Categories
SEO

Digital Marketing Specialist: Communicate Authority by Association

In a previous article, I wrote about five different ways to build perceived value as a professional. I call them the “5 Cs.” Quickly, they are: content, credentials, case studies, community, and care.

“Community” is where you create a rassemblement of clients and peers who can share success stories and best practices, and support each other.

One subscriber asked, “How can a lawyer create a community of clients without breaking privilege?”

Having a community of existing clients in certain professions, such as lawyers and doctors, is obviously challenging if not prohibitive. But one way is to create a public community where people can follow you.

For example, create a page on social media that people can like, follow, comment on, engage with, and interact with you and your content. This gives your audience a place for knowledge and information exchange.

Social media offers the ability for people to follow you and share of their own volition. I've also seen professionals do this with private Facebook groups, Slack channels, discussion forums, blogs with comment sections, etc.

One professional (a computer engineer) has a voluntary Slack channel for clients to join, but has moderators, a set of rules to follow, and openly warns his members to refrain from posting any sensitive information.

There's also another extremely powerful way.

Over the course of my career, I've advised many professionals to start their own associations — and several have.

Sure, most professionals have memberships in associations that certify, license, set codes of conduct, and oversee their profession. But I'm referring to business associations or industry associations that can meet an unfilled need in your community.

One client of mine, a cosmetic surgeon, created his own association for the advancement of specific surgical procedures in his field. At last count, his association has 1,000 members throughout 70 countries.

He offered professional development opportunities, invited the sharing and collaboration of ideas and new techniques, gave out awards at conferences and events, and more.

But the best part is, his bio included that he was the founder and past president of the association, which he proudly displayed alongside his credentials, on his website, in his marketing materials, and in his byline when publishing articles.

Creating an association also uses the other “Cs” I mentioned earlier: not only does it create a community, showcase your content, and add to your credentials, but it also allows you to build case studies and shows you care about your industry, your profession, and your clients.

Launching your own association has three major benefits:

1. Being the leader in the first year, you have more leverage.

Leaders (i.e., director, president, chair, etc) are typically elected in subsequent years. But being the leader at the beginning, it gives you more leverage over the structure of the association and, above all, its marketing, too.

2. Being the founder will provide a great deal of implied authority.

No matter who gets into the leadership position later on (however, the chances are you will be nominated in the first few years, anyway), being the founder adds to your reputation and will stick with you pretty much for the rest of your career.

This is, by far, the greatest reason why a professional would start an association.

3. It gives you access to networking and research opportunities.

You can network with likeminded people, including competitors. The hidden benefit is that it gives you a leg up on what the industry is up to, what are your members' interests and concerns are, and if there are any unmet gaps that exist.

There are many other reasons for associations. But there are three common types I've found:

  1. Educational associations provide members with advanced training, specialized information on their industry, access to literature and special conferences, and more.
  2. Collaborative associations share news, recommendations, best practices, and a wealth of other knowledge and opportunities such as group purchasing.
  3. Advocational associations create lobbying opportunities, address issues, take a stand on law and policy that might impact their members' profession or their clients, etc.

Bottom line, being the founder of an association not only creates a community but is also one of the most powerful ways to communicate implied value, authority, and superiority. Without having to outright claim it.

Categories
Copywriting

Does Your Copy Have Personality?

Some people don't mind hard-hitting copy, while others prefer newsy copy. Some people prefer long copy to get as much information as possible, others prefer short, brief, to-the-point copy. Some like drama, stories, and testimonials; others data, statistics, and facts.

Does it all matter? Absolutely.

What makes one style of copy more favorable than another? Why does one person buy from one type of copy and not from another? It really comes down to the buying behavior of your market. And in fact, there are four major personality types.

Before I tell you what they are, remember that the style you choose will not appeal to everyone. It never will. Roy Williams, author of The Wizard of Ads, once noted, “Even some of the best ads miss the mark with at least half of their target audience.”

You may have heard me say this before, but it's important. Don't be all things to all people. If you do, you have no choice but to paint your copy with broad brushstrokes in order to appeal to everyone. Instead, give your copy personality. Even if it offends some.

