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How to write long copy that sells part 1

 

Many people are wary of using long copy. In fact it can be more effective than short copy in some situations. That’s because you get the chance to tackle your customer’s objections and dispel their anxieties one by one. But longer copy means more to consider before you get it right, because it’s all too easy to lose your reader. That doesn’t mean you should avoid this important way of reaching your target audience. Here’s an Oxygen guide in two parts to writing long copy that sells.

How to write copy that’s long enough…

Actually, although copywriters use these terms for convenience and to define briefs, there should be no distinction between short and long. What your copy should contain, is just enough information to compel the customer to buy. If your product is expensive, innovative and the customer doesn’t know much about it, consists of information itself, or if there is a long list of features and benefits to sell, long copy will outperform short copy. That’s because the customer needs more information to be convinced.

With long copy, there are three types of readers.

Those who skim – these are time-poor people who will only take the time to glance over what you’re offering. Your offer needs to be a stand-out one to get them to change the decision they’ve almost certainly already made.

Those who sample – these will jump through the copy, reading anything that catches their eye and parts that seem useful to them. Bold italics and bullet points were invented for these people.

Those who read – these people need lots of information before they’re comfortable making a decision and will read everything right the way through.

The ideal is to turn those who skim or sample into ‘readers’ by making your copy interesting enough. Often the problem isn’t length, but simply that the copy isn’t sufficiently engaging.

List your goals before you start

It’s easy to get lost with long copy so it’s a good idea to list your goals before you start. The aim is to take your reader on a psychological journey which builds emotionally until the only logical thing to do is to purchase. And to do that effectively, you need to be well organised.

Long copy, as we’ve said earlier, doesn’t simply mean more words. It means more information. So what do you need them to know? Start with your main purpose for writing to the customer. Most commonly, you’ll want to drive sales or prompt the reader to make an appointment with you. But what are your other goals? These can include:

  • building credibility
  • dispelling rumours
  • explaining additional benefits
  • answering questions
  • standing out from the competition.

Research objections

One of the things long copy is most effective for is tackling objections. But for yours to work you have to know what these are. Start by putting yourself in the place of your reader. What are their concerns? Price? Reliability? Mess? Then do some online research on forums to discover what is troubling people who’ve previously purchased a similar product or service. If yours is a big ticket item, chances are that your target audience has already done the same, or heard of the possible disadvantages. Make sure these objections are on your list to tackle or you’ll be losing an opportunity to convince.

Decide on your angle

You’ll already know who your target market is, and hopefully you’ll have worked out what their desires and fears are. By now you know what your copy needs to convey. So now you need to work out what your angle is based on this information. Are you going to work on the customer’s fear of loss? Or their need to be a hero? Or on the pleasure they’ll gain? Or take a news angle? A ‘lie’ refuted? A secret? What’s the most effective way to get your audience to listen?

 

In part two we’ll give you the secrets to structuring long copy effectively, including a trick that many short copy writers miss.

Writing effective long copy takes time and skill. Why not let Oxygen do it for you? Give us a call to discuss your direct marketing and long copy needs today on 0845 2606 255. We’re always happy to help.

 

 

Steve Lodge: Steve trained as a NCTJ journalist and is an experienced copywriter. He has over 15 years in agency, and started Oxygen in 2002.