Over the years many of my clients have asked me about long copy.
They wonder if it makes sense, will it increase readership and will it boost their response rates. They’re thinking about testing a long-copy format across various media channels (direct mail, website, an email campaign) to market their products or services – but they have reservations.
They understand and appreciate the importance of brevity, of being able to grab attention immediately and getting right to the point. They realize that the average person out there has a very limited attention span and will literally only give you a few seconds of their time before tuning you out and moving on.
Before making a commitment to long copy, consider the following criteria:
Identify your target audience. Seniors or well-educated prospects want all the facts and are more receptive to long copy. If initially interested, they will make time to take a long, hard look at what you have to say. Products or services that would normally require long copy include in-home healthcare service, a four-year college education, a motorized wheelchair or a hearing aid.
Long-form copy usually makes sense when you are trying to educate your target market. If it’s a new market, prospects are probably unfamiliar with what you offer, how it works and most importantly why they need it. So go ahead and walk them through the sales process. If interested, they will read what you have to say several times.
If you’re selling something exotic or complex that requires lots of description, try a long copy approach. Don’t just gloss over the features and benefits. Spell it all out. Examples of exotic or complex include a once-in-a-lifetime vacation like an African safari, a luxury automobile, solar heating panels or a limited edition coin collection.
If you have a big or unusual offer, long copy will increase your chances for a strong response rate. This might include a private pre-sale of collector stamps, an initial offering of vacation homes with no down payment or an ironclad money-back guarantee that the competition can’t beat.
Why test a long copy approach?
- Generally speaking length is not as important as content. If you have a big story to tell, tell it in a dramatic, compelling manner.
- It’s a new market – prospects are unfamiliar with your product/service and want to know how it works and more importantly why they need it.
- Long-form copy makes sense when you are trying to educate your target market.
- When it comes to business decisions, business people need all the facts.
- Under normal circumstances, it’s better to give more information versus less. If prospects have questions that are unanswered, they are more likely to hold off making a purchase. Long copy normally answers many of their questions and overcomes doubts or hesitation on the part of the prospect.
There are many examples of long-form copy pulling an impressive response rate, including:
- A popular credit card company relied on a direct mail package with a three-page letter that remained the control for many years and became a recognized standard within the credit card industry.
- A travel and resort company successfully markets an exotic getaway adventure on the Amazon River with a four-page letter. Space for the trip is limited and many respondents are turned away on a regular basis.
- A well-known home correspondence school normally includes a four-page letter and copy heavy brochure in their fulfillment kit. The strategy behind their success is to give a prospect as many good reasons as possible to sign up for a home study course.
- The U.S. Mint regularly issues a limited number of rare coins and uses a long form letter in its direct mail along with a copy heavy print ad. Collectors can’t get enough facts or information concerning the latest series, and quantities of the product (usually a one-time limited run) traditionally sell out within a few weeks of introduction.
- One of the largest worldwide marketers of collectibles normally relies on long form copy to sell plates, music boxes, figurines and other collectible products. Their mailings give a detailed background about the history of the particular product, its creation, facts about the artist, and more – probably more than most of us would ever want to know. This approach transformed a cottage industry into a multi-million dollar operation.
When it comes to direct response techniques that work, there continues to be a time and a place for long copy. Be sure to take into account your target audience, your product or service and your offer when trying to decide if long copy makes sense. And above all else, be sure to test it. Anyone can make predictions. Test results should always dictate where you’re at and more importantly, where you should be going with your copy content.
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