The Sales Letter Length Debate Rages On

In the Internet Age, we’re bombarded with more information than we can handle. So shouldn’t sales copy be short and sweet, to make up for our customers’ shrinking attention spans? That’s the issue Michael Masterson tackled in his recent article, “How Long Should a Sales Letter Be?” You may have agreed with him that long copy wins – but not all of your fellow ETR readers did. Check out what some of them had to say…

“I receive probably 20 or 30 e-mails a day, which I read carefully. But I thoroughly detest those long-winded 20-page-or-more speeches extolling some investment. After their long pitch, it turns out they will tell me all about it if I will subscribe to some periodical they are publishing. And often with a subscription price up into the thousands of dollars. This infuriates me.

“Early on, I want to know something about what they’re selling, and the approximate price. (Can I use it? And how much need I spend?) But oh, no. That is carefully concealed from me until the end.

“I may want the publication when I understand more about it – and know if I can afford it. But I am pressed for time.

“During the last third of my working years, I sold life insurance. And, in the process, I learned quite a bit about selling. For one thing, I learned to get out the paperwork early on in the interview and lay in on the table in front of the prospect (even if he was protesting that he did not want any insurance). That way, he knew where we were going.

“It seems to me that it would be profitable for all concerned for e-mail sales letters to state, at or near the beginning, a wee bit more about the product and its approximate cost, even if the letter might then go on for several pages.”

Norman L. MacLeod Jr.

Walnut Creek, CA

“Just wanted to add this to your discussion about long copy.

“Our best current control is a 128-page book (equals about 65-75 pages in Word). Not only is it bringing in our highest ROI (return on investment) upfront, but the people who come on with that promotion are also better customers. They are buying better on the back end and are already renewing at a higher rate. And that’s compared to a 36-page digest. (So even our short copy is long.)

“So longer copy doesn’t only sell, it makes the most sense for our business long-term. For the copywriter, that means your client can mail your package more aggressively (leading to more royalties for you). For the business owner, it means investing your marketing dollars to bring in more loyal customers who will spend more with you over time.”

Jenny Thompson

Baltimore, MD

COO, Health Affiliates, Agora Inc.

“Yes, long copy sells. ETR has done this far longer and better than anyone I know. Michael, you know best. But, as you always say, there is always room for improvement.

“I personally respond better to long copy that has outs or skips spaced into the copy with a statement like: ‘Ready to buy’ and an embedded link to the order page. That way, one does not have to read through all the pages of carefully written testimonials or be burdened with unwanted information.

“I have become so disgusted with reading page after page of substandard copy that I’ve just quit. I have also fast-forwarded through pages and pages of copy… and have missed the order page.”


Longview, TX