Secret #5: Write Great Copy
"Writing is easy..."
Fowler said, "Writing is easy. All
you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form
on your forehead."
Extremely powerful, long copy is very tricky
to craft and wordsmith. Highly effective email marketers continually
test their copy and refine their approach until they find a control
that works best for their particular audience. The smart way is to
test copy with an A-B split on a statistically meaningful audience
segment and measure the results. Customers never lie when they vote
with their clicks and credit cards. Always follow the results data
and apply it to the specific list demographics. Throw away your
tired, old prejudices about long versus short copy, text versus HTML
or multimedia email and all the other so-called "common
wisdom". At the end of the
day, well crafted, right-sized copy always wins. Track the results
and pay close attention to the data. Numbers never lie.
How to right-size your copy
If you want to get sensational results from your
email campaigns, the secret is to craft your copy so that you write
something your recipient wants to read about. It's not a matter of
how long or short you make the pitch, just create concise copy that
is crafted to compel the recipient to click over to your site.
The success of your email campaign depends 40% on
the quality of the list, 40% on the quality of your offer and only
20% on the quality of your creative. Yet, the creative starts with
your copy and is the gatekeeper of the recipient's mind. If the copy
is weak, regardless of its length; it prevents people on a great list from reaching a sizzling
offer. So, that 20% – if it's weak – effectively wipes out the
other 80% of your campaign, slamming the gate shut.
Long copy works
I know that this flies in the face of today's "common
wisdom" regarding email marketing. I also hear the "keep it short"
mantra in direct mail, radio, print ads and TV. Sometimes, it's
right thing to do but only when the sole objective is to brand a
simple, powerful concept. That's not the subject of today's lecture. I
don't subscribe to "common wisdom". I simply go with what works, is
measurable and I never argue with
results. Whenever I have tested long copy against short copy, the
long version has won in exactly 98% of the tests done over the last
three decades. Yet, I still test long versus short because short
copy definitely plays a role in follow-up emails and direct mail
but only after you've made a memorable first impression. It all starts with getting the
recipient's attention. Fail to grab attention and it doesn't matter
whether the copy is long or short, nothing will work.
I have surveyed email recipients and the results
lead me to believe that email recipients often say, "Keep it
short!" is because copy in most email campaigns and the
websites that back them up,
is so poorly written that readers quickly reach a threshold of
disinterest. Good copy always gets
read by qualified prospects regardless of length. On the other hand,
it is no coincidence that in head-to-head direct response tests,
long copy almost always out-pulls short copy. It's not common
wisdom, just cold hard, measurable fact.
The eyes have it
Eyetrack III study revealed that people read the copy before
looking at the graphics and pictures. That is the exact opposite of
the so-called "common wisdom". The fact that Eyetrack III has proven
that people look at copy first; and view a page from upper left,
across the center spread on a diagonal ending in the lower right —
means that copy must be meaningful and attention-commanding. Poorly
crafted short copy is bearable only due to its brevity. Bad long copy is
too painful to endure, so viewers pass it by. That's why the "common
wisdom" says, "Keep it short!"
This is, in all honesty, completely missing a very important point. Copy length is not the
issue. Copy quality is what counts. People always respond positively
to relevant, well-written, right-sized copy
regardless of length.
Say the right things to the right people
Say what people want to hear and they will listen
until they buy what you're selling. This was evident in my
campaign on behalf of a major
mailer who sent a very popular email newsletter to their favorite
list that was producing 16-20% click-through every week they mailed.
An arbitrary creative change from long, friendly copy, to short,
hard-sell bulleted copy — shot down click-through to just 3%! What's
worse, the advertiser's unsubscribe requests skyrocketed and they lost over 25% of
their formerly loyal list members on their very first short copy email
test. This same
email advertiser made a similar change in the campaign to their
affiliates and the results were far worse. With just the very first
emailing, the new short-copy tactic burned up 40% of their affiliate
list through a flood of unsubscribe requests. Wow! Talk
about saying the wrong thing to the right people.
There are no absolute guarantees of success. The
success of every email campaign depends 40% on the list, 40% on the
offer and 20% on the creative. Bear in mind that even the most
responsive list won't work miracles unless the copy sparkles and the