Who says you have to say everything?

John Beavis Just finished a really nice job for a new client.

I loved it! He was lukewarm.

Yet it was a billion times better than his own attempt at copywriting (not conceit, just plain fact). So I asked him, what was» wrong» with it? His answer? It isn’t long enough! We’re talking about 3000 words here. That’s 10 solid pages of tightly packed copy, at single line spacing. He wanted more. A lot more – say 12,000 words. Now that’s about 60 pages at 1.5 line spacing! That isn’t a direct mail letter! It’s a book! Just who was it who said that length is everything in direct response? Sure, the more you say, the more you sell, but you can’t bore anybody into buying anything – ever! And I’ve seen short copy pull a better response than long copy in split tests. One size never fits all! As they say, there’s a time and a place and in copy, one size never fits all! Your job, as a writer, is to tell the story. You have to know where to pitch the story and which knobs to twitch and what levers to pull. You also have to know when «it’s over». And you have to know how and when to make the «silences» work. Often what you don’t say but simply infer works as hard as what you have said. Remember, your audiences are not idiots! So work with them. You write from the heart, or you should. That means you understand your reader, empathize, sympathize and rub shoulders with them. Your copy covers all the bases and that’s all the features, functions, applications, benefits and bonuses that the product, service, application or opportunity has to offer.

But you also know, as any good writer should, when you’ve said enough. And enough is enough, whether it’s 250 words, 2500 or 25,000. The point is – did it get through? Did it make a connection with the reader that made them want to do something? Dancing on the moon! 25,000 unique visitors (not hits – a different thing altogether) and not one buyer is a poor return, it’s true. But 250 unique visitors and 25 buyers would be great. Not wonderful, maybe, but good enough to tell you you’re doing a solid job for your client. Any more success and you’d be dancing on the moon! The point is that there is no rule over copy length. It takes the right number of words to make your pitch – and that’s all there is to it. You can’t weight it like groceries – finance is 12,000 words, fitness is 18,000 words and so on. You write till you’ve said it all and just because a competitor or rival produces 4 or 5 times more words than you does not mean they are likely to be 4 or 5 times more successful. Far from it. All you can ever do is test, test and test again. Then you’ll know. Know what? Know that on that particular test, at that particular time in the product cycle, on that particular day of the week, for that particular offering, using that particular writer or style of writing that Copy A outpulled Copy B, C, D and E! And that’s all you’ll ever know. No right and wrong It could all change next week. The market suddenly wants short copy, different style and tone, better offers and so on. So you have to go with instinct, experience, intuition and expertise to guide you to find the right answers that will give your client the very best results. And your test program will guide you to find the most reliable answers because there is no right and wrong … just copy that works. There is no hard and fast rule over copy length. It is finished, when it’s finished. You don’t look at a great work of art and say the artist could have done with a few more metres of canvas, now do you? And great copy should be a work of art – beautiful, precise, evocative and moving. It has the power to hold, enchant, absorb, engage and deliver.

Evidence proves it It tells a story that is relevant and real. It answers a need. It signposts a direction. It builds its momentum, delivers its promise and tells it exactly how it is. No more, no less. And that is the art of great copy. It’s not measured by the metre, but by the magic it creates in as few, or as many, words as it takes. Don’t blindly follow the lead of others and do it because «someone, somewhere, said». Do it because it’s right – and gather the evidence to prove it, in your results!