The Unbreakable Law of Long Copy

Every tribe…community….collective…has its sacred law. An unbreakable code of conduct – or an oath, sworn by every member.

For magicians, it’s “Never share your secrets”.

In business networks, “Refer other members”.

For hairy bikers, “Don’t steal another dude’s gal while he’s getting a buttock tattoo”. (Probably)

And for copywriters?

The eternal truth: “The more you tell, the more you sell”. Meaning…a long and detailed bit of copy will get you more sales than something short and sweet.

That is our mantra. Our chant. We must say it first thing every morning, or we’ll get drummed out of the copy world – and get banished to the wilderness, begging for gigs on Fiverr.

It’s that serious.

So imagine my alarm this week when…a veteran copywriter broke rank!!

I won’t put him in further danger by revealing his name. But yeah – it’s true. He went rogue. By claiming (I can barely write this…) you should “keep it short”!

Ooh, there’ll be trouble.

See, the reason we all say “Long copy works” is, well…long copy works.

Think about it. If a sales rep came to your house to flog you, let’s say, a conservatory…how long would it take you to decide? 5 minutes? Or 10? Or 15?

Are you that easy to sell to?

Nope. I reckon an hour at least. Because you’ve got questions. Objections. And he’s got to cover it all. He’s got to convince you, life without a conservatory is unthinkable – and his conservatories are the best in town.

That’s his job. And the best salesman alive couldn’t do it in 5 minutes flat.

So why would you expect a few hundred words of copy to do the job?

It’s crazy.

The more you tell, the more you sell.

Take it from a man who’s written a 12k word brochure on flat roofing, and a 28-page letter flogging space on an acting course.

Long copy works.

HOWEVER….in practice, it can suck.

Why? Because numpties who’ve read half a post on a copy blog will see the long copy mantra and totally miss the point. They’ll see “long” as a substitute for “relevant” and “good”. So they’ll sling a load of drivel at the page, just to make up the word count…then question the method when no-one buys their thing!

It happens every day. So let’s modify the rule:

Your copy should be long enough to entice the reader, and kill their inner sceptic. Not a word less, not a word more.

Meaning, it’s not length – it’s detail.

So, back to the industry rogue – why did he go off script?

Well, his argument is, attention spans are getting lower and lower. But I say, that doesn’t mean keep it short…it means keep it tight.

If it compels them, they’ll read it.

So would you.

Don’t believe me? Well…

…If I told you, that boy/girl you had a crush on at school has just published his/her teenage diary…and you’re in it…would you read it? (Yup – you’re diving in, and you ain’t leaving until you’ve got some answers!)

…If I gave you a 50-page report from someone who’s interviewed all your previous lovers…would you read that? (You betcha. Cover to cover. No skipping!)

Same if I showed you how to pay off your mortgage in the next 3 months. Or lose 2 stone without diet or exercise. Or cure your chronic back pain without meds or surgery.

People will read stuff that compels them. And length is not an obstacle.

But “short” will get you nowhere. Especially with a high ticket sale.

Exceptions?

Well in 13 years of testing this stuff, I’ve found one. That’s all.

But I won’t get into that now – there’s no time.

I’ll tell you about it next time…

Meet the Author

James Daniel

You might not know who James is...but you've probably read his copy. Through high street clients like Hidden Hearing, or big gun marketers like Jonathan Jay and Chris Cardell. His words are out there, pulling in new business every month. What else? Well his books, Do You Talk Like That at Home? and Direct Mail 101 will help you squeeze out more sales. Oh yeah - and his next book Before You JFDI will help you plan your next campaign. Get on the list for a free advance copy here.

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