Otherwise, ads crafted so as not to offend anyone will be counterproductive. They may even backfire. And more importantly, they might be more offensive than you think.

When your target market reads your bland, vanilla copy, it will often shrug it off because they feel you are not catering to them specifically — even if what you're selling does.

Therefore, the more you try not to offend anyone, the more generic you become with your copy. And the more generic you are, the more your copy will be disconnected from your audience. In short, appeal to everyone and you will appeal to no one.

In other words, to your prospect, you appear as if you don't understand them, because your copy doesn't cater to their specific, individual needs, goals, concerns, budget, and unique set of circumstances. Even if the product is perfect for them.

As a result, you alienate most of your market that way.

Sure, your sales copy may avoid offending a minority. But in turn, by genericizing it you inadvertently offend the majority — perhaps in a subtle, indirect, or unconscious way — because you appear as if you simply don't care.

You see, ads are distinctive. They're alive. They're like pieces of art. Each one has a certain personality. And no matter what you do, like it or not that personality may attract some people and repulse others at the same time.

Your goal, therefore, is to directly and distinctly appeal to the majority, in spite of the minority. Otherwise, try to be too general (or better said, “too generic”) with your copy, and the result will be copy that's bland, anemic, and unproductive.

Your copy offers more than just information. It also presents that information in a way that the majority of your target audience better appreciates, absorbs, and acts upon it.

Catering to the majority won't just be conducive to the greatest results but also begins the all-important process of building a relationship with your market.

A lot of marketers think that targeting your market means you must put your ad in front of qualified buyers. But it means more than that. It also means to write and mold the copy in a way that the message targets them, too. That is, it targets their personality.

Therefore, it's not only best to target one market at a time but also to target one predominant buyer personality at a time, too. That way, your information is presented in a way that your market feels the copy is centered on them. And them alone.

So how do you do target your market's personality?

Over the years, psychologists and behavioral scientists have categorized personality styles. They may have labeled them differently, but they are generally the same. They all come down to essentially four different personality styles.

Is this some new science? No. Around 400 B.C.E., Hippocrates, in “Air, Water And Places,” dubbed these four types as Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric, and Melancholic.

In recent times, Roy Williams, in one of his articles, calls them Spontaneous, Humanistic, Competitive, and Methodical. Behavioral scientist and motivational speaker, Dr. Tony Alessandra, labels them as Directors, Socializers, Relaters, and Thinkers.

They are essentially all the same.

(For more, visit Dr. Alessandra's “The Platinum Rule.” The Golden Rule states that you should do unto others as you would want to have done unto you. But Tony defines The Platinum Rule as: “Do unto others as they would want to have done unto them.”)

However, the most common labels given to them — the ones most marketing textbooks use, including the same textbooks from which I used to teach marketing management in college — are: Driver, Expressive, Analytical, and Amiable.

Those are the labels I prefer and will be using for the remainder of this article.

Where do these labels come from and what do they mean?

Essentially, personality styles are defined by two key behavioral characteristics, which are assertiveness and responsiveness. The category — or label, if you will — is based on one of four combinations of how assertive and responsive they are.

For example, a person can be:

  1. High assertive and low responsive, or a driver.
  2. High assertive and high responsive, or an expressive.
  3. Low assertive and low responsive, or an analytical.
  4. Low assertive and high responsive, or an amiable.

Responsiveness, which is expressed outwardly, is how well a person responds to others. Assertiveness is expressed inwardly, and it's how well they assert themselves.

For example, some people are task-driven while others are results-driven. Some people are more emotional than factual, and others vice versa. Some are ego-driven and self-absorbed, others are people-pleasers and focused on those around them.

But to explain it visually, and one of the more popular models (and the best one for copywriting purposes), is by looking at these styles in the form of a quadrant. The key is to determine where one's level of responsiveness and assertiveness intersect.

With all things being equal, your target audience will predominantly fall into one of these styles. Granted, it may not precisely fit into a single, neat category, and your entire market may not fit one specific style.

But keep in mind, the keyword here is “predominant.”

(If they do fall into multiple categories, you might want to create different products, offers, and sales copy for each one. The more congruent your message is with your market, the more sales you will make. I'll come back to this later as it is important.)

