When was the last time you bought a car based solely on an ad in the paper that showed a picture of the vehicle, the price, and a short sales pitch that read, “The latest in engineering excellence. Buy yours today!”? Probably never. So, tell me … why are businesses afraid to use long copy to sell their products?

Keep it short. No one reads long copy.

I hear that all the time. The truth is people do read long copy. Factors that determine whether advertisers should use long copy or short copy:

Level of Interest: Lookie-loos vs. Buyers

Let’s say you’re in the market for a refrigerator. Fuzzy mold is sprouting on your food as we speak. As a serious buyer, you need more information than you’ll find in a simple ad with a picture and a price. You need to know:

  • The dimensions of the refrigerator. (Will it be able to hold your cream-filled sheet cake?)
  • The colors. (Will it complement your kitchen décor?)
  • If it has ice and water in the door. (Who wants to fill ice-cube trays?)
  • If it has a water filter. (You don’t like that tap-water taste.)
  • If it has an Energy Star rating. (Lower utility bills … YESSSS!)

The higher the desire or need for the product—especially an expensive product—the higher the desire for long copy.

It’s been proven time and time again that long copy outsells short copy. Why? Because long copy targets serious buyers—those people who are ready to make a purchase and want to make informed decisions. So, who’s your target market—lookie-loos or buyers?

What Your Audience Knows About Your Product

I didn’t care what the package said. I picked up the Hungry-Man Meatloaf dinner and tossed it into my cart. I may not be a “man,” but I was definitely hungry. Do you think I spent any time whatsoever reading the package to find out where the vegetables were grown, how the potatoes were whipped, or how to prepare it? Heck no! It’s a frozen meatloaf dinner … what’s there to know?

On the other hand, most people don’t know anything about electric cars, so there’s A LOT to say. Your customers have questions. They need answers. To make a sale, you need to educate your customers. You need to explain that:

  • Battery life is 62 to 138 miles.
  • Depending on the voltage of their receptacle, the length of time to recharge the battery is 8-20 hours.
  • The maximum speed of the car is 90 mph, meaning that it’s capable of reaching freeway speeds.
  • The battery pack features complete thermal management so that the vehicle operates at its optimum level regardless of the temperature outside.
  • Although no one has any long-term crash-test data, the current data show it to be a safe vehicle.

Your customers want to make informed decisions, especially when it comes to big-ticket items. Your job is to guide them to a sale by giving them the information they need. Can you sell an electric car with just a paragraph of copy? Probably not. For that, you need long copy chock-full of benefits, features, and sales arguments … that and a Hungry-Man brownie should do it.

The Cost of the Product 

It was 11:30 p.m.—ON A WEEKNIGHT—when Mr. Kirby Vacuum Cleaner Salesman finally walked out the door. He had been at the house since 8:00 p.m. and had talked nonstop for three and a half hours. When he left, I was convinced that my house would not be fit for a dog unless it was cleaned with a $2,000 Kirby vacuum cleaner. The $300 Hoover Wind Tunnel wouldn’t do, nor would the $500 Kenmore Intuition. It had to be the TWO THOUSAND DOLLAR Kirby Sentria.

My point? In the great debate of long copy vs. short copy, another consideration is the cost of your product.

When it comes to big-ticket items—or vacuum cleaners that cost four times as much as the average vacuum cleaner—you’ll need to do more to generate a sale than you would for a $20 hamburger (even though $20 is a bit pricey for a hunk of meat on a bun). To get customers to plunk down big bucks, you’ll need to convince them that what you’ve got to sell is well worth their hard-earned money.

Following the example of Mr. Kirby Vacuum Cleaner Salesman, you’ll need to:

  • Address the customer’s pain points—what frustrates him, what’s difficult for him, what keeps him up at night.
  • Demonstrate how wonderful life will be when he uses your product—no more frustrations, no more sleepless nights.
  • Identify all the features AND BENEFITS that your product has to offer.
  • Describe what sets your product apart and makes it superior to all others.
  • Assure your customer that he is “protected”; that, if things don’t work out, you’ll make it right.
  • Flatter your customer on the good choices he makes.

As I said earlier, your customers want to make informed decisions; your job is to guide them to a sale by giving them the information they need. Can you cover all the bullet points above and convince your customers that your product is well worth its cost using short copy? Probably not.

So take the time to fully justify the cost of your product. If you don’t, your customers may make decisions based on price alone … in which case, you could lose a sale. The $2,000 Kirby Sentria or the $300 Hoover Wind Tunnel? Without price justification, which would you choose? 

Readers Want High-Quality Content

Let’s face it, no matter how high the reader’s interest level, if the content is poorly written, you’ll lose both the reader and the sale.

What makes good content? The answer to that could fill a book. Suffice it to say, good content captures the reader’s interest and leads him to a sale.

Granted, long copy is not appropriate for all types of products and services. I mean, seriously, how much can you say about stationery, fence posts, or bacon. But computers, financial services, and vacation time-shares … that’s another story. If you want to make a sale, don’t be afraid to use long copy.

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