Long form works best for:
* Simple to understand products which have difficult to achieve benefits (weight loss pills, real estate riches courses). The idea is that once you find an interested party, it is just a matter of convincing him that YOUR SOLUTION is THE SOLUTION.
* The purchase process is single stepped with low time and mental effort involved on the part of the purchaser. (e-download, shipped product).
* It is really hard to sell services with the long form, although its been done. I'd still like to see a good example of a successful longform that sells a service, and analyse it to death.
Short form works best for:
* Complex sales where a conversion means pre-qualification, a phone call, question answering, a customized result (think general contractor), identity check or some other gate to completing the sale. The idea is just to give them just enough benefits that they feel both enticed and think it is low risk to give you their contact information. Almost all B2B sales fit in this category.
* Monthly services with a freemium model, and any other low risk opportunity to kick the tires.
* Items with a low purchase point and low effort checkout (App Store game).
That said, there are always exceptions to the rule, and you should test both forms of communication if you are unsure.
Believe it or not, I DON'T only do long-form salesletters so I don't divide myself into a "long-form-only" camp.
Typically what I do is figure out what the client needs... assess the market/product,etc... and do 1 or the other to START.
However, if I'm not absolutely positive that whatever form I'm using will work - I always recommend that the client test a longer copy page versus a shorter copy page.
All in all... it's not "long form vs. short form".
The bottom line is... you put out all your selling points, and defuse all the objectives. At that point it can be either long or short.
And you end it right there without any "extra" words :)
That could be 300 words... or 10,000 words. Like you said - it depends on a TON of variables!
Your comment is written in the same exact way. It isn't formal language (substituting 1 for one, for example), so I assume you write that way to seem "authentic" and "trustworthy", like you aren't trying to take advantage of someone. You throw superfluous, vague praises at every chance, hoping to ingratiate yourself with the "customer". Another annoying thing is how long it takes to express a short, simple idea -- the opposite of good communication. Unfortunately, your kind will continue to exist, as PT Barnum was right about suckers.
Your comment could have been written much more clearly:
I don't only do long-form salesletters so I don't divide myself into a "long-form-only" camp. Typically I assess the market/product, etc and start with one form or the other. However, if I'm not absolutely positive that whatever form I'm using will work - I always recommend that the client test a longer copy page versus a shorter copy page. You need to put out all your selling points, and defuse all the objectives. And you end it right there without any "extra" words. That could be 300 words or 10,000 words. Like you said - it depends on a TON of variables!
If you had written that, I would not have felt my intelligence insulted.
Work on getting a more positive outlook on life in general. It'll get you very far :)
I've tested short and long form, and while long form tends to do better for information products, if you are actually providing something of value, then usually a short form can work just as well.
Essentially - to sell shit, you need to spend a long time persuading someone to buy it. To sell gold, you just need a buy now button.
I do agree that long form tends to do better for information products.
However, it also does better in 90% of cases, as well. As I mentioned in the post... it does NOT do better in EVERY single case.
You're "essentially" comment is absolutely wrong... and TOTALLY biased after you just said my post was biased.
It depends on the market maturity, the branding of the company, and MANY other factors.
All in all - all I'm saying is this.
Long copy works in 80-90% of cases... TYPICALLY. It depends on a lot of factors, and the only way to really know... is to test it with a GOOD copywriter.
After all... long copy that sucks will always do worse than short copy which is brilliant :)
Again, I'm not hating on you, or your piece, but the fact that often times long form copy is associated with horrid design. That's the trend I want to see disappear.
The design doesn't matter though.
"Pretty" doesn't sell.
Trust me on that one.
What sells is understanding your customer, having a product which gives them exactly what they need at a fair price, and showing that customer how different that product is from other similar products.
Though I agree best idea is to A/B test long v/s sales copy to see which one clicks with your target customers.
If I saw something like this in my mail, I would immediately throw it away and probably have a few thoughts about how out of touch the person who commissioned it was.
But if it really does "convert like crazy", it means that any wisdom I have about marketing (and most of the wisdom given out by fellow geeks, designers, and most marketers) is almost entirely wrong.
"The astonishing startup secrets of Ycombinator's founder
below I'll reveal an amazing startup plan specifically designed for sole founders.
It has a proven 73% success rate.