Nevertheless, depending on your product, your industry, and both the demographics and psychographics of your target audience, it is safe to say that the majority of them will likely demonstrate one particular style more than any other.

To give you an idea, here's a brief look at them:

Drivers Prefer Results

They are practical, impatient, and time-sensitive. A Driver is a person who usually is more concerned with the bottom-line. They want to know how long does it take to get your product, what kind of results they can expect, and how much does it cost.

Bankers, sales managers, purchasing agents, businesspeople, corporate executives, and so on are typically Drivers. They don't care how to get from point “A” to point “B.” They just want to know if and when you can get them to point “B.”

Analyticals Prefer Details

They don't care much about results. They're driven by facts and far more interested in the inner workings of your product. They might want to know what is its exact size, where and of what is it made, what are the ingredients, what features does it possess, what kind of guarantees do you offer with it, and what, precisely, makes it work.

Scientists, developers, mathematicians, engineers, computer programmers, doctors, and so on are mainly Analyticals. They want facts and just the facts. So give them statistics, data, specifications, ingredients, measurements, etc. The more, the merrier.

Expressives Prefer Feelings

Status and recognition are important to Expressives. How they perceive things and how other people perceive them take precedence. They are mostly impulsive, colorful, ego-centric, undisciplined, and spontaneous. They prefer to talk than to listen.

Actors, teachers, musicians, artists, graphic designers, movie directors, comedians, etc fall in the Expressive category. They buy mostly for the sake of prestige of ownership, or to boost their standing in their communities, organizations, or peer groups.

(For instance, Expressives are the types of people who intentionally park their brand new luxury car on the street so that the neighbors can see them.)

Amiables Prefer Relationships

They are emotional, caring, and humanistic. They're social-minded and care deeply about the relationships they hold. How your product will help others and strengthen the relationships they maintain with them will be of utmost importance to Amiables.

It's not uncommon for Amiables to hold careers as salespeople, social workers, human resource personnel, consultants, and so on. If your product solves a problem, that's good. But if it allows your prospect to solve other people's problems, that's even better.

So how do you appeal to your buyer's personality?

At this point, you should have an idea of how to cater to buyer personality styles.

With Drivers, be pithy and give them the bottom line. With Analyticals, offer cold, hard information rather than hype and stories. With Expressives, tell them how you will make them look good. And with Amiables, use testimonials, stories, and anecdotes.

For instance, avoid lacing your copy with feelings and emotions when your audience is comprised of Analyticals. Be specific, objective, and factual, and refrain from hyperbole or drama. Analyticals are also highly skeptical, so offer as much proof as you can.

Sure, you can — and must — be emotional. All humans are. Even analyticals make purchasing decisions based on emotion first. But don't do so at the expense of facts. Back it up with logic and lots of it with which they can justify their decisions.

While an Analytical will never have enough information, don't drown your visitors with needless details when they consist of Drivers. Be quick, pithy, and straight to the point. If you use long copy, make sure it makes a point and sticks to the point. Consistently.

However, be sensitive and friendly when pitching to Amiables. Use stories, case studies, and testimonials. Take your time with them. Be warm and interactive. In fact, your relationship with them is just as important as the benefits of your product.

For Expressives, talk about how the product will make them feel, boost their status, and get others to notice and compliment them. Or how the product will make others around them cringe in horror, turn green with envy, or even be humiliated.

Here's a real-life scenario. A patient visits a dentist for an initial consultation.

The Analytical will be preoccupied mostly with the details of dental work. Knowing precisely how much freezing will be applied, which specific teeth (and parts thereof) will be repaired, and what kind of filling will be used are of enormous interest to him.

On the other hand, a Driver will want to know how long will the procedure take, how fast can he return to work after the procedure is done, and, of course, how much will it cost. Everything else is unimportant and irrelevant.

But for the Amiable, they are mostly concerned with their ability to please their spouse, friends, or boss with their improved appearance. They want to know if going ahead will improve their relationships and make others happy, as well as secure others' approval.

The Expressive, however, will be interested with how good will their new teeth look, how much pain such a procedure might incur, how their teeth will change their appearance, and how attractive the procedure is going to make them.

Again, your market will likely fall into one predominant category. In other words, the majority of your market will fit into one category more than any other.

