One direct-marketing “expert,” unnamed here in order to protect the guilty, recently advised mail advertisers that letters and reply contents should be “short and a welcoming read.”
Poppycock. Direct-mail copy should be long enough to get its job done — with not a word too much or too little.
Renowned marketing consultant Robert W. Bly has developed a 10-step way, based on emotion and involvement, to help determine the effective copy length for any project.
Emotion — The purchase of a diamond engagement ring, Bly says, involves a high degree of emotion. Buying a box of paper clips does not.
Involvement — Buying an engagement ring demands takes major time, effort, and thought. Purchasing a box of paper clips does not.
When a purchasing decision involves high levels of both emotion and involvement, Bly writes, long copy works better than short.
On the other hand, when a transaction hinges on little emotion and involvement, he advises short copy. Bly observes that “writing long, passionate copy about paper clips probably won’t sell more of them.”
Low emotion coupled with high involvement, Bly says, calls for medium-length copy, as does high emotion and low involvement.
Other factors that Bly advises affect copy length include:
Price — “The more expensive a product is, the more copy you generally need to sell it,” Bly says.
He notes that copywriter Jim Murphy thinks, “If you are selling something worth more than $20, I’ll put my money on longer copy every time.”
Advertising strategy — copy that sells a product directly usually must be long. Lead-generation copy can be short.
Audience — Time-pressured executives and professionals often respond better to short copy, Bly says. Retired people and enthusiasts, such as hobbyists, like to read long copy.
Product nature — Products that people really need (for instance, refrigerators) can be sold successfully with short copy. Discretionary products (for example, magazine subscriptions) generally require long copy.
Familiarity — Short copy can work well with products the prospect knows and understands.
Test before you commit your budget to any length of copy.
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