They like it when it’s longer*

They like it when it’s longer*

“No-one will read all that.”

When you’re trying to make your copy, righter, you might be tempted to stick to short copy. After all, people don’t want to read something long, do they? It’s too time-consuming. No-one has the patience for it, right?

Spoiler alert: long copy is great.

And, sometimes long copy is far more effective.

Long copy trumps short copy

If you want to sell something, long copy is the best way to do it.

(And let’s be honest, we all want to sell something. Maybe we’re asking them to buy a product or a service. Maybe we’re asking them to donate to charity. Or maybe we’re just trying to sell them on an idea or a way of life.)

If you listen to Drayton Bird (and you should, he’s clever), long copy outperforms medium copy. In 51 Helpful Marketing Ideas, he presented the results of a test that show just that.

Copy length (words)Response rate
1,064 words17.08% response rate
1,999 words19.09% response rate
2,763 words24.24% response rate

By increasing the word count, the response rate soared by a whopping 40+% increase.

“But what about declining attention spans?” I hear you say. (Metaphorically. I’m not sat in the next room or anything.)

Don’t worry. Attention spans aren’t something to worry about.

Attention plan

Attention spans aren’t what they used to be, right? They’ve been decimated by television, Twitter and TikTok. Surely the immediacy of the Internet means we don’t have the patience we used to?

That’s a load of old tripe. Which is an insult to tripe. And tripe is vile.

If we had such short attention spans, we wouldn’t have sat through Avengers: Endgame (clocking in at 3 hours long). Droves of us wouldn’t have read The Da Vinci Code (almost 600 pages). And I couldn’t have convinced thousands of readers to read my books (a combined count of 600,000 words).

Are these exceptions to the rule? Nope. We regularly consume hours and pages of content. So how does this tally with the fact that we know attention spans are short?

Simple. We don’t know squat.

Jerry Seinfeld put it best, so I’ll hand the mike to him for a moment.

“There is no such thing as an attention span. There is only the quality of what you are viewing. This whole idea of an attention span is, I think, a misnomer. People have an infinite attention span if you are entertaining them.”

Jerry Seinfeld

Offer your prospects dull, uninspired content and you won’t hold their attention.

But if you keep entertaining, they’ll keep listening.

People will read thousands upon thousands of words if they’re enjoying it.

So the question isn’t “who will read my long copy”. It’s “how do we make sure this long copy is entertaining?”

It’s deceptively easy. You just need to know how human brains work.

Hacking the human brain

People are emotion junkies.

Think about it. Everything we do stems from a need for our next hit. We watch horror films for the adrenaline. We eat for more than sustenance; we crave that sweet release of dopamine. We exercise to work off that food, but also for the endorphins it releases. The human race is addicted to the variety of chemicals our brains release.

And, like any addict, we build a tolerance to those chemicals. We need scarier films to get the same rush, more elaborate rollercoasters to get the same thrill, longer marathons to get the same agonisingly-sweet ache.

And it’s the same with content.

So many business put out so-called white papers that are dry, technical sheets with no humanity or, worse, mere sales pitches in disguise.

But this doesn’t feed our junkie brains. Because technical details are a reference aid. You don’t leap out of bed for tech specs.

And no-one wants to be sold to. Yes, retail therapy makes us feel good. We want to drape ourselves in new things because it makes us feel good (emotion junkies!) But if we wanted to be sold to, we’d all be watching the Shopping Channel 24/7.

Do you do that? Your prospects probably don’t either.

What we want is to discover. Which comes back to education and entertainment. Discovery is as deep-rooted a pleasure as getting new things. We’re addicted to finding new things that make us feel smarter or feel scared or make us cry or laugh.

Tech specs and sales brochures don’t make you feel smarter. They don’t make us feel scared. They don’t make us cry. They don’t make us laugh.

They make us feel bored.

But when they read your content? The one that gives them something new? A creative answer to the question? A unique, insight-laden piece, with a creative answer to the question that makes them feel smart? Or a unique perspective on the industry that makes them scared they’ll be left behind? Or a clever piece that makes them smile or, yes, even laugh?

You fed their inner junkie. You stood out from the herd of dull, repetitive content your competitors are churning out.

That’s how you write long content that your prospects will read.

That’s how you write long content that your prospects will remember.

And that’s how you write long content that turns those prospects into customers.

Standout stands out

You can do a lot with a little. Just ask my wife.

But long content gives you room to really showcase your expertise. To create a resource that your prospects will share both internally and externally. More importantly, it shows off that you’re able to speak engagingly on a topic for thousands of words without being boring. Because if they’re going to work with you, your prospect doesn’t want to be bored by you.

They might not know it, but they want you to feed their inner junkie.

They want each interaction with you to be a pleasant surprise.

And your long content will prove to them it will be just that.

Ready for a small prick?

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