Why you shouldn’t ask if your copy is too long

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Why you shouldn’t ask if your copy is too long

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Why ‘Is it boring?’ is the real question.

Something tells me you haven't got the sale. Image Source: CNN Money.

Something tells me you haven’t got the sale. Image Source: CNN Money.

Let’s talk about length, and why it’s important. It’s fine if you need to go outside and have a snigger first. The desired length for any given piece of copy is something that everyone from business owners to marketers obsess over.

Take blog posts for instance. Some people will tell you that they need to be kept short and concise in order to hold anyone’s attention in today’s instantaneous online world. Yet others will argue they should be well in excess of 1000 words, in order to be able to include enough information to make them relevant and valuable to the target audience.

But focusing on the length of your copy isn’t going to help you in the long run. Unless your word count is dictated by the physical space it will occupy (for instance on a flyer or brochure), the question to ask should be ‘Is my copy interesting?’

Length does not equal interest

There are some times in which shorter is indeed better: parents’ evenings; wedding ceremonies; root canal operations. But when you’re marketing to somebody your main goal is to persuade them to take action. Not everybody is the same. Some will take more persuading than others.

If you are presenting to potential clients, you stay long enough to answer any questions they have and ensure they have all the information they require. You wouldn’t pack up your laptop and leave as soon as the PowerPoint had ended. Selling isn’t about saying what you want to say, it’s about saying what the prospect wants to hear.

Which is why what you should be worrying about when it comes to your copy is whether or not it’s interesting. Just because you cut 1,000 words down by 50% doesn’t automatically mean your content becomes twice as interesting.Rather frustratingly for anyone looking for a definitive answer, the real rule about copywriting is that it should be as long as it needs to be.

How do I know if my copy is interesting?

Unfortunately this one is mostly down to your customers to decide. You have to trust your intuition, and there are a few basic ways to ensure you have done everything you can to keep it from being boring. Ask yourself:

Have I made points I need to make? If 500 words isn’t enough space in which to convey all the benefits of your product that your target market will want to know about, then cutting yourself off will damage your ability to convert them into customers.

Will the reader have any objections or questions that I have not yet addressed? Your potential customer will come up with many reasons (excuses) not to buy from you. If you do not challenge all of their objections, you are giving them a valid reason not to buy. Your copy should leave them with no doubt in their minds that they need your product.

Have I addressed everything that I raised at the beginning of the copy? Like a good story, copy needs some sort of narrative. If you draw your reader in using a question, statistic, or relatable scenario, you need to make sure you have concluded the points you raised by the end of the copy. Your target market won’t appreciate being drawn in with an interesting anecdote, only to be hit with standard sales copy once you have their attention.

Do the trees outside start quaking in fear as my mouse hovers over the ‘print’ icon? Don’t underestimate the power of editing. If you analyse what you’ve written, identify key points, and think of alternative phrasings, you can usually cut 1,000 words down to 500. It’s a common strategy in post-recession businesses these days (albeit usually applied to staff): make what you have work harder with less.

Too little copy is just as bad as too much. What is important is not how long it is, but how skilfully you can guide the reader from the beginning to the end without them even considering the length. People only complain about things being too long when they fail to hold their interest.

Just like some of the most effective things in marketing, great copywriting is invisible. Do you agree?


About Author

Rewan Tremethick

Rewan is a freelance copywriter and author living in Cornwall. On the rare occasions when he isn't writing fact or fiction, he can be found reading, listening to music, and dreaming about Winklepickers.

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