There is no marketing axiom that says long copy is best in every situation.

But there are many situations in which long copy can boost response, but doesn’t get to do so, because someone involved with the project objects to it, precisely because they feel it is too lengthy.

In a recent test, an investment advisory firm hired me to rewrite a 2-page flier they use to invite potential clients to a free investment and retirement planning workshop.

When I handed in my copy and their graphic designer laid it out, it was 4 pages, not 2 pages.

The headlines for the control and test were the same. The difference was that my longer promotion was double the length of what they were using, information packed, and with a lot more proof.

Note: both their 2-pager and my 4-pager offer a book on retirement planning as a free bonus gift, and the book is mailed to those who sign up in advance of the workshop date.

My client showed my copy to a marketing consultant in the financial area, who declared that people are too busy and would never read such long copy, and therefore it would not work. “It is way too long,” he said. “People are in a hurry today.”

My client decided to test my 4-page mailer. The result: it pulled more than double the response of the shorter mailer, getting twice as many prospects to attend the workshop.

“This incident, though admittedly just a single test, is very significant for me, because it shows long copy can beat short,” my client says, adding, “But the long copy must be compelling.”

About the consultant who proclaimed that the 4-pager would bomb, my client replied, “When your prospects are deciding what to do with $1 million, they will find time to read good long copy.”

In addition, my client believes the long copy invitation will get a better quality of prospect closer to what he wants.

“If they are willing to read the long copy, they are more likely to read the book I mail them and will be that much more likely to do business with me.”

Two takeaways:

1. For many offers long copy out-pulls short copy substantially, which makes it worth testing. If you use a 1-page letter, test against a 2-page letter.

2. Not only does long copy increase response, but it can also produce a more qualified lead, since those who will read long copy are serious buyers.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

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