Long Copy Vs. Short. How much is enough? The 3 Key Factors Explained.

The question of “copy length” has been around since the first bits of advertising copy were finding themselves being written in the margins of newspapers & periodicals. Before the internet there were physical constraints to the amount of copy a given ad or piece could have, but now we can write to our hearts content.

But should we? With attention spans being at an all time low is long copy still an option? How much copy is too much; and how much copy is enough? Does length matter?

These questions are critical for any entrepreneur, marketer, and copyist to answer if they want to keep a reader engaged and ultimately earn the sale.

This article will explore the 3 key factors worth considering when deciding how long (or short) a piece of marketing copy needs to be…

Key #1: Price Impact

First, consider how much does the price point impacts the target audience.

A $200,000 crane to a mega-construction company would not have as large an impact to its budget then, say, a $2,000 course to an average individual, so the “depth” of the copy & persuasion needed will differ… even though the crane costs 100x as much. The price doesn’t matter as much as the precieved impact does.

At higher price points we will often need to educate our audience more on the benefits so that they can make a confident buying decision. Indeed that $2,000 info-product course may need a 90 minute presentation, around the 15,000 word mark, to successfully persuade someone to pull out their wallet. There’s no perfect rule of thumb here, but sales metrics will let you know. If you’re not converting you’re not persuading, and it’s either that the copy you have currently isn’t persuasive enough OR you haven’t made enough points; meaning you may need to add to your sales argument.

Legendary copywriter John Caples (They Laughed Piano Ad) advised: “Generally speaking the more explaining you need to do to get your reader to understand the product’s benefits fully, or the more money it cost, the longer the copy you’ll need.”

You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely take care of it for the next generation.

An exception to this relates to luxury products. Products people aren’t buying less for utility and more for desires tied into a person’s ‘ego’, the need for status, confidence, power, and, sex appeal. A long detailed sales page on why someone should buy a $50,000 watch likely isn’t going to convince someone that it’s a good fit. Where a short ad appealing to their “ego” might serve better.

Key #2: Familiarity

Another factor is “familiarity” of your audience with what you’re selling.

How well your target audience understands your offer and offers like it should also be heavily considered. The more informed they are, the less depth you may need to go into to persuade them to purchase. For the informed lead you would want to spend more time in your copy building trust and seperating yourself from the competition as opposed to educating them on the product itself. If they are uninformed you’ll want to shift back to educating them on the product/service and its specific benefits. This education process will build much of the trust you need to make the sale!

Their familiarity will also influence how much “jargon” you can get away with in your copy, in general it’s a bad idea to use jargon at all – but if you know your target audience is very familiar with what you’re selling you can use it sparingly to get to the point quicker… thus requiring less ‘depth’ to your general copy pieces. For example, shoes marketed to professional athletes can use terms without explanation that shoes marketed to the general public would want to either avoid or use with explanation provided.

It’s worth repeating, however, that jargon should be used with caution, when in doubt leave jargon out, or at least translate that jargon in the copy itself somewhere.

Key #3: Are they expecting you?

Another important factor that determines the depth of your writing is whether you’re marketing to someone already looking for what you’re selling, or someone who looking for what you’re selling… e.g. “search ads” vs. “banner ads”.

For instance, the sales page for my book is LONG for a book page because I’m targeting a broad audience with banner campaigns… if I were to do a campaign directly to a more niche audience, say copywriters, then I could likely skip the part of the page that’s designed to persuade a broad audience of the importance of copywriting, therefore requiring a lot less depth in my writing.

Put simply, if you’re targeting a broad audience with a high impact price point there’s a lot more nurturing/persuasion that will need to be done then a more informed audience one with less impact.

This is also where well designed layout comes into play, often time on a long page the reader is a ‘skimmer’, they’re subconsciously looking for relevant or interesting subheadlines that apply to them. Our long form copy should use design tools to make this skimming process easier such as clearly defined styles for different types & priorities of text while avoiding big chucks of paragraph text.

In speech we have tone, pausing, and volume to emphasise points, in text we only have visuals. This means we may find ourselves breaking many grammatical rules in the way we lay out our text in service to imitating the spoken word as opposed to the written word.

Design For Skimmers

“In many cases, longer copy will work best. But remember, it’s not because it’s long that it works. It still needs to be brief and succinct in the sense that it packs maximum meaning and benefit into each sentence.”

– John Camples

To put it together balancing the following factors is the key to determining the depth your copy will need…

  1. Audience familiarity with what you’re selling
  2. The impact the price will have on their bottom line now & in the future.
  3. Whether the person is actively searching for your type of product or not.

Of course, there are many more factors determining what kind of copy you should use within your marketing itself, for a more detailed write up on the subject check out my 7 Figure Marketing Copy Guide here.

In many cases, longer copy will work best. But remember, it’s not because it’s long that it works. It still needs to be brief and succinct in the sense that it packs maximum meaning and benefit into each sentence.

Any other factors you think should determine the length of the messaging you use? Sound off here in the Facebook group discussion… if you bring something to light that I missed I’ll be sure to add it to this post.

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