"Long form" versus "short form" salesletter

by bfas
19 replies
For the previous few years, the 'generally accepted wisdom' for sales letters was the "long form" - those endless pages of narrative, benefits, testimonials, more narrative, more narrative, and still more narrative.

For me as a consumer, while they can be very compelling, sometimes I see them as overwhelming - really don't want to have to spend 30 minutes reading it.

Are they truly that much more effective than short, high-impact sales letters, i.e. Headline, tagline, description?

bfas
#long form #salesletter #short form #versus
  • Profile picture of the author AylaPress
    Long-form sales letters are designed for micro-targeted readers. So the answer is yes, more is better.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rezbi
    Originally Posted by bfas View Post

    For the previous few years, the 'generally accepted wisdom' for sales letters was the "long form" - those endless pages of narrative, benefits, testimonials, more narrative, more narrative, and still more narrative.

    For me as a consumer, while they can be very compelling, sometimes I see them as overwhelming - really don't want to have to spend 30 minutes reading it.

    Are they truly that much more effective than short, high-impact sales letters, i.e. Headline, tagline, description?

    bfas
    If you truly believe people don't want to read, why are you bothering with all those words on your site - the ones in your sig. file - not just one site, but two?

    It all boils down to whether or not you're the customer - whether or not you're interested in the subject.

    When I'm interested in a subject I can read up on it for hours. I'll research for as long as it takes.

    If I'm not interested, you couldn't force me to read on word.
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    • Profile picture of the author bfas
      Originally Posted by Rezbi View Post

      If you truly believe people don't want to read, why are you bothering with all those words on your site - the ones in your sig. file - not just one site, but two?

      It all boils down to whether or not you're the customer - whether or not you're interested in the subject.

      When I'm interested in a subject I can read up on it for hours. I'll research for as long as it takes.

      If I'm not interested, you couldn't force me to read on word.
      Those are informational sites, not sales letters.

      bfas
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      • Profile picture of the author Rezbi
        Originally Posted by bfas View Post

        Those are informational sites, not sales letters.

        bfas
        For people who are looking for a particular product, sales letters ARE informational sites.

        Why do you think they're written in the first place?

        When a salesman goes out to sell, does he just say, "buy my product", or does he actually give some information about it so the buyer can decide?

        Let me enlighten you, a sales letter IS that salesman, in print. Haven't you heard?

        At the end of the day, whether or not you're selling something on those sites, you're expecting people to read all those words.

        A lot of people say the same thing about long blog posts.

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        • Profile picture of the author bfas
          Originally Posted by Rezbi View Post

          For people who are looking for a particular product, sales letters ARE informational sites.

          Why do you think they're written in the first place?

          When a salesman goes out to sell, does he just say, "buy my product", or does he actually give some information about it so the buyer can decide?

          Let me enlighten you, a sales letter IS that salesman, in print. Haven't you heard?

          At the end of the day, whether or not you're selling something on those sites, you're expecting people to read all those words.
          If you're trying to make the point that an article, post, etc., is the same as a sales pitch, you're either talking abstractly or missing my context entirely.

          I understand what you're saying with "a sales letter IS that salesman". That said, some salesmen are more effective, or make a more effective pitch being direct and to the point, while some are more effective with a long presentation. And maybe more importantly, some things might lend themselves better to a short, direct approach versus the opposite.

          I'm trying to understand whether the longform sales letter is simply always a better choice.

          bfas
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          • Profile picture of the author Rezbi
            Originally Posted by bfas View Post

            I'm trying to understand whether the longform sales letter is simply always a better choice.

            bfas
            It's not the length of the copy that matters. It's getting enough information on there to make the sale.

            If that means the copy will be 50 pages, 5 pages or even 1 page, as long as it makes the sale, that's what counts.

            So to say people don't read long copy is wrong. Just as to say copy HAS to be long to make the sale is also wrong.

            However, in tests long copy usually outsells short copy. That's not my opinion. It's fact.
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    • Profile picture of the author bfas
      Originally Posted by Paul McQuillan View Post

      Did you pop on a forum full of people who get paid
      to write copy (mostly long) to dis long form salesletters?

      or

      Are you a troll?
      Are you kidding? I didn't realize this forum was "The Longform Salesletter Copywriting Forum", on my screen it says "The Copywriting Forum".

