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1. 40-40-20 Rule

2. Respect Your Recipient

3. Opt-in's Big Payoff

4. Think Like A Customer

5. Write Great Copy

6. Track Your Results

7. Test, Test, Test


Secret #5:  Write Great Copy

"Writing is easy..."

Gene 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 actually the 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

The 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 offer sizzles.


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