I understand the leap of faith I ask clients to make when it comes to long copy. Throughout my 30-year career, many clients have expressed doubt about it. I would have a much easier time selling our services if I made everything short. And, it would be easier to write. The trouble is this darned fiduciary responsibility I have to give clients my best advice.
The rule for direct mail copy length is: make it long enough to make the sale; no longer, but also no shorter. Number of pages is not the objective; making the sale is. Unless you’re doing a “dimensional” mailing, one page is rarely enough. We recommend long copy not because we like it better but because it sells more.
The direct marketing industry didn’t learn this by surveying people and asking them what they’d be more likely to read; they learned it by testing it both ways and comparing the results. That’s why a direct response axiom is, “the more you tell, the more you sell,” and the industry standard has become long sales letters, long ads, and long commercials.
Even though people love to complain about them, they work. The only ad agencies that say people won’t read long copy are the ones that don’t test and measure, or who don’t know how to write long copy that holds and persuades a reader. Provided it’s done right, long copy performs best.
Speaking of “provided it’s done right,” if you're concerned about a long sales letter, you should also prepare for angst over the fact that the sales letter will indeed be a sales letter. It won’t sound like you. It will use an informal tone, push benefits, use contractions, speak in first-person singular, address itself to “you,” have a P.S., cover main selling points more than once, also cover main selling points more than once … use ellipses … use small, punchy words like “punchy” instead of big, esoteric words like “esoteric” — use dashes — and feature strong calls to action. We may use a preposition to end a sentence with. Might use fragments, too.
For an example you’re sure not to like, click here to read the four-page sales letter we wrote for Westminster College. They had their doubts about its tone and length. It was so successful they re-used it over and over. Here is a two-page fund raising letter we wrote for an NFP organization. Also very successful.
The decision to purchase your product is a big one. Before taking action, a serious candidate will want thorough information. If you fail to supply it, you will lose sales.
We know what we’re doing. But I don’t want to push something you can’t get 100% behind. Please don’t hire us for our expertise and then not let us use it. It would be better not to proceed.