      My question is a legitimate question, not a request for condescension or insult.

      bfas
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      • Profile picture of the author bfas
        Originally Posted by Paul McQuillan View Post

        You are new so you likely don't know this... people
        come on here all the time with this question just to
        get everyone going. I have seen it happen 10 times
        at least.

        Sorry if I suspected wrong (I am pissy today :rolleyes

        If the page seems too long or too boring, it is.

        All sales letters (or products) are not created equally.

        Also, sales letters are targeted. You may be looking
        at something you barely had an interest in anyway.

        Would you spend 30 minutes on a sales page if you
        believed it could change your life for the better?

        You'd read every word... twice!
        Thanks for that, Paul.

        The reason for my question here is that I figured I'd get more insight than simply trying to "think it through" based on my own preferences & prejudices.

        I have to assume longform sales letters are effective or they'd evolve out of existence, but on the other hand I know that much of what I see is a result of people copying people who are copying people, etc.

        So I guess I'm trying to get a sense of whether the "short, direct" approach is really that much less effective.

        bfas
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    • Profile picture of the author writeandreview
      Originally Posted by Paul McQuillan View Post

      Long form sales letters have one incredible advantage...
      scrolling power. I HATE reading long sales letters, but
      that does not stop me from buying. I scroll to the meat.
      I think this is one of the best points in this thread.

      And, I agree with the copywriters who, in other threads, told us that long copy and short copy share a most important component -- an attention grabbing headline.

      I don't remember where I read it but, when weighing in on the long copy vs. short copy debate, a writer explained how some long copy comprises a number of shorter copy pieces. I believe this is why long copy can be so effective.

      Assuming that a great headline gets a reader interested , then even if the story right after isn't interesting enough to force every reader to invest emotionally, a long copy letter still leaves enough room to present a number of eye-catchers further down the page that may trigger him to buy.
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  • Profile picture of the author TheDebtEliminator
    I am from the school of thought that when you have a long sales page ... you are better off in conversions.
    It needs to be well-written and hold your attention.

    But the speedy reader will grab what he wants the first couple of paragraphs and then scroll down to check the price.

    Before making a final decision, he will probably be motivated to read the whole thing.

    That is my two cents
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  • Profile picture of the author JasonParker
    Originally Posted by bfas View Post

    For the previous few years, the 'generally accepted wisdom' for sales letters was the "long form" - those endless pages of narrative, benefits, testimonials, more narrative, more narrative, and still more narrative.

    For me as a consumer, while they can be very compelling, sometimes I see them as overwhelming - really don't want to have to spend 30 minutes reading it.

    Are they truly that much more effective than short, high-impact sales letters, i.e. Headline, tagline, description?

    bfas
    It's common for most people to say they don't like long form and then your actual Orders say long form just kicked the crap out of short form.

    You've got to throw your reasoning out the window and just do what works.

    Heck if I know the real reason why anything works in sales pages...

    The WHY really isn't that important...

    Looking at your conversion rate and EPC is the only reasoning you ought to be paying attention to
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  • Profile picture of the author bfas
    Thanks all for the explanations and insight.

    bfas
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    • Profile picture of the author perryny
      Looks like the spammers have taken to trying out Long Form. Check out the whopper that found its way to my inbox today...
      I am Robert Taylor, Director at Kleinwort Benson Private Bank, the private banking arm of Dresdner Bank, which in turn, is a subsidiary of German insurance giant Allianz. I am contacting you concerning a deceased customer, and an investment he placed under our banks management 3years ago. I would respectfully request that you keep the contents of this mail confidential and respect the integrity of the information you come by as a result of this mail.

      I contact you independently and no one is informed of this communication. I would like to intimate you with certain facts that I believe would be of interest to you. In 2007, the subject matter came to our bank to engage in business discussions with our private banking division. He informed us that he had a financial portfolio of 8.7 million British Pounds Sterling, which he wished to have us turn over (invest) on his behalf. I was the officer assigned to his case; I made numerous suggestions in line with my duties as the de-facto chief operations officer of the private banking sector, especially given the volume of funds he wished to put into our bank.

