Long or short copy

How long should your copy be?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions when writing copy.

And there is a diversity of opinions, as in almost everything in life.

There are those who argue that a piece of copy should always be as short as possible since people don’t read, but there are also those who are long copy defenders because then, we can add a greater number of reasons to buy a product.

The truth is that everything depends on each case and pro copywriters know it.

There are occasions when a short text can work extremely well and get excellent results.

But in many other cases the copy needs to be longer if we want to generate lots of sales.

This question about copy’s length is not something new, nor has it arisen with the emergence of the Internet and social media.

Far from that.

This concept is already explained in the book “Breakthrough Advertising” by the iconic copywriter Eugene Schwartz, published in 1966.

This book is one of the most respected documents in the advertising world.

In it, Schwartz already talks about the 5 levels of awareness of potential customers and their direct relation with one of the most important aspects to take into account when writing copy: length.

Length plays a more important role than we might think at first.

Do you stay with me to see those 5 levels of awareness?

Ok, let’s start.

Schwartz’s 5 levels of awareness

Many people confuse the length of a text with the price of the product.

In other words, the more expensive a product is, the longer the copy should be.

This is a fairly widespread mistake and I’m going to give you a weighty apple-shaped reason to prove it wrong.

That’s right, Apple.

If you look at any of the sales pages of the almighty iPhone you will see that the copy is always short and crisp.

In a few sentences they say exactly what it takes to generate desire.

iPhone short copy

However, as we all know, an iPhone costs a fortune.

So, why don’t they need to say a lot on their website for you to want to buy it?

Because we all know the iPhone.

It’s the icon of smartphones and trendy people.

With their marketing strategy, Apple has managed to make people think about quality when we see the Apple logo, and how cool it looks to work in a Starbucks with a MacBook instead of a boring Dell. 

As a general rule, you have to remember the following: the greater the awareness of the target audience is, the shorter the copy can be, and vice versa.

And to not forget this, think about the apple. It makes a lot of sense.

If a product is already popular and desired by a lot of people, its manufacturers don’t need to give you many reasons to buy the latest model.

However, if people don’t know your product, and, moreover, your product covers a new market need, you will need to provide many more reasons in order to convince prospects to buy.

Selling is convincing and we convince with skilled argumentation.

If people don’t know your brand they will have a lot of doubts in their mind before they decide to buy from you.

Doubts like these:

– Where does this brand come from?

– I don’t really need this product

– It’s very expensive and I don’t know if it’ll be worth it.

– Nobody talks about it. Why should I trust this?

Your copy needs to clear up all possible doubts so the prospect doesn’t turn around and leave. Click To Tweet

After this short introduction, it’s time to talk about each of Schwartz’s 5 levels of awareness.

Let’s see them.

1. The prospect has no idea

He hasn’t yet realized that he has a problem or need. He just doesn’t know there’s a better way to do something.

This would be your case if what you are selling is a completely new product.

Let’s look at an example.

We will travel 12 years back in time to land on the year Apple introduced the first iPhone.

No one knew what a smartphone was.

The general public had no idea that it was possible to connect to the Internet with your mobile, but also take pictures while listening to music.

Doing a Google search I found a screenshot of what the sales page of the first iPhone looked like.

The first iPhone

Do you see that it includes a lot more copy than the page of the iPhone 11 we’ve seen earlier?

In addition, each of those sections with iPod, phone, etc. icons would open up to go to an even more extensive sales page.

The first iPhone

People had no idea what an iPhone was or what its advantages were.

Moreover, Apple fans were far less numerous than today, the brand was quite well known but its advantages over other manufacturers weren’t so widespread yet, especially outside the US.

Apple copywriters knew of the level of unawareness of the market, so they added more copy (more argumentation) on that sales page in 2007 than on that of the latest model this year.

They wanted the person who landed on the page to read all those reasons, and at the end of it, be convinced that she needed an iPhone.

There are sales letters of 20 pages long that are a real success because they achieve their goal, which is to sell.

