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December 05, 2007
Copy Writing: Long vs. Short, Does it Matter?
Torc waterfall, Killarney National Park
Today's my third day back at work after my vacation in Ireland. I have a number of ideas for upcoming entries, but as I started cleaning up the blog comments that came in while I was gone, I saw an interesting question that had been posted on the Web writers: What are we? entry. Mike asked:
What role does long form copy writing have in writing B2B copy for the internet? I must say I am confused. The 'weight' (if not quality) of opinion from largely self-proclaimed internet guru writers is that long form works. I find it hard to accept that such obviously manipulative tactics snare orders from even the most gullible consumer. Love to hear your views…"
Mike's question speaks to two issues, the length of copy necessary to achieve your goal and the copy writing techniques that may be utilized in the process.
Short copy or long? When it comes to length, I don't think there is one right answer.
Articles such as "When Long Form Sales-Copy Doesn't Outpull Short Copy: An Eye-Opening Inside Secret Finally Revealed!" and Long Copy vs. Short Copy Tested may imply that long copy is more successful, but I think what really matters is that your copy serves your goal. When it comes to marketing copy, whether it be selling widgets to a manufacturing company or recruiting students to your graduate program in Art History, one usually needs to focus on three things:
- Features of the product, service, program, event, Web site or whatever else you are promoting
- The online calendar makes a distinctive yet pleasant noise alerting you that an event is about to commence.
- Art History classes are held at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
- The uber widget comes in 9 sizes and configurations.
- Benefits to the end user of said product, service, etc.
- You'll never miss another meeting because you lost track of time. Our calendar will alert you when it's time to go.
- Direct access to the permanent collections and rotating exhibits lets students examine the art in person rather than through secondary sources such as books and slides.
- Whether your shop is big or small, we have a widget that will fit your space (and budget!) and adapt to your specific needs.
- Instructions on what you would like the reader to do.
- Order the calendar today!
- Arrange a visit to tour the campus and meet with members of the department.
- Request more information from a sales representative who can work with you to find the widget solution most appropriate for your business.
How much information you include should be determined by the amount of information required for the reader to make an informed decision and take action.
If you are selling a certain model of desk stapler, you don't need a 12 page booklet or Web site. You can probably fit everything you need on just one page of your office supply site. But, if you are promoting a 4-year long academic program, you will need to provide more information so the student has a greater sense of where and how he or she might be spending those 4 years. You can introduce the student to the program on the Web, or through a brochure, then follow that up with more options. These could include a more detailed Web site, campus visits and the opportunity to interact with current students and faculty either online or on campus.
As these examples indicate, more complex decisions require more detailed information, but that information need not all come from one place. You can include a product description, features and benefits on a postcard or home page then direct the reader to a Web site that offers more details or to a sales person who can offer a more personalized explanation.
There's really no one-size fits all solution. Instead the best thing to do is to tailor the length of your Web pages or printed matter to the situation, then offer opportunities for more details as necessary. If you've given the reader enough information to make an informed decision you've done your job.
Copy writing techniques: persuasion or manipulation?
There is far more research on the psychology of marketing than I have read so I'll just touch on this briefly. I'd like to think that those of you who read this blog (rather than those who only pop by to leave comment spam) are mostly interested in promoting sites, services or products that fulfill the needs of your target audience. If that is the case you probably don't need to fall back on the type of cheap manipulative tactics that Mike mentioned in his question.
It doesn't take a lot of arm twisting to sell an iPod. But if you are promoting something new or unfamiliar, persuasive tactics may help you to get the attention of your readers long enough to make your case. In that case I would recommend hiring an experienced copywriter and/or doing further research to determine which strategies are most appropriate for your goals.
That said, persuasive marketing is no substitute for quality content, products or services. Whether you are promoting your recipe blog or your bookstore, you'll only generate repeat traffic/business if your audience likes or needs what you provide.
Examples of the manipulative techniques to which Mike refers (Funny how they all start with "How to," eh?)
- How to Get Your Prospects to Do Exactly What You Want by Tormenting Their Brains (If you read this DO NOT click the link for the .exe file. It may be safe, but in general I don't trust executable files unless I know more about their origin. I've just included this for more background information.)
- "How To Ethically CHEAT Your Way To A 'Money Sucking' Web Site... That Practically FORCES People To Eagerly Fork Over Their Hard-Earned Money By The Truckload!
- How To Get Your Hands On A FREE Copy Of Some “Undercover Information” That Made One Start-Up, Cash-Strapped Company £81,671.12 In It’s First 60-Hours Of Trading!
Additional copy writing and marketing references
- How Advertising Has Changed
- Long Copy Works Better - Or Is It Short Copy?
- Sales Copy: Long or Short?
- The Long and Short of Copy writing
- The Long And Short Of It Is That These Two Sales Techniques Are The Same
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