If you're interested in running a SaaS company and you're willing to relocate to the Bay Area, then this letter might be the most important you'll ever read.
WARNING: You are not allowed to share the information contained in this letter with anyone else. It's for your eyes only.
What you'll read below will at first seem contradictory. It'll fly in the face of everything you currently know about starting and running a business. It'll blow away your current beliefs about product development and customer acquisition. So make sure you sit down, because what I'm about to tell you will possibly change your life forever..."
If a key member of the silicon valley venture capital community sent me a personalized letter about anything, especially to do with startups, or funding, of course I would listen.
If Stephen Hawking sent me a personalized letter, I would read it.
If Darren Aronofsky sent me a personalized letter, I would read it.
If Warren Buffet sent me a personalized letter, I would read it.
If Steve Jobs sent me a personalized letter, I would read it.
If Barack Obama sent me a personalized letter, I would read it.
If George Bush sent me a personalized letter, I would read it.
It's also about the context. I'll read mass-produced essays in Foreign Affairs all day long, because they're written by [mostly] authority figures, not copywriters who are trying to make money off of me.
This does remind me of the story about a week ago where a "females only" founders Q&A conference run my Ycombinator which turned out to have no female founders at it at all. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2229494
Usually when something makes broad claims, for me, it needs to back it up ASAP. Most long form letters over exaggerate, repeat a lot of vague information & then throw in a bunch of unverifiable testimonials(e.g "Bob in Austin, TX writes"). A large portion of copywriters are people who don't use the product, never plan to use the product and are essentially lying about the product. Blah.
And THAT is where the difference is.
In my letters, my claims are backed up with proof. The testimonials are of people you can call on the phone. And I personally use the product before I even START writing.
Bad copy written by an unethical copywriter sucks.
Good copy written by a great copywriter will keep your eyes glued on the page as long as they want you reading :)
Example: "Forbidden Neck Pain Relief", should stay forbidden because it's a lame scam.
They've also clogged up google for the keywords "Jesse Cannone scam" with fake reviews/testimonials. They're selling snake oil.
It's typical scam behavior, make outlandish claims, sell cheaply made product at high price, give kick back to affiliate. It doesn't matter if your product sucks, just market the shit out of it & make returning it hard to do or not worth the hassle. It might be worthwhile to sneak in a recurring charge while you're at it.
I am pretty sure the overpriced inversion table is similar. Also just because a saw cuts through a car on TV doesn't mean it does it in real life. Using an infomercial as an example of good marketing just shows the quality level that's being aimed at here.
There are too many worthless business ventures out there & too many stupid people falling for them. Some of these people though have serious medical problems & are desperate for a cure. Preying on these peoples condition isn't a trait I'd tout.
You may be good at writing convertible copy, but just because you've conned yourself into thinking what you write is true, doesn't actually make it so.
Because I personally deal with back and neck pain (fell out of a 25 ft. tree)... have personally used his products... and they personally gave ME relief.
I don't promote crappy products. I personally test EVERY single product I promote to make sure it's going to help people.
But think back to the first time you saw something like the four page ad in Byte magazine as a kid. There's a decent chance that you went to your dad and said, "Dad, this is cool. Can we get this computer kit? I can learn how to build and program computers for only $899!"
With most psychological effects, there's the tendency to say "sure, that works on other people, but not me." The long form sales letter is really a way to put all of the positive attributes and angles for a product in front of a consumer. If you are selling snow to eskimos, I doubt it works. But for people who are on the fence, what is so wrong with laying out the case for a product fully? I think you could argue that someone who needs to see compelling supporting arguments in favor of a product, and who carefully considers a product before purchasing is more likely to be intelligent.
If anything, the long sales letter is less threatening to the notion of the intelligent consumer than the sad realization that changing the hue of a button increased your sales.
It's all about knowing your market, giving them something they're familiar with, and then BEING INTERESTING :)
Think about it.
Who is going to read a 10... 20... 30 page letter.
Someone one the lower half of the bell curve who can hardly string a sentence together, or someone who likes to read and is therefore (usually) more intelligent?
I personally use long copy to get clients who own MULTI-million dollar businesses.
Do you think they're on the lower half of the bell curve?
If I didn't use long copy to them... how could I show them how different I was? How could I display my USP? How could I talk about my guarantee? How could I get in touch with them emotionally so they pick up the phone and call?
