How long should your sales copy be? That’s the eternal copywriting question that never seems to go away. So… finally… I can reveal the definitive answer to you!
No more guessing, no more wondering if it’s too long or too short. At last, you can sleep easier… knowing that you have this secret copywriting formula.
So here it is (drum roll please)…
Your sales copy should be as long as a bridge.
That’s right, a bridge.
Now, at this point you’re probably looking at me funny. Or with a clenched fist. So let me swiftly explain.
What’s the purpose of a bridge? It’s to allow traffic (pedestrians or vehicles or both) to cross a gap. And the length of the bridge is ultimately determined by the size of the gap to be crossed, isn’t it?
So, for example, when it was first built in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the largest suspension bridge in the world because it had to cross the East River between Manhatten and Brooklyn in New York – a nearly 6,000 foot “gap”.
If they’d made it, say… just 1% shorter (i.e. 60 feet shorter), then cars would drop off the end and into the East River – which wouldn’t make a very good bridge, in my humble opinion.
So just to drive it home again… it’s length was determined by the size of the “gap” which traffic had to cross. Are you beginning to see how this applies to your web visitors?
If not, let me get specific.
Your sales copy is like a bridge. It is designed to take your visitor from one place to another, across a “gap”.
I’d like you to consider the “gap” in terms of where a new visitor is “at” when they first start reading your copy (i.e. skepticism, mild curiosity, indifference), compared with where you want them to be by the time they’ve finished reading (i.e. in a wanton state of drooling desire for your offer, where they cannot find their credit card quick enough).
Can you see why the bridge metaphor is beginning to appear really useful?
The job of your sales copy is to bridge that gap. Now, before I drag out out this bridge metaphor to death, let me spell out some of the things that will determine the size of this “gap” and hence the length of your copy…
How pre-sold they are. If you’ve been blogging or emailing about the product for a while, or if your affiliates have done a good job of selling the benefits of your product in advance (which is basically “preselling”), your visitors may already be in a buying mood… in which case, your sales copy may end up being more like an usher which just points them to the order button and says, “This is what you’re looking for.”
Trust and credibility. If the visitor already knows you, has done business with you, and trusts you, then the gap is going to be smaller than if they’ve never heard of you. In other words, your copy will need to be longer for those who have never heard of you – because you’ll need to establish trust and credibility first.
Skepticism. A new visitor who has not heard of you may be skeptical of your claims, while a repeat customer may be more willing to believe you if you’ve previously delivered on your promises. So your copy may need to overcome the initial skepticism of new potential clients.
Desire. It’s true, sometimes we see something and just instantly know that we want it. However, for many visitors to your site, all they may have is a mild interest in what you have to say… a vague curiosity. Your copy needs to turn that into wanton, drooling desire.
Questions and objections. Your copy needs to tackle, confront and mud-wrestle as many of the questions as your visitors may ask, and all the objections they could potentially raise.
Price. All other things being equal, you’re probably going to need to do a bit more “selling” with a $700 product than a $7 product. For many, $7 is a fairly small amount of money, while $700 may require much more thought and consideration.
So there you have it.
Your shiny new formula for determining the length of your copy. It should be as long as a bridge.
If your visitors know you, trust you, buy everything that you put out because they’re “fans”, and have been warmed up through repeated discussion of your product in blog posts and emails… then you could probably put up a headline, a few juicy paragraphs and a nice fat “Buy This” button along with a 100% Money Back Guarantee, and you’ll probably make sales…
… not necessarily the most sales, but hopefully you “get” what I’m saying. The “gap” for this group of buyers was tiny, so you could “get away with” a tiny bridge (which by now I’m working on the assumption you get that the bridge is a metaphor for your sales copy… right?)
However, if you have visitors who’ve never heard of you, who are skeptical of your claim to “increase their fungolas by 2,167.8% over the next 28 hours”, who don’t care that you have 28 years “fungola” expertise, and who only have a mild interest in “fungola increase”… then how on earth do you intend to overcome all of that with a headline, a few paragraphs, a “Buy This” button and a 100% Money Back Guarantee?
And that’s the reason a lot of the sales letters you see are long. They’ve got a wide “gap” to bridge.
The bottom line is this: your sales copy must “bridge the gap”, and take your visitor from where they are at the beginning (whether that’s skepticism, curiosity or whatever) to where you want them to be (i.e. a paying customer).
If you see a copywriting expert using shorter copy (yes, it does happen!), then you’ll probably find they’ve already built the trust, desire and so on elsewhere. Their copy is for the people who are just about ready to buy.
So there you have it. My secret formula. Your sales copy should be as long as a bridge… which is as long as the gap it spans.
Next time someone engages you in debate about how long your copy should be, tell them that. (Actually, it might be better to point them to this post first!)
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