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Sell Yourself With the Lost Art of Long Copy

Before television, long copy was everywhere. Magazines and newspapers ran full page ads with paragraphs of text that told stories without using a single picture, and direct response marketers mastered the technique of persuading people to purchase products using nothing more than a mailed letter.


What is long copy?

Long copy is any advertisement that relies on a lot of text to sell a product or service. It is the opposite of short copy, which uses images, shorter headlines and less text.


Advances in technology have convinced many people that we no longer have the imagination or attention span for this kind of approach, but is that really true?

I had the chance to find out when re-designing a landing page for a client offering a complicated and expensive service. The short copy provided did not fully explain or sell the features of the service being advertised. After meeting with several members of their staff, I wrote a long and in-depth overview and uploaded it to the page.

The client panicked.

“Nobody will read that much text! You’ll scare everyone away! We need to keep it short and simple…”

The joy of modern web analytics is that we can test questionable assumptions. I asked for a two week trial of the long copy before making any changes.

Not only did the new longer copy attract more page visits than the old short copy, but the average time on page doubled overnight.

The client kept the long copy.

After three months, service inquiries had increased by 55%.

It’s a pattern I’ve seen repeated time and time again.

Page view increase chart

Look at the overnight difference that re-writing a single web page can make. After I made similar long copy re-writes for their other assessment services, this organization had to hire new people in order to keep up with the increase of bookings!

Long copy only scares away people who have no intention of buying your product or service.

People want information on the products they are interested in before buying them. Don’t be afraid to give it to them.

Sliding down the buying funnel

How you present this information is crucial. Human behaviour studies show us that when considering buying something, whether it’s a pack of gum or a new car, everyone goes through a decision making process that has clearly defined stages. This process is known as “The Buying Funnel”, and clever marketers can move you through each stage to the point of purchase without you realizing it.

Let’s see how it works.

The Buying Funnel

This is the buying funnel. Be amazed.

  1. Awareness – Someone has to be aware that your product exists before they want to buy it. At stage one, you need to clearly explain what your product is and how it benefits the customer.

  2. Interest – You need to make people desire what you’re selling by showing them the benefits it will bring to their life. How will this product make them feel? How will it change other people’s opinion of them?

  3. Consideration – After desire has been stoked, we need to satisfy the rational needs that people use to justify a purchase. This is where features are explained, testimonials are shared and guarantees are made.

  4. Purchase – The happy climax of the process, but not the conclusion! A good website will make payment easy and quick.

  5. Loyalty – Often missed, in the final stage of the funnel you are encouraged to become a repeat customer. Loyalty tactics can include referring friends for a future bonus or discount, store credit on check-out, or email coupons.

To overcome your natural barriers to buying something online, marketers present information to you in the order of the buying funnel, starting with the most general information (“what is this product and why do I need it?”), progressing to the benefits and features (“how will this make my life better?”), and answering questions that you have before you realize you have them (“how does this compare to other products, why is it better? What have other people thought after buying it?”).

It’s important to remember that long copy is not always the best choice when selling a product. However, well written long copy that follows the buying funnel progression has proven to be highly successful in selling all kinds of stuff.

You are the product

What the hell does all of this have to do with Job Hacking and getting jobs?

Your portfolio or website is a chance to sell yourself in a way that a short resume and cover letter can’t. This is your opportunity to tell a story that grabs people’s attention.

Most bios and “About Me” sections are short, boring and same-y. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Stand out by creating a story that showcases what you can do for employers. Make the benefits seem tangible and real. Use the buying funnel to keep their attention and lead them down the path of purchasing – purchasing your services.

You are the product. Now get your creative hats on and start writing.


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