Depending on your type of industry and the kind of product you're selling, the style of your message should chiefly appeal to that one specific personality style.

For example, if your product caters to expectant mothers, you will definitely speak to them differently than if you were to cater to entrepreneurs or sports fanatics.

But what if your market consists of more than one?

What if your market consists of strong, identifiably different groups? In other words, what if you have more than one predominant personality type in your target audience? If so, I submit that you can have a different ad or salesletter directed at each different market.

It's market segmentation, pure and simple.

You split your market into groups, and cater to each one separately and individually. Large corporations and retailers have been doing this for years. Take Coke versus Diet Coke, or Levis' Red Tabs sold in high-end stores, versus Wal-Mart's Orange Tab Levis.

Even if it's the same product and they happen to fall into more than one category in high enough numbers, then you might want to cluster your market into groups, and create a new offer and sales copy that target each distinct segment.

For example, a clever entrepreneur can take a product and package it, price it, and sell it to two different audiences on two different websites — and thus maximize sales from all potential market segments. Even creating her own competition, in some cases.

The bottom line is, give your copy personality, and your response will shoot through the roof. Sure, you might alienate a few. But what would you rather have: generic copy that pleases more but sells less? Or targeted copy that offends few but sells more?

As the late, great copywriter, Gary Halbert, used to say in response to his detractors regarding his pointed, discriminate personals ad: “Don't be so preoccupied with upsetting the dogs when you're trying to sell the foxes. Concentrate on the foxes.”

Categories
Interviews

Gary Halbert Interview #2

Second Call with Gary Halbert

This is the 2nd call with Gary Halbert, a few weeks after the first one. It's about two hours long and the recording is split into 30-minute segments. You can listen to each part, download the MP3s, or read the transcripts below.

As with the other calls, keep in mind that, in the early 2000s, broadband wasn't fully adopted yet. The call was also maxed out at capacity. So quality is less than desirable and the split was to help with downloads.

Links to other calls and resources mentioned on the calls:

Categories
Copywriting

What Performs Better: Long Copy Or Short Copy?

Here's a reprint of an answer I gave a student in another forum who asked:

“Long copy? Or short copy?”

1. Long copy versus short copy has been the single greatest debate since the beginning of the printing press. But long copy always outperforms short copy. Don't be long for the sake of being long. Be long for the sake of providing as much information as is needed to make the sale — and not one word more.

2. People object to reading copy because: a) they are not targeted and b) the copy is boring. “Length” is the excuse because it's a common currency. “Boring” is subjective. “Long” is objective. When copy starts to bore you, you naturally are inclined to say it's “too long.” It's too long because of the fact that it started to drag, causing the reader to lose interest.

3. Speaking of targeting, this is crucial. The previous poster said, “I would read it if it's something I'm interested in, like John's TrafficSecrets.com.” And that's exactly the key. As Dan Kennedy said:

The person who says ‘I would never read all that copy' makes the mistake of thinking they are the customer. And they're not. We are never our own customers.

There's a thing in copywriting I teach called ‘message-to-market match'. It is this: when your message is matched to a target market that has a high level of interest in it, not only does responsiveness go up but readership goes up, too. The whole issue of interest goes up.

The truth about long copy is that, first of all, there's abundant, legitimate, statistical research, that's split-testing research, to indicate that virtually without exception, long copy outperforms short copy.

There's some significant research has been done that indicate that readership falls off dramatically at 300 words but does not again drop off until 3,000 words.

— Dan Kennedy

As Dan says, what you can pull from that is this: people who dropped off at 300 words weren't qualified for your offer in the first place. They wouldn't have bought from you after 300 words much less after 50 or 5,000 words.

4. Recent web usability studies show that people respond more favorably to more copy on less pages. Here's an interesting study on long scrolling web pages by the folks at User Interface Engineering. They found that people prefer longer scrolling copy over short, multiple pages.

I particularly like these 3 passages:

1. “Our research shows that fewer, longer pages may be the best approach for users. In the trade-off between hiding content below the fold or spreading it across several pages, users have greater success when the content is on a single page.”

2. “Increasing the levels of information, similar to adding sections to an outline, also seemed to help users.”

