The most successful direct mail letter I ever wrote, on the basis of responses and sales, was about 4,500 words long and covered around eight pages of closely set A4.
Furthermore, long headlines are statistically proven to have more pulling power than short ones.
The point is this: get your targeting right, get the opening message right, tell people the right things and your copy will be read.
So if I hear another art director/creative director/designer/whatever tell me they only want 40 words on product or service X because that’s all the design allows for – when I’ve tons of clear, compelling, results generating benefits to talk about – I’m not going to be responsible for my actions.
From baked beans to BMWs, copy sells
Next time you’re in the supermarket doing the shopping pick up a tin of beans, a box of cereal or a loaf of bread and read the packs. Do any one of them only have 40 words of copy to grab your attention, nurture your interest, fuel your desire and make you buy them?
Imagine you go to buy a new car, worth thousands and thousands of times more than the commodities just described. Is your local, friendly motoring salesperson strictly limited to saying only 40 words to you about the products in his range?
Right. so why does anybody think I should be trying to sell (and that’s exactly what a copywriter does) anything from executive homes to state of the art, enterprise wide software solutions, with only a handful of words? Because…
a) the designer likes ‘lots of white space’ or
b) the client doesn’t believe people read copy.
The message, the medium
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a press ad, brochure, direct mail piece or web page…the headline does 90% of the work in getting prospects to start reading. The very first paragraph has to then lock them in.
If your targeting’s right and these two elements have done their job, your prospect will read on…whether there are 100 words or 5,000. But don’t forget the message and the medium. If what you’re saying is short and simple, keep your copy short and simple. And you’ve obviously got more room for words in a 16pp brochure than on a DL postcard.
You’ve heard the old clichés ‘the more you tell, the more you sell’ and ‘when you’ve made the sale, shut up.’ Between these two you’ll find the right length for your copy.