      We spun the money around various opportunities and made attractive margins for our first months of operation. In January 2009, he asked that the money be liquidated because he needed to make an urgent investment requiring cash payments. He directed that I liquidate the funds and have it deposited with a security firm. I informed him that Kleinwort Benson Private Bank would have to make special arrangements to have this done. I explained to him the complexities of the task he was asking of us. Large cash movements have become especially strict since the incidents of 9/11. I contacted my affiliate and had the funds available as he had requested. I undertook all the processes and made sure I followed his precise instructions to the letter and had the funds deposited with a security consultancy firm. This security firm is an especially private firm that accepts deposits from high net worth individuals and blue chip corporations that handle valuable products or undertake transactions that need immediate access to


      In October last year, we got a call from the security company informing us of the inactivity of that particular portfolio. This was an astounding position as far as I was concerned, given the fact that I managed the private banking sector I was the only one who knew about the deposit at the security company, and I could not understand why our client had not come forward to claim his deposit. I made futile efforts to locate him.

      I immediately passed the task of locating him to the internal investigations department. Four days later, information started to trickle in, apparently our man was dead. A person who suited his description was declared dead of a heart attack in Canne, South of France. We were soon enough able to confirm all of this including cause of death. The bank immediately launched an investigation into possible surviving next of kin to alert about the situation and also to come forward to claim his estate.

      If you are familiar with private banking affairs, those who patronize our services usually prefer anonymity, but also some levels of detachment from conventional processes. In his bio-data form, he listed no next of kin. In the field of private banking, opening an account with us means no one will know of its existence, accounts are rarely held under a name; depositors use numbers and codes to make the accounts anonymous.

      This bank even gives the choice to depositors of having their mail sent to them or held at the bank itself, ensuring that there are no traces of the account and as I said, rarely do they nominate next of kin. Private banking clients apart from not nominating next of kin also usually in most cases leave wills in our care, in this case; our now deceased client died in testate. In line with our internal processes for account holders who have passed away, we Instituted our own investigations in good faith to determine who should have right to claim the estate. This investigation has for the past months been unfruitful. We have scanned every continent and used our private investigation affiliate companies to get to the root of the problem.

      It is this investigation that resulted in my being furnished with your details as a possible relative of the deceased. My official capacity dictates that I am the only party to supervise the investigation and the only party to receive the results of the investigation. It is quite clear now that our dear fellow died with no known or identifiable family members. This leaves me as the only person with the full picture of what the prevailing situation is in relation to the deposit and the late beneficiary of the deposit.

      According to practice, the security company will by the end of this year broadcast a request for statements of claim to Kleinwort Benson Private Bank failing to receive viable claims they will most probably revert the deposit to Kleinwort Benson Private Bank. This will result in the money entering the Kleinwort Benson Private Bank accounting system and the portfolio will be out of my hands and out of the private banking division. This will not happen if I have my way.

      What I wish to relate to you will smack of unethical practice but I want you to understand something. It is only an outsider to the banking world who finds the internal politics of the banking world aberrational. The world of private banking especially is fraught with huge rewards for those who sit upon certain chairs and oversee certain portfolios. You should have begun by now to put together the general direction of what I propose. There is 8,700,000.00 deposited in a security company. I alone have the deposit details and they will release the deposit to no one unless I instruct them to do so.

      I alone know of the existence of this deposit for as far as Kleinwort Benson Private Bank is concerned, the transaction with the late customer concluded when I sent the funds to the security company all outstanding interactions in relation to the file are just customer services and due process. The security company has no single idea of what's the history or nature of the deposit. They are simply awaiting instructions to release the deposit to any party that I may direct. This is the situation.

      This bank has spent great amounts of money trying to track this man's family; they have investigated for months and have found no family. The investigation has come to an end. My proposal; I am prepared to instruct the security company to release the deposit to you as the closest surviving relation. Upon receipt of the deposit, I am prepared to share the money with you in half. That is: I will simply nominate you as the next of kin and have them release the deposit to you. We share the proceeds 50/50. You with the same very name as the original depositor would easily pass as the beneficiary with right to claim.

      I assure you that I could have the deposit released to you within a few days. I will simply inform the bank of the final closing of the file relating to our late client. I will then officially communicate with the security company and instruct them to release the deposit to you. With these two things: all is done. The alternative would be for us to have the security company direct the funds to another bank with you as account holder. This way there will be no need for you to think of receiving the money directly from the security company as it is not a conventional financial institution; they accept deposits from only organizations thus; what you hand over to them is what you get back. They do not have the means to process the money.

      We can fine-tune this based on our interactions. I am aware of the consequences of this proposal. I ask that if you find no interest in this project that you should discard this mail. I ask that you do not be vindictive and destructive. If my offer is of no appeal to you, delete this message and forget I ever contacted you. Do not destroy my career because you do not approve of my proposal. You may not know this but people like myself who have made a tidy sum out of comparable situations run the whole private banking sector.

