Many people have heard the myth that sales letters should be no longer than a page, YouTube marketing videos no longer than 3 minutes and magazine adverts should have lots of pictures, little text and plenty of white space.

This is based on the idea that people will only read a page, watch a 3-minute video or give a magazine advert a fleeting glance at best.  It is also possibly due to the fact that many marketing people and graphic designers don’t like copy writing.

The main question you have to ask is:

Do you want your audience to simply just read your letter, watch your video, look at your ad or do you want them to take action?

Photo of time showing how to get the length of your marketing copy right!

And this is the problem; a short marketing piece doesn’t contain enough information to get the recipient interested enough to take action.

So what is the solution? Is it simply a longer marketing pieces? No.

The answer is longer, more engaging and more interesting marketing pieces.

One of my clients sent out a one-page letter about a computer system he was selling. Response rate: ZERO.

He then took the same database of contacts and sent them a well constructed 3-page letter. Response rate: 10%.

He asked those who responded the second time why they hadn’t done so the first. The uniform answer: there wasn’t enough information in the first letter to get me interested enough to respond.

Here are the two rules that are at work here:

  1. People will read, listen or watch things about your product or service for longer IF they are interested in them AND they are delivered in an interesting way AND contain information they will find useful.  You could sum this up as: write for your buyers, not casual readers, and write it in an interesting way.
  2. The more time you spend in interesting them the more likely they are to buy or take action.

You can’t skimp on the interest step. Sometimes you get lucky and you can get away with a short piece as you are offering exactly what they are looking for at the time they see your piece.   You can usually get away with something short for low involvement products.

You can also fall into the trap of producing something that goes on and on and miss your ideal closing point at which point you start losing the sales you’ve worked hard to get. Note: this doesn’t happen often. The vast majority of marketing pieces are too short for the involvement level required by the service or product offered.

Last week I received a 20-page “magazine” which was really an extended sales letter for a 3-day conference costing £1 000.

Why so long? £1 000 is not a significant outlay to the conference’s target market; namely successful SMEs. The major commitment is taking 3-days off. This would cost the director of a successful company far more than £1 000. So the perceived value of the conference has to outweigh the actual price and the cost of lost production in the business; hence a 20-page sales letter disguised as an interesting “magazine”.

Rule: the more client involvement you need from someone (in terms of time, money or both) the more you need to interest them.

Longer marketing letters, YouTube videos and adverts aren’t the only ways to keep people’s attention and build their interest. CD’s, DVD’s, blogs, articles, brochures, tweets, books, e-newsletters etc. are all ways to keep people’s attention and build their interest to make a sale.

Never lose sight of the fact that marketing is all about making sales but understand that it takes a lot to interest people enough to buy. New sales and marketing people commonly underestimate the effort required to make a sale.

The length of your marketing pieces must match the involvement level of your product or service.