What’s best – short or long copy?

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How to write for maximum R.O.I. 8th Jan 2009 @ Yahoo! Video

I recently received this question from John from Arkansas:

Question: What’s better: short or long copy
Answer: Great question John.  It’s one I continually get from my clients and there’s a raging debate about this amongst marketers and advertisers.

It’s a debate that’s been going on for absolutely years.  The short answer is that it depends on what the purpose of the piece is, who’s reading it and what action you want them to take.  In addition, it’s not often the LENGTH of the piece that’s important.  It’s how interesting your treatment is to your target market reader.

According to David Ogilvy, only about 5% of readers will read the body copy.  But, as he points out, if you look at 5% of the full readership of the publication, that’s still a lot of people.

In my experience, the most important thing is that the people who’re ready to buy are interested enough read the copy.

What are some ways you can ensure that they do?

First:
Write a compelling headline:  Using lead-ins like “How to …” “Discover…” “Amazing…”  “New…”
About 5 times as many people read the headline as the rest of the ad.  If you can capture their interest with the promise in the headline, it’ll be much more likely that they’ll read the rest of your message.

Second:
Stick to a single message.  Don’t try to cram everything into a single ad or letter.  Choose the major benefit.  When you want to identify a major benefit, a useful way to do so is to think about the customer as if you’re looking at them in a before photo and an after photo.  What has changed in the ‘after use’ photo once they’ve used your product or service?

Third:
Use bold sub headlines in the body copy.  If you read only the headlines from the main headline through to the last bolded sub-headline,  together, they should tell the story in a nutshell.

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