      I am not a criminal and what I do, I do not find against good conscience, this may be hard for you to understand, but the dynamics of my industry dictates that I make this move. Such opportunities only come ones way once in a lifetime. I cannot let this chance pass me by. For once I find myself in total control of my destiny. This chance wont passes me by.

      I ask that you do not destroy my chance, if you will not work with me let me know and let me move on with my life but do not destroy me. I am a family man and this is an opportunity to provide them with new opportunities. There is a reward for this project and it is a task well worth undertaking. I have evaluated the risks and the only risk I have here is from you refusing to work with me and alerting my bank.

      I am the only one who knows of this situation, good fortune has blessed you with a name that has planted you into the center of relevance in my life. Lets share the blessing. If you find yourself able to work with me, contact me through this email. If you give me positive signals, I will give you the relevant details and initiate this process towards a conclusion.

      I wish to inform you that should you contact me via official channels; I will deny knowing you and about this project. I repeat, I do not want you contacting me through my official phone lines nor do I want you contacting me through my official email account. Contact me only through my alternate email account: [Link Removed]


      I do not want any direct link between you and I. My official lines are not secure lines as they are periodically monitored to assess our level of customer care in line with our total Quality Management Policy. Please observe this instruction religiously.

      Please, again, note I am a family man; I have a wife and children. I send you this mail not without a measure of fear as to what the consequences, but I know within me that nothing ventured is nothing gained and that success and riches never come easy or on a platter of gold. This is the one truth I have learned from my private banking clients. Do not betray my confidence. I await your response.
      Sincerely,
      Robert Taylor

      Holy smokes... talk about weeding out the uninterested.
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  • Profile picture of the author Hesster
    Looks like your standard Nigerian scam email. You have to wonder if those things still work, but I suppose they must if they're still being sent out after all these years. I guess there really is a sucker born every minute.
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    • Profile picture of the author perryny
      Originally Posted by Hesster View Post

      Looks like your standard Nigerian scam email.
      That's the thing... it's about five times longer than the "standard" I've always seen. And they don't ask for all your personal info in this one.

      A new "long form" approach.
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      • Profile picture of the author FreshPLR
        The long form, short form debate is an interesting one but I wonder whether or not the growth in video online will be the more significant development going forward.

        Isn't it true that about 92% of communication is made up of body language and tone of voice, with only 8% going to actual words used?

        On this basis, if you watch the video, pick up voice tone but don't actually follow the actual words, you might still be persuaded to buy.

        Having said that I recently asked someone to send me a pdf file of their presentation because in the video they were all over the place, and I found it incoherent and hard to understand.

        Just my 2c. :confused:
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    • Profile picture of the author OnlineMasterMind
      The copy has to be hot, period.

      If the copy is weak people aren't going to read short form or long form...

      They'll leave within seconds.

      However, if you hook them in and they like what you have to say (because they are still reading) how could it be to your advantage to say less?
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  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    Originally Posted by bfas View Post

    For the previous few years, the 'generally accepted wisdom' for sales letters was the "long form" - those endless pages of narrative, benefits, testimonials, more narrative, more narrative, and still more narrative.

    For me as a consumer, while they can be very compelling, sometimes I see them as overwhelming - really don't want to have to spend 30 minutes reading it.

    Are they truly that much more effective than short, high-impact sales letters, i.e. Headline, tagline, description?

    bfas
    Hi bfas,

    Your question is a very good one. One that deserves attention.

    Most sales letters are overwritten. They're redundant and drone. When I see them I think:

    "Let's throw everything but the the kitchen sink at them."

    Unfortunately, more words does NOT equate to more sales. No matter what videos you watch.

    Saying the same thing 10 different ways to Sunday will not increase conversions. Prospects will bounce off the page like a super-ball.

    When I see pieces like that, I think the copywriter has no experience in the particular market. They are either throwing spaghetti against the refrigerator seeing what sticks --or-- they are trying to justify their compensation by producing more words.

    Either way, conversions suffer.

    The biggest problem? There is no marketing strategy behind the words--other than to drain the prospects' credit card or PayPal account.

    That's kinda sad to me.

    Bottom line? More words do NOT equal more sales. You just need enough to get the job done. And know what are the most important benefits and pains to focus on to persuade.

    Good question.

    - Rick Duris
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