3. “Users may tell us they hate scrolling, but their actions show something else. Most users readily scrolled through pages, usually without comment.”

Read the results of the study here.

5. Plus, here's my reasoning behind long copy sales pages over multiple, smaller pages. For a single product-focused “mini-site,” this process is proven to have the best results in split-tests. Clicking to another page causes what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.” (Also known as “buyer's remorse” or having “2nd thoughts.”)

The idea is that, by clicking to another page while one is engaged in the reading process of sales copy forces readers to think twice, as it causes a brief, mental dissassociation or distraction, which interrupts the flow, momentum and intensity of the sales pitch.

6. And best of all, recent tests conducted by MarketingExperiments.com prove, without a doubt, that long copy outperforms short copy. Reprinted:

In the first test, we sent traffic to two landing pages using Google AdWords. The first page was the home page, which contained short copy describing the product. The second page was similar, but featured a much longer article about the product. Both pages prompted visitors to click through to the order page, from which point they would be taken to the shopping cart.

Our initial results were gathered after a five-day period:

Test 1 – Short Copy
——————————-
Clicks = 810
Cost = $94.29
CPC = $0.10
Revenue = $271.75
ROI = -14%
Conversion = 0.37%
——————————-
Test 1 – Long Copy
——————————-
Clicks = 1,163
Cost = $135.61
CPC = $0.10
Revenue = $547.50
ROI = +21%
Conversion = 0.52%
——————————-

In our initial micro-test, long copy outperformed short copy by 40.54%. Click-through traffic sent to the short copy page was unprofitable (-14% ROI), while traffic sent to the long copy page produced an ROI of 21%.

In this first micro-test, it appears that the long copy page performed much better than the short copy page. However, a five-day period is not enough to account for statistical fluctuations that may skew our real results. So we continued to test.

We maintained the same test, expanded our keyword bidding slightly, and gathered additional results over the subsequent five days:

Test 2 – Short Copy
——————————-
Clicks = 1,700
Cost = $258.62
CPC = $0.15
Revenue = $295.75
ROI = -66%
Conversion = 0.18%
——————————-
Test 2 – Long Copy
——————————-
Clicks = 1,440
Cost = $218.83
CPC = $0.15
Revenue = $1,094.15
ROI = +50%
Conversion = 0.69%
——————————-

Again, long copy outperformed short copy, this time by an even greater factor of nearly four to one. Our ROI was a dismal -66% for the short copy page and a very respectable 50% for the long copy page.

And…

In general, long copy offers the following advantages:

1. Your visitors will have most of their questions answered and will have less anxiety about ordering from you.

2. Long copy can reduce customer service by qualifying your customers to a greater degree.

3. Long copy with bolded or emphasized points can allow some of your visitors to skim, while others more interested in specifics can find all the information they want. In this sense, long copy gives visitors more options.

4. Long (and interesting) keyword-rich copy often performs well in natural search engines.

Even more…

The long vs. short debate often overlooks the most important factor when it comes to website copy: quality. High-quality short copy will outperform poorly written long copy every time.

The best possible copy should be developed and tested before you even begin to worry about the long vs. short debate. Utilize an A-B split test. This will ensure that other factors (such as time, traffic source, and so on) do not skew your results.

And finally…

Copy should be long enough to do its job effectively, and not a word longer. Long copy for the sake of long copy is not to your benefit. Always keep in mind the primary goal of your website's copy (to sell your product or service, to solicit subscriptions, etc.).

Utilize bullets and/or numbered lists where appropriate. These make it easier for visitors to digest your information and prevent your pages from becoming one long block of gray. Utilize testimonials. Praise from your satisfied customers is much more effective than self-praise.

While our initial Long Copy vs. Short Copy micro-tests returned results clearly in favor of long copy, true optimization of your own website's copy will only come through your own testing. However, the guidelines above should give you a good place to start. We will continue to revise our own testing and share our results.

Read the issue here, with specific results:
http://marketingexperiments.com/archives/long_vs_short.cfm

An interesting discussion is going on in one of my favorite online forums, The Warriors Forum, about short copy winning over long copy. And the author of the thread cited a study he conducted, where he proved that shorter copy won over long copy.

