hypothetical product also has zero calorie content and is even tastier than the Pringles we know now.
Then, you’d definitely long copy to convince people to buy perhaps by explaining the science behind the product, addressing their objections, and a lot more.
Whenever I write long-form copy, I don’t think about how long it’s going to take for them to read it.
It’s not that I don’t care because I do. In fact, as it should be, they’re all I think about when writing a copy.
It all boils down to how much information they need to know to finally take action.
And depending on the situation, you may need to write more in order to get the job done and done right…
I know that we’re all occupied with a lot of things. I know too that a lot of people aren’t the biggest fans of having telemarketers call them or door-to-door salesmen knocking on their doors.
We’re not always looking to be sold to, but what if the only thing that’s going to change our minds is a really good sales pitch?
Maybe we would try to read a long sales letter if the headline grabs our attention.
I’d definitely spend a few minutes of my time to read what a company has to say if it catches my interest. In fact, I might even read the whole thing if they can keep me interested all throughout.
Even though we’re all busy, we would still stop and read as much as we can if it has something to do with our interests or if it hits a few pain points we want to get rid of.
If you’re writing a sales letter about a revolutionary beauty product, you need long copy to convince them that the product would actually make them look prettier, younger, and fresher without the pains that they would expect…
Why do people still read long copy? If your sales letter could connect to your customers on an emotional level, they’d pay attention!
People always invest in whatever their definition of better.
So if your copy successfully presents a product or service as just that, they’ll read.
When Should You Write Short Copy?
“If your ad is interesting, people will read all the copy you can give them. If the ad is dull, short copy won’t save it.” – John Caples
But that still doesn’t mean that you should always stick with long copy just because you know you can keep it interesting.
As a copywriter, I’ve seen loads of short sales letters convert just curiosity and interest to dollars. Yep, thousands and thousands of dollars!
Short copy will get the job done if the product you’re selling is already well-known.
The assumption here is there’s a great demand for it and your target market are already aware of what it can do for them. They’re ready to take their wallets out and you just need to remind them that the product exists!
If you’re also selling a non-technical service, this can work too.
For example, Jägermeister. They don’t need to write a long sales letter about their brand because they’re already a household name. Anyone who’s ever had a drink knows the product.
Another use of short copy is enticing them with freebies in exchange for some information. Rather than force long copy for a free offer and make everything complicated, short copy works best here.
A short sales letter would also be effective if your target consumers can be convinced with visuals or the product requires little persuasion to make people buy.
A brilliant example would be Apple’s sales pages. Like their sales page for the iPad Pro.
If you check out their sales page for the iPad Pro, you’ll notice it’s 80% image and 20% copy. All they do is mention the new features and translate them into benefits. That’s all!
Does it sell? Yes.
When Should You Write Long Copy?
“Don’t be afraid to use lengthy copy. Of all the things people dislike about marketing, ‘lack of information’ comes in second, after ‘feeling deceived.’” – Jay Conrad Levinson
You’re offering a great product with a lot of benefits and can make a meaningful change in people’s lives. Why shouldn’t you tell the whole world all about it?
The perfect time to write a long sales page or sales letter is when you’re selling a niche product, a product with tons of competition, or a product that claims to solve a problem that the audience believes wouldn’t go away that easily.
If any or all is true, you need to long copy to persuade your audience to take action and create a desire for the product.
At the end of your copy, it should have accelerated from virtually unknown to basically the best thing since microwave popcorn!
Well, I’m exaggerating!
But the point is, you have to get people to take action right here, right now. Your target audience must feel the need, whether artificial or not, to have the product in their hands.
That’s how a good long-form sales letter should be. It doesn’t need to be written creatively or to be all fancy-schmancy. At the end of the day, it’s still about the conversion rates.
A long-form sales letter is particularly useful for certain products and services. For example, the hottest thing right now is cryptocurrency.
The Case of Cryptocurrencies
Bitcoin has become so popular that a lot of new cryptocurrencies popped out of nowhere to try to mimic the original’s success.
The problem for these newcomers now is how to make people interested, especially when compared to Bitcoin, they seem to be worthless.
The challenge here is to convince people that what they offer has the same or even greater potential than Bitcoin.
Because there are also a lot of cryptocurrency-related scams nowadays, you also have to prove that yours isn’t.
And even to me, this is very confusing. I don’t know how it works. As far as I’m concerned, there are other ways to earn money.
You know how people consider buying stuff they don’t think they need or want to be throwing away money? That’s exactly the case with new cryptocurrencies…
It’s expensive not because of the actual price tag attached to it but because throwing away money is always expensive.
For all other cryptocurrencies, long-form copy can persuade people to actually invest in them over Bitcoin.
They need to counter any and all objections that their audience might have and when they do… they’re golden!
Listen, people actually read long copy as long as it interests them!
That’s the secret sauce!
Keep your consumer’s interest by foreseeing what they want to see in your copy before they even see it. It’s the written version of a waiter handing out the menu to the customers before they even ask for it.
And like in cryptocurrencies, it sometimes just has to be longer.
Long isn’t necessarily boring—remember that!
If it is, no one would ever finish novels. Boredom comes when the content isn’t interesting. The key here is keeping their interest until the end of the copy.
After all, there’s no such thing as copy that’s too long, there’s only copy that’s too boring.
So Instead of Focusing on Length, Focus on Making Your Copy Convert…
Before you decide what would work in your case, remember that your copy plus the ad spend are an investment.
No one cares about how much you wrote or how much time you spent writing it.
For your clients, the only concern is how much cash it’s raking in—whether it’s short or long copy.
But in the same way, you shouldn’t resort to long copy just because it works better in most cases.
As we’ve already talked about, short copy works better in certain situations where your market barely needs convincing.
Whenever I write a sales letter, my goal is to write down just what I need to make people buy—that’s it!
I hope this blog post will help you write better and more effective copy—long or short!
Author: Raffy Marabut
Raffy Marabut is a freelance direct response copywriter. For years, he has been helping clients get more leads, customers, and sales with direct response copy that converts. Raffy is also the founder of Copywriting Dojo, the Philippines’ first community for copywriters and he trains people in the art of direct response copywriting.