Why long copy works better

It is a proven fact. Long copy works better than short copy. It has been tested time and time again and in almost all situations where a response is the goal, long copy gets a higher response. It’s a hard fact to accept because it goes against the widespread belief that “No one has time to read all that copy”.

Is your copy long enough to maximize potential response?

Or do you make the mistake of always writing short copy, regardless of the situation? There’s a knee-jerk reaction by many marketers against long copy and it’s entirely based on personal opinion, not on testing in the market place. The reason given by those against long copy is simply that no one has time to read it. Right. Just like no one has time to watch a 30-minute infomercial on TV. In fact, the success of the 30-minute infomercial is a testament to the strategy of long copy, a strategy that buys into the topic of the last newsletter, the notion of writing to the responder.

Infomercials do get less viewership and long copy does get less readership. But the people who choose to watch and who choose to read long copy are the ones who are interested. They are the responders. They have chosen to read your story. These are people who will respond if you give them sufficient reason. Long copy lets you tell them the whole story. It lets you describe all the key facts and benefits. It gives you a much better chance at making the sale or securing the donation.

There is a very old saying which goes, “the more you tell, the more you sell”. And although that may be a tired worn cliché, it’s also a proven fact. Because when tested, long copy almost always wins: 6 and 8 page letters beat 4 pages, 4 page letters outpull 2 pages, 2 pages outpull 1 page. Just look at the classic direct mail packages over the years. Almost all of the letters have been 4 pagers.

Of course for long copy to work, it has to be good.

It has to be concise and well written with no puffery and no wasted words. It has to be loaded with facts and benefits that are important to the reader. It should be scannable, with subheads and graphic emphasis devices. And it has to flow. One paragraph should lead naturally into the next so that once the reader begins, they’re hooked. In short, it should be a compelling read.

And to create a compelling read in fundraising, nothing works better than a gripping story. But writing a gripping story is hard to do when you must work under the conventional wisdom that says to keep the copy short. An unfortunately there are all too many misguided voices out there to inform you that no one has the time to read all that copy.

There are definitely situations in which short copy will do better. For example, if your goal is to generate a lead, then usually the less you tell the better. Or if you are raising funds for an emergency, why complicate things? Let the KISS principle apply and keep your copy short. Or if your target audience is very young, shorter copy may work better because today’s young people don’t read as much.

According to a study recently published in The Guardian, people over 60 are twice as likely to donate to a charity than people under 30. And people over 60 are more inclined to read long copy than people under 30. That means if you think your audience tends toward the 50’s and 60’s or older, you should definitely use a long copy approach.

Many marketers believe that if you’re writing for the web or email, you should keep your copy shorter than for print. Maybe. On the other hand, some of the longest sales letters you’ll ever see are on the web. And they seem to be working. Agora Publishing is one of the most successful marketers on the web – with hundreds of books and dozens of paid newsletters – and they are masters of the art of long copy. Some of their web sales letters run dozens of pages.

Discover more about why long copy works better . . .

There’s just not enough room here to properly extol the virtues of long copy. So here’s an offer. Send me an email – publisher@expertfundraiser.org – with the subject line “long copy please” and I’ll send you a great article on long copy by BC copywriter George Demmer. He wrote it years ago because he was tired of explaining the merits of long copy to his clients. To build his case he quotes DM notables like David Ogilvy, John Caples, Claude Hopkins, Bob Stone, Robert W. Bly, Gary C. Halbert, Jay Abraham and others. The best thinkers and writers in the business. If these marketing legends don’t convince you that long copy works, nothing will.


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