Some people are screaming “heresy!” Others agreed.

Personally, I believe the study conducted is indeed valid because it makes sense. In this particular case, short copy was warranted for this particular market with this particular offer.

But is this true in all cases? When you look at his study closer, you realize that it lacks information about the variables involved, which makes the study, and its findings, a bit misleading.

Here's what I mean.

I truly believe that long copy sells better than short copy. But I base my opinion on the average, not the universal. Because, in some cases, shorter copy does sell better. But there are very specific reasons for this, and I want to go over a few of the important ones that I see all the time.

However, before I give you some of those reasons (and there are many, which I cannot go through in the scope of this one article), I'd like to make a distinction, if I could, so you understand the factors that come into play.

When people often look at short copy, even test it and then realize that it works better than long copy, there are many variables that one fails to look at. The price, the industry and particularly the target market play a significant role.

But there are also two others that I'd like to go over today: a) the product category or type, and b) the pre-selling process (i.e., the mindset of the market).

First, the product type.

When I used to teach marketing principles in college (part of the Business Administration curriculum at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Canada), my students learned that there are four textbook categories of products:

  1. Convenience products
  2. Shopping products
  3. Specialty products
  4. Unsought products

Each product category has a different sales process and marketing requirement. Why? Because the level of commoditization of the product delineates how much marketing, promotion and relationship-building is required to sell the product.

(And when I say “marketing,” I mean all types of marketing, from branding to pricing to availability to distribution.)

To give you some examples, a “convenience product” is one often purchased to fulfill immediate needs. The purchase is done at an almost unconscious level, too. Pricing is often moderate to low, and brand equity, reputation and relationships do not make a big difference if any.

The product has penetrated the market en masse. It is widely available. And more often than not, convenience products are impulse purchases. They are also staples, in most cases.

Take, for example, bread, milk, batteries, etc. These are often the types of products you find in convenience stores or in the supermarket checkout lines, where people just grab them and add them to their orders just because “they're there.”

No real thought has been given into making the buying decision. Price may either be low or a non-issue, in most cases. And copy, if any is used, will be relatively short and brief. A small POP display (point of purchase stand, cardboard ad, logo with product name and description, etc) is all that's required.

As for “shopping products,” those are less commoditized products. They are a little higher in price. A little more thought is required into making the purchase. And people tend to “shop around” when deciding on buying such products.

They either weigh the pros and cons before buying it, or they make the decision to buy relatively quickly — albeit less quickly than a convenience product.

Other times, they take a bit of time to decide, depending on the price, the availability and the market. They will analyze first, and they often require a bit more copy to gather enough information to justify their decision.

Products like cars, appliances, computers, etc are shopping products. (They can be more or less in price too, such as videos, movies, homes, vacations, even software and online services.)

As such, a little longer copy is required, often to differentiate the product from its competitors, and sell the uniqueness and the specific benefits of the product.

Third is the “specialty product.” This is a product that definitely needs more copy and a lot of selling is required. Specialty products are higher priced, highly targeted and more valuable — especially for very specific target markets.

(That is, they might not be of any value for others but of high value for a select group of individuals.)

Exotic goods, luxury cars, expensive jewelry, art and so on are specialty items. Take Mont-Blanc pens, Porsche cars and Pearson yachts, for example.

(A popular magazine is the Robb Report, which is a magazine for the affluent. Take a look at some of the ads in it, and you'll see exactly what I mean.)

In my marketing classes, the example given was a particular brand of gourmet bread that was gluten-free, created with an exotic herd of mountain sheep's milk grazing on the alpine slopes, flavored with rare spices and condiments grown in the Amazon jungle, fire-oven baked to very specific temperatures, and gift-wrapped inside a special, ornamentally carved wooden box shipped directly to people's doors.

(And yes, a loaf can cost you up to $500 each.)

Therefore, longer copy is definitely needed in this case. The goal would be not to differentiate it from its competition (since there's very little of it) but to create value, justify the purchase and add reasons why.

In other words, why would someone pay $500 for a loaf of bread? There are very specific individuals who would and very specific reasons they would, too.

