Direct Response Copywriter on Why Long Copy Beats Short Copy

EVERYONE in direct marketing knows the following …


And …

Long copy, provided it’s thoroughly salient and written by a professional direct response copywriter, ALWAYS outperforms short copy. We base the above on decades of actual sales data. In the world of branding advertising, copywriters believe that a couple of photos with a few words of copy will create a flood of new customers. They’re wrong. We know that longer copy will always outperform short copy.

Let me explain why …

• When a prospect is reading copy and they’re genuinely interested in the product or service, they’re often looking for that one benefit or feature they really, really want. Long copy gives me the opportunity to include EVERYTHING … including that one sentence that will motivate the reader to buy. • For each promotion, I like to try to include 40 proof elements. Longer copy provides room for as many proof elements as possible. • When a prospect sees long copy, they subconsciously think, “there must be something to this.” But when they see short copy, they quickly move to the next product or service. • For each promotion, here’s how readership works.

o One third will glance at the copy and make a decision. o One third will look at the headline, the subheads, the photos, the captions, and some of the body copy … then buy. o One third will read every word three times … then buy.

• So … with long copy, you gain sales from all three types of reader. With short copy, you lose the 2/3rds of prospects who are looking for more information. • When someone is genuinely interested in the product or service, you cannot provide them with enough information. It’s especially true when the product or service is expensive. With short copy, the reader will soon leave your message and start to find information elsewhere. Who knows what they will find. There could be a lot of negative reviews on nefarious websites. But with long form copy, it’s much, much easier to control the message and keep the prospect from wandering off. • If you’re competing against another company and you have more information than your competitors, you’re ALWAYS going to win. • Long form copy gives you the ability to charge higher prices more often and get out of the “race to the bottom” price battle. It’s because long-form copy means you can justify the higher price for the superior product you’re offering. • You can overcome objections and this instantly means you will generate more revenue. • I can overcome skepticism in long-form copy. I can’t in short copy.

People who believe copy is too long forget two things.

• People still read … a lot … when they’re genuinely interested in something. • The only metric that really counts … revenue … shows that long-form copy generates more MONEY than short-form copy.

The most successful companies in direct response use long-form copy. It’s a huge part of their success.

Famous copywriter Gary Bencivenga sells a series of DVDs from his retirement seminar. The cost? $5,000. The length of the copy? 30,000 words. When Boardroom sold subscriptions to a newsletter for $39 a year, the copy was 36 pages long.

When I sell a golf training aid that costs around $50, I write at least 4,000 words of copy and the copy generates tens of thousands of dollars … out of thin air. The tactic that always worked the best was … long-form copy written by an experienced direct response copywriter.

How Long is Long Enough?

Famous copywriter Clayton Makepeace says, “the copy needs to be long enough to sell the product.”

In some cases, short copy can get the job done. But in most cases, long copy is going to smash short copy when it comes to actual money generated, short-term and long-term.

In a perfect world, you can test enough to the point where you can determine the perfect length to sell what you’re trying to sell. In almost all cases, the copy that will give you the most revenue will be longer.

When There Isn’t Much Space

There’s only so much I can write in a 2-page letter. There’s only so much I can write on a post card. There’s only so much I can write on a Facebook ad.

So there are plenty of times when I have to write short copy. The fundamentals of direct response copywriting apply. It’s actually more difficult to write short copy because I have to choose what to leave out. In longer copy on a web page, which has no length limit, I can include everything I believe is relevant … everything that will motivate the prospect to try your product or service.

I’ve had plenty of success with shorter copy but when I can write a ton, I’m always the happiest. Why? Because my client is on the road to being very wealthy.

Direct Response Copywriter on David Ogilvy

You can read a great deal about David Ogilvy, online and off. You can read a great deal by David Ogilvy. He was a prolific author. His best book, although it’s more of a manual, was his guide to selling Aga cookers.

My goal in this blog is to focus on Ogilvy’s contributions to direct marketing and what you can learn from Ogilvy when it comes to direct response copywriting.

You can easily look up his background and other information.

Strangely, perhaps, Ogilvy is best known for his branding work. But he was a direct marketer first and foremost. If you need proof, then watch one of the most inspirational videos you’ll ever see. It’s called “We sell or else” and it does two things. Click here to see it.

First, it beats up branding types and branding advertising. Second, it’s proof that direct marketing works.

In fact, whenever I get into it with a branding type, I point them toward this video. I win.

Ogilvy was an excellent writer but he was also an excellent salesman. He must have sold a lot of Aga cookers. So he know how to sell. Every direct response copywriter must know how to sell. He knew how to sell accounts.

Dig a little bit and you’ll discover that Ogilvy built his agency though direct mail. He took a correspondence course on copywriting. He then solicited new clients by mail. And it clearly worked.

