Ask any experienced marketer, and they’ll tell you ‘long copy outpulls short every time’.
And usually, it does.
But there’s a weird double-standard at the moment where the same people who will encourage you to make your copy as long as possible insist that your VSLs should be at most 4 minutes long, because ‘people don’t watch long videos’.
And sometimes, ‘long’ copy can be remarkably short. The ’2 Young Men’ Wall Street Journal sales letter, sent to colder traffic than you’ll ever find online, generated approximately a billion dollars, and did it all with 800 words.
So which is it?
You’ve probably heard the Gary Halbert quote: “A sales letter can’t be too long, only too boring.”
This is true.
But but but.
The single easiest way of making copy boring is making it too damn long.
I’ve got to admit, my heart sinks a bit every time I’m given a 5,500 word sales letter to review for a product that only costs $17.
Because it’s possible that you really do need all those words. Maybe your product is so complicated or your prospects so cold that you really need the equivalent of 3 chapters of a novel to convince someone that it’s worth $17.
But you probably don’t.
Length does not equal quality. When you’ve said enough to convince your prospect, stop.
So short copy is best?
Well, no. Long copy tends to outpull short for a reason.
When I write a sales letter, I’m not expecting all 3000 words to be needed to convince any given propsect. I’m expecting maybe 500 at most to be important.
But it’s a different 500 for everyone.
Short copy fails when the reason it’s short is that the writer has left out a load of selling points. It simply can’t convince as many people.
Long copy succeeds when it can carry people through the parts they’re not interested in without them noticing.
And the best way to do that is to use as few words as possible to say them.
(The same is true for VSLs, by the way. Avengers Assemble was 2 and a half hours long and $1 billion worth of people sat through it in the first 3 weeks. If people stop watching your VSL after 4 minutes, it’s not because they’re genetically programmed to stop. It’s because your VSL was fucking boring)
Here’s the tl;dr version:
- Make it as long as it needs to be. Don’t leave anything out that could sway your prospect.
- Make it as short as possible. Trim as many words as you can without losing your selling points.
- You live and die by how interesting you are to your prospect. You don’t need to have them gripped with every sentence, but leave it too long to get their interest back and they’ll drop you faster than a blackhatter over a cliff.
Don’t worry if you find that hard. I’ve been writing professionally for years, and believe me, this stuff isn’t easy.
But don’t obsess over your word count. There’s no magic number, there’s no size-line your copy has to cross to be a massive converter.
Instead, do what Gary Halbert did and take the advice of the King of Hearts:
“Start at the beginning. Continue until you reach the end. Then stop.”