Long sales copy is the #1 cause of death in the U.S…
Or, so a vocal few would have you believe. Attributed often as the vile creation of online scamsters, long format sales copy has been simultaneously reviled and exalted. Yet, still, it endures. So, let’s clear a few things up.
First, it’s not the invention of internet marketers…
It may have been co-opted and pushed to the level of backlit garishness by many, but it’s been the centerpiece of direct-response marketing for the better part of a century and sold billions of dollars of everything from Blue Blocker sunglasses to the Wall Street Journal. It’s even been used to raise hundreds of millions for a wide variety of charitable causes. And, certain mega direct response guys have taken it to an insane level by creating what they call magalogs, those 40-60 page often health or investment related pseudo catalogs that inform and sell at the same time. Rodale has used it, the Wall Street Journal, Agora, Boardroom, Wiley and tons of others still use it.
But, why? Why is long format still around?
Surely, with our ADD lifestyles, nobody reads it anymore, right?
Wrong. It’s still here because a big enough chunk of the RIGHT people still not only read it, but act on it. Direct response marketers, both on and offline, are fanatical testers. They split test and even mulitvariate test every option. And, time after time, even today in the online world, these marketers continue to use long format for one and only one reason…
It outsells everything else.
They don’t really care about how many people rage against the format, they do really care about the bottom line. And, until other formats start consistently outselling long format they’ll keep using it. Interesting enough, video and video mixed with copy are now starting to mount a serious challenge, but they’re still not working consistently well enough to dump the long format (or, at least very few people are doing video well enough yet to make the jump).
But, what about us folk in social media who actually care about our personal brands and community bonds?
The challenge comes when certain people (like me) infiltrate social media, which has long been a culture driven by the “sanctity” of conversation. What happens when someone who’s a wacky hybrid of (1) social community leader with distinct brand and (2) marketer, tries to earn a living by maximizing revenue while maintaining personal integrity and honoring the community (something that’s not a huge driver for many other direct-response and internet marketers).
That’s one hell of a tap dance.
So, what people like Chris Guillebeau, Naomi Dunford, Brian Clark, Pam Slim, Sonia Simone and I do when we roll out info-products, membership sites or events is try our best to bridge the gap. To integrate the copy format we know sells better than anything else, while simultaneously working to prove our integrity by toning some of the more aggressive techniques and design elements down a bit and couching the sales content within the greater consistently authentic, value-driven content of our brands.
No doubt, some people, including some of our readers may not like that. But, most who’ve been with us long enough will also forgive our desire to earn the best living possible while giving a tremendous amount of value over time. Especially if we structure the long format so that it’s highly informative, engaging and even entertaining.
Interesting example – back when I owned my yoga center in NYC, as I learned to write copy, I rewrote our teacher training page as a long format sales page. It was massive, but it was also selling a $2,500 service, sight unseen. Within weeks, the response rate shot up nearly 200% and that one page now generates a substantial 6-figure revenue.
You’d figure the touchy-feely, energy-sensitive, non-commercial yoga community that I know and love would’ve been the first ones to be repelled by a long format sales page. But, in fact, it was just the opposite. Many people loved the page.
Because it was done in a way that delivered so much information and answered so many questions and objections, we were consistently told it was like we were “reading the reader’s mind and answering everything they needed to know to make a decision” as they read. And, because of that, people plunked down thousands of dollars and got on planes from all over the world based almost entirely on what was on the page (and the brand we’d created to back it up).
And, that, done well, is what long format copy is all about. Mimic the live sales process and answer every conceivable objection, while informing and entertaining and leading to action. If you’re selling a $1-$5 product, long format is total overkill. For a $19 ebook, that shouldn’t take too long and the copy can be relatively short. But, the more expensive the product, the more work your copy needs to do, the more objections you need to overcome and desires you need to connect with.
So, if you feel the need to rage whenever you bump up against a long format sales page, you’ve got to wonder…
Is it the format that’s pissing you off, or the fact that the copy/design, long as it is, just plain sucks?
In almost every occasion, it’s the quality of the copy or the overuse of certain design “mechanisms” that play the role of agitator. When that happens, go ahead…feel free to shoot the messenger along with the message.
That said, as a copywriter, if there’s a way to shorten up my copy and convert better, I’m all for it. I’ll be experimenting a lot with this and video over the next year.
Curious what you think…
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