People read what’s interesting for them, even if it’s a very long text.

If it’s well written and structured, prospects will read it.

But beware, a piece of copy can only convince prospects if it’s well written and appeals to the reader’s emotions.

A text that doesn’t appeal to emotions doesn’t sell and it’s boring.

If you want to know more about how to write sales pages in this article I explain the keys elements.

2. The prospect is aware that she has a problem

She has some idea of what that problem is, but in many cases she isn’t fully aware, because she hasn’t dealt with this problem before and is not familiar with possible solutions.

To be able to convince prospects at this level you need a piece of copy long enough to be able to explain what the problem is like, what the symptoms are and the possible solutions.

Let’s see a funny example to relax the corners of your mouth, they look too tight to me.

I’m sure you’ve seen this video before. Squatty Potty and the cute unicorn.

In this video they are actually selling something as unattractive as a footrest for the toilet.

They explain in a funny way that in order to do a smooth number 2, it’s better to rest your feet slightly higher since it helps the intestine to evacuate more easily.

Most people were unaware of this, so the copywriters at Harmon Brothers had to explain it in detail.

This is a perfect example of a low level of awareness. People have trouble going to the toilet but don’t know that it can be solved with a simple footrest.

I’m sure this was a challenging task for the copywriters since they had to find a way to talk about poop and make it attractive.

And they managed it soooooo well! 😀

3. The prospect is aware that there is a solution to his problem

He knows other solutions like yours but is not aware of your specific product or service because your company is not well known yet.

At this stage, the most important thing is to describe the reasons why your product or service is better than others and why the prospect should trust you.

It’s logical, he doesn’t know you, so he needs reasons to trust your brand.

Prospects need results, testimonials, comparisons, etc., to convince themselves that your brand responds better to their specific needs than others.

Let’s see another example, it’s again a video made by Harmon Brothers. Can you tell I’m a big fan?

This time they are selling a mattress.

Everyone knows what a mattress is for and we all need one, but how many brands of mattresses are there?

Fifty thousand.

So the copywriters at Harmon Brothers decided to create a video with Goldilocks explaining why Purple mattresses are better than the others.

You may not have enough money to pay Harmon Brothers to produce a video as cool as this one, but there are great copywriters out there who can write a fantastic script for a product demonstration.

4. The prospect has heard about your product

She knows it, but she’s never bought it. She is also familiar with the offers of your competitors.

She’s just not sure if your solution is the best for her.

Here again you have to compare and highlight the benefits of your product as well as trust.

The prospect trusts your brand more than in the previous stage because she knows it, has heard of it, certainly in good terms (since she is considering it) and only needs one more push to be convinced that yours is the best one among all available options.

Maybe she will choose your brand just for a small difference.

For example, because the other brands don’t offer a no questions asked 30-day warranty as you do.

A good warranty can be definitive.

5. The prospect knows your product very well

These are your best customers. They are loyal to the brand.

They are enthusiastic about your products.

They attend all your events and follow you on social media.

Apple fans, for example.

That’s why Apple doesn’t need to add a lot of copy every time it releases a new iPhone.

It only compares with 3 sentences what is new and better compared to the previous model and that’s enough to sell millions.

Conclusion

Don’t be too worried about boring your prospects with long copy.

If your product is not known yet, and/or you are responding to a need of the market that is not so obvious to most people, you will have to add more argumentation in your copy.

The secret to keeping people reading and not bore them to death is to generate interest by knowing your prospects very well and talking to them in a familiar tone. Click To Tweet

They need to feel you understand them and you know what’s best for them. Like a good friend.

You can use humour if it’s what you think is most appropriate, but of course, you have to be careful with this.

If I were you, I wouldn’t use jokes when selling is a serious health product, for instance.

Remember, the ultimate goal of your copy is first to sell, and then to entertain.

You won’t only entertain by being funny but you can also get the reader’s full attention if you explain in a clear and precise way how that person’s life can improve with your product.

The best way to write effective sales copy is to practice a lot.

So get to work!

Download the free guide here.

Featured Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

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