The Long and Short of Marketing Copy

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The debate is hardly new in marketing circles: should you write long or short copy? Long-copy advocates, including many direct-mail writers, argue that long copy always works best. People read what interests them, and longer copy equals more sales.

Short-copy champions say that consumers don’t t like to read long copy because they’re bombarded with information and don’t have time.  This side goes for short copy accompanied by graphics, images and now video.

Both arguments have merit. But whether you use shorter or longer copy depends more on context than any school of thought.  Here are some tips for deciding whether to write long or short.

Write long when:

  • Your product is technical, expensive or unusual and needs more explanation.
  • You need to create trust and believability by including lots of testimonials.
  • You know there are typically a lot of objections that need to be answered.

Marketing and SEO copywriter Belinda Weaver suggests making your long copy more reader friendly by:

  •  Including great subheads.
  •  Incorporating lists and different formatting to break up copy.
  • Repeating your call to action so readers don’t need to skim or scroll through the copy to take the next step.

Write short when:

  • The format, such as postcards or signage, dictates shorter copy.
  • You’re selling a less expensive product or service.
  • Consumers know your product, service and perhaps even your offer so well that they don’t need a lot of explanation.
  • Images do the selling of your product or service.

But Never Use More Words Than You Need

Economy of words should apply to both long and short marketing copy. You need to make every word count. Well-chosen words make your writing clear and bring the reader more quickly to the point.  Make the copy interesting and conversational in tone but also remember that the objective of marketing copy is to sell.

Oh, And Don’t Forget to Test

You’ll never know for certain whether long or short copy works best without testing each approach. In many instances, the cost of testing is low, yet the payback can be very high.  And while you’re in test mode, consider mixing the two, say a postcard with a personalized URL (pURL) that sends the recipient to a landing page with greater detail vs. a longer, more all-inclusive initial message.

Need help with your copy strategy or writing? Contact me today. Websites, Email, Social Media, Public Relations, Thought Leadership Content (blogs, white papers, newsletters), Corporate Branding Materials, Direct Mail and Video Scripts

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