He called direct marketing “his secret weapon” and it proved he could produce tangible results for his clients. There was always a direct marketing department in his agency. I wonder if that’s the case today.

Dig around the Internet and you’ll come across a series of bold, full-page ads that appeared in The Wall Street Journal. You can see one here.

Dense copy and lots of it. I’m sure it worked.

This was not a branding exercise. This was all about generating leads from qualified potential clients.

But I'm mistaken, of course. It WAS a branding exercise. Here’s the “secret” the branding types don’t want you to know. Companies routinely build their brands through direct marketing and with the help of a direct response copywriter.

Two of my most successful clients have achieved tremendous brand recognition without spending any money on branding and not even thinking about branding. Yes … you can have your cake and eat it too.

David Ogilvy must have understood this important fact. Remember, he considered direct marketing to be his “secret weapon.”

He also wanted his creative talent, especially his copywriters, to understand direct marketing. It’s strange to me that so many people in advertising laud David Ogilvy yet totally ignore direct marketing. A bit of a mystery.

Yes … it’s important to study everything David Ogilvy achieved and how he achieved his success. But focusing purely on his branding work totally misses the point.

David Ogilvy was one of the world’s top direct marketers.

Direct Response Copywriter on Veracity

Last week, I received a curious email through my website.

The question: “How does it feel to be a scammer?”

I don’t know the person who sent this and I didn’t reply. I’m not a scammer and I’m careful to avoid clients who are eager to scam people and generally engage in malfeasance. I can spot these reprobates and blacguards a mile away.

But I understand why people think that direct marketing is a scam. There are lots of scammers in direct marketing and lots of scammers who use direct marketing techniques to sell their products and services.

Every single one of my clients offers a guarantee. And they stand behind it. Nobody forces my readers to try the products I’m selling. I never write hype and I never lie about a product or service. There’s no ‘bait and switch’ and nothing stupid or hidden. My style is clear and straightforward and I don't write the type of "hyperventilating" guff that some copywriters, some of them well respected, think is mandatory. I write golf copy and there's a famous, or infamous, golf ad from several years ago. Something about a golfer with one arm hitting the ball a million miles. No. This direct response copywriter doesn't make absurd claims just to get someone's attention. I don't need to.

There’s no need to lie or obfuscate. The people who read the copy have a need for the product or service I’m writing about. The product or service helps the readers get where they want to get. Only amateurs and really bad copywriters rely on telling lies and/or absurd hyperbole.

Want scammers?

Fact is, you’ll find scamming and scammers in every industry. Yes, you’ll find them in direct marketing. But if you’re a direct response copywriter, you can avoid the scammers.

I understand why people are skeptical about direct marketing. Just look at your email. And there are several direct response copywriters who are happy to push well beyond the boundary. What’s worse is that several people in direct marketing put these copywriters on a pedestal. I find this to be inexcusable.

Now … I work hard to put the truth and the product or service in the best possible light. Why would I not? But that’s NOT lying and it’s not scamming.

And once again, I make it totally clear you’ll get your money back if you don’t like what you bought.

But if you want to see an example of scamming in direct response copywriting, look no further than copywriter groups on Facebook.

There are quite a few of them. I was in one for a few months and I just left. It’s a so-called “private” group with almost 20,000 people. Not exactly private.

Here’s the basic premise.

Join and you’ll get general advice about writing copy from other copywriters. Plus there are people who need copy who will post jobs.

Advice plus opportunities to meet people willing to pay copywriters for copy.

Sounds good, right? What could be wrong?

So … why did I leave?

The other day, I saw a post by someone who wanted a full-on AR series outlined for … FIFTY DOLLARS.

Writing that series would take about two days of work. I would charge a lot more than $50 for my time and expertise. So would you.

The moderator of the group said he had to delete over 50 “snarky” comments about the fee and the person who wanted the AR series.

Is that censorship? We could have a long debate about that. I’d tell you it is.

But here’s the point. The person who wants the AR series for $50 is a scammer. Or stupid. Or both.

And the person who organizes the “private” Facebook group is a scammer. He’s happy to organize, to help himself in some way, a group where really bad clients (and yes, they’re ALL really bad) can try to scam copywriters by offering really bad terms, really bad pay, and really bad products. Complaints? Don’t try to complain in that group … and all the similar groups.

And I’m a scammer?

But the organizer/moderator is only a scammer if you let him/her be.

If you’re relying on a Facebook group to find clients, then stop immediately.

And when it comes to finding clients, I’ve said it many times before.

The best way to find clients is to target who you want to work with/for and let them know you can help them … and prove it.

OK ... I fully admit to some venting here. There are so many great people in direct marketing and I hate it when a few genuinely awful people give direct marketing a bad name. Oh well ... I'll keep moving on, NOT being a scammer.