Finally, “unsought products” are exactly that: unsought. Products that no one would have ever known about or looked for. Now, this doesn't mean exotic and fancy products, either. This means products people don't necessarily look for or believe they don't need. At first.

Preventative type products fall in that category (i.e., life insurance, pre-arranged funeral services, financial investment services, etc). Almost all information products fall in that category too, by the way. (If not, they probably fall in the “specialty” category.)

Consequently, long copy is a must in these cases. And the copy is not only meant to differentiate, add value and justify the purchase, but also to create a need and a desire for the product.

What I mean is, you need a lot of copy to educate the market on why they need (and subsequently want) this type of product. You need a lot of copy to really build a compelling case for buying it.

Granted, these categories are not universal. Because another element comes in, which is the second one in my list mentioned earlier.

And that is, the process.

The process can help identify, isolate or even create certain markets (and therefore certain mindsets) that will buy a product with more or less copy. And that process is not limited to words — or to selling itself, for that matter.

Long copy is often attributed to a long copy salesletter. But that is not often the case. Copy is not limited to a salesletter or website. It can often take many forms, take place over time, and communicated and delivered in many different ways.

When all added, they take the form of, and replace, a long copy salesletter that would otherwise be required if none of these other steps were taken.

For example, if you have an affiliate program, then your affiliates can and should “pre-sell” the product for you. Their “copy,” in other words, is part of the entire sales engine. When they hit your site, and if they're highly targeted and qualified from moment they hit it, then you need less copy to sell them.

In fact, if your affiliates did their jobs right, they've already sold your prospects even before they read your copy.

Even if your affiliate (or even yourself, when you sell to an established list of paying clients) doesn't use a lot of copy to pre-sell, the “uncommunicated” copy was delivered in the form of building the brand (and that brand can also be you and your expertise), trust, credibility and relationships.

For example, when you promote a new product to an established audience (or if your affiliates promote your product to their established lists), a relationship already exists. The process didn't start with that promotion but a long time ago.

How many times have you already sold this audience in the past? If you have done so, particularly several times, the likelihood that little copy will be required for the next promotion.

You don't need copy to build credibility or educate your market, in this case, because that job has already been done.

In other words, copy was already used, albeit indirectly.

How much copy in other promotions have you used? How many times did they read your articles, websites and blog posts before they bought from you? How great is the relationship you created with them before you sold them anything? How much did they read about, learned from and educated themselves on: you, your expertise, your business or even your affiliates' businesses?

That's copy. All of it.

It's all part of the sales process. And “copy,” in the case of selling to an established, qualified market, didn't start with that salesletter. It started a long time ago through other means.

Try to sell to a brand new market for the first time, one who has never heard of you, and you'll need copy. Lots of it.

Hire a sales representative to sell for you, and that's copy too, albeit delivered incrementally, in different ways, over time. For example, include all the prospecting steps, qualification questions, needs analyses, phone calls, sales presentations, written proposals, objections handled, and closing attempts the salesperson did.

But it's still all one big piece of copy. Remove all of those steps and start fresh with just a salesletter, and you will definitely need a long copy salesletter. Without question.

In other words, if you had to replace all those steps with just one, the process would have taken the form of one long-copy salesletter.

Finally, there's also a correlation between my two points, i.e., between product categories and processes.

Because a product, which may at first be an unsought product — with a bit of copy, awareness, brand equity and credibility built over time — can change and be promoted to another category.

They can go from unsought, to specialty, to shopping, and even to convenience, after a specific point in the sales/life cycle.

Take bottled water, for instance.

Bottled water was once unsought when it was first introduced. Over time, it became a specialty product. After a while, it then became a shopping product.

(And in some cases, I'd even venture to say that bottled water is now a convenience product, especially in certain markets such as gyms, schools, offices or certain locales where water quality is known to be poor.)

So when you really look at it and think about it, long copy always wins. Always. It's just not a long copy salesletter every time. Granted, after a period of time, it's not always needed when the audience is pre-sold, or when the product is a low-priced convenience product.

Bottom line, copy doesn't need to do a job that's already been done. So the question is not “how long should your salesletter be?” But rather, “how qualified, targeted and sold is my target market before they even read my salesletter?”

And therein lies the key: the market, not the copy.