Direct Response Copywriter on The Big Idea

A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to introduce a “big idea” into something that you’d probably think is totally unrelated to direct response copywriting.

I won’t go into the precise details here, because they’re not totally salient, but the person I was working with asked, “what’s a ‘big idea’?”

It’s an excellent question.

The big idea in copywriting is, essentially, a theme.

In branding advertising, examples are the famous Ogilvy ad …

The Man in The Hathaway Shirt.

Then there’s the now extinct ad … The Most Interesting Man in The World for Dos Equis beer.

It’s not a coincidence I’ve mentioned these ads. They’re really quite similar. Hmmmm.

In the world of the direct response copywriter, you’ll see a lot written about “the big idea.” I'm not a huge fan of the tactic. Why? Because the prospect isn’t interested in your big idea. They’re interested in themselves and how the product/service can help them get where they want to get.

When I’m writing direct response copy, I’m focused on communicating, with intense clarity, how a product or service will help the prospect. I’m not so interested in a big idea.

The big idea is the foundation of a branding ad campaign. Right now, you’ve seen these ads for Bud Light. They’re built around the idea of people from medieval times enjoying Bud Light. I’m not certain I get the concept but it’s an example of a big idea.

A lot of big-time direct response copywriters like the idea of the “big idea.”


It’s a way to get, and more importantly, keep, the attention of the prospect. It can also be a way to provide clarity and maintain focus.

So … instead of blabbing away with a lot of features and benefits, the big idea keeps everything together.

I use a big idea more than I think, without really ever thinking about a big idea.

Here’s an example. Click this link now.

A lot of golfers hit good shots on the practice range then fail to take them to the golf course. This applies even to the top golfers like Tiger Woods.

So I built a promotion around this theme. It’s the big idea.

If the big idea works for you in your advertising, and you can measure a jump in revenue through your testing, then use a big idea. But a big idea isn’t always vital.

People in the branding world LOVE big ideas. But they’re not measuring results. Things are very different in the world of direct marketing and the direct response copywriter. We’re measuring everything to the penny and if an ad with a big “big idea” is outpulling an ad without a big idea, then the big idea is big.

But I’ve written plenty of direct response ads that don’t have a big idea. These ads give the prospect plenty of reasons to try a product or service.

Remember … the prospect is more interested in THEMSELVES than your big idea, however brilliant it might be.

Direct Response Copywriter on Whether or Not to Attend Conferences

If you’re a direct response copywriter or if you’re a direct marketer, you could attend a conference or seminar or some type of salient event every single week with the possible exception of the last two weeks of December.

And that’s in person. You could also attend events virtually or buy access to the DVDs or videos after the event.

Should you attend events?

For about 6 years, I regularly attended events. Plus I was in a marketing peer group and we met 3 times a year.

I spent quite a bit of money attending the events. There’s the cost of attending plus the cost of travel plus the indirect costs associated with not writing.

Was it worth it?

Yes and here’s why …

I learned a huge amount about direct marketing and direct response copywriting.

It was fun to travel and see new places.

I got to meet a lot of wonderful and fantastic people.

On many occasions, I got to meet some fascinating and accomplished pros.

I received some assignments directly from certain direct marketing companies.

It also sent a message to my clients that I’m working hard to improve and learn.

I have taken what I’ve learned directly to my clients and to my practice.

However, at least for the next several months, maybe longer, I’m probably NOT going to attend any events.

I just received an invitation to attend an event next month in Brooklyn. It’s for direct response copywriters and I’m not even remotely interested in going.


For that particular event, I know some of the speakers and they’re rubbish. There are some accomplished copywriters who are attending but I’ve heard them speak before. I know what they’re going to say.

I’ve heard a lot of great speakers but I’ve also seen some speakers I find a bit galling. I don’t agree with their basic approach OR their presentation is/was poor. But that’s to be expected. You can’t like ALL the speakers at an event.

It’s happening less and less but some conferences are partly a pitch-fest where the speakers are trying to sell something. That’s a controversial subject, I know.

After about 4 years of attending events, something interesting happens. The same speakers start appearing at all the events. There are speakers who are simply famous … for being famous.

Sometimes, an event planner really works extremely hard to find people who aren’t famous but are really getting it done. Those are the people I want to hear and meet, even if they’re not the greatest speakers.

My ego says, or used to say, that I should be up there on the platform speaking. But I’m not super-interested in that anymore. I’m more interested in helping my clients succeed … and building my own business. I have plenty to say, based on my success, but event organizers never contact me. But I don’t contact them, either. It’s not a big deal, really.

So take some time to attend events but check out the speakers and the organizers first. You’ll learn a great deal at the right events, but, after a while, you might end up hearing the same material.