Short answer - I wouldn't be able to.
I have no idea if the courses are any good, but he does market them to programmers, and since he has put up more than one blog posting of this nature, I assume he must be getting sales.
I see two steps to understanding why long forms works and why people like us have an aversion to the method:
* Seeing the same things in different ways
* Assumptions about our place on the Internet
Seeing the same things in different ways
Take as an example the face mask adverts halfway down this A List Apart article on Whitespace in design: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/whitespace
Looking at the direct mail version of the face mask advert we primarily see a bad design with no budget invested in it. We may assume that the face mask is likely to be of poor quality.
Others (e.g. those not versed in design theory/used to seeing nice designs… i.e. those who are not able to readily grasp why something just looks badly designed) may well see a small, honest, single-person company that didn't waste money on graphic design. He invested in the product, not the design.
The two designs are designed with intent; positioned differently for a different clientele. One no-less intelligent than the other, just less educated in marketing tactics and design.
We see the same thing in vastly different ways, drawing different conclusions about different aspects of the same offer.
Assumptions about our place on the Internet
It doesn't surprise me that long form works so well on the Internet.
Because we surround ourselves with people in our own social circle -- be it on Twitter, here on HN, etc. -- we forget that we are only a tiny subset of the Internet population: the subset of people who enjoy testing, reading about and discussing marketing, design, entrepreneurship, sales, psychology, etc.
Most purchasing and browsing on the Internet is done by those not as well-versed in these areas as us: we're out numbered by the people who know less about these topics by a huge factor.
They come across a long form marketing piece and good copy will snag them and bring them in, selling it to them slowly but surely.
When we see it: bad design!, scam!, psychological tricks!, close! The copy doesn't get to us. It doesn't sell us. It isn't positioned toward us.
Combine this difference of opinion and our temporary delusion that everyone should be like us and you have your reason why we find it hard to comprehend why long form works so damn well.
- OK, my apologies for the length of this reply. Rant over. Hope it makes sense.
That being said, always understand that in marketing - it's not about YOU.
It's about the prospect.
Like I said... test something fancy against something longer (but written by a great copywriter... just because it's long doesn't mean it's good).
Let the test dictate who your market is :)
MOST people wouldn't throw it away if it was a good letter, and you would make a lot more sales.
The only people who would throw it away are those with very limited minds... who I wouldn't want as my customer anyway! ;)
I've let the experiment run for a few months and the results were never concluding, ~50% each the whole time.
My guess is that most of my buyers are pre-sold by affiliates, or via word of mouth, and don't read anything. Any other interpretation greatly appreciated.
I'd suggest making a lot more white space in the longer version for easier reading.
The shorter version also has a headline, the longer kind of does but it's not noticeable.
Keep running tests - you'll find a winner! :)
How does a long sales letter form compare to an approach of "Get the user using the product as quickly as possible", with a few bold benefits outlined, a huge "Try Now" button and not commitment to buy. Of course this is something that I should A/B test myself to really find the answer.
(PS: we have been trying to do such a split test for Visual Website Optimizer homepage. Will post results once we do it)
Look at Basecamp (http://basecamphq.com/). They have a tremendously successful webapp, and their landing page is long enough to clearly explain the benefits and uses many of the features commonly found in direct mail/mail order advertising.
There's a pretty big difference from Basecamp's website vs someone trying to get you to buy "Forbidden neck pain reliever that the pharmaceutical companies don't want you to know about!!" or a cheap saw made in china that will probably break after a month and cost too much to send back for the Money Back Guarantee*.
The argument isn't really about "long copy".
What you need to do is display all the benefits your product offers, show how YOUR web apps are different, exploit your USP and tell the world about it... and debunk all objections.
That could take 500 words... it could take 2,000 words... or it could take 10,000 words.
It all depends. Long copy isn't long because people "want" it to be long. It's long because it takes that long to tell people how awesome the product is, as well as get in touch with them emotionally.
As a book worm, I can't stand long sales letters. Bold, flashy highlights and random formatting all over the place interrupts the flow of the text and is hard to read. The copy would have to be pretty darn engaging to make me put up with that.
Personally I think video sales letters would be more effective but they also have the inherent problem that people viewing the page at work (or other similar situation) won't be able to see the video (unless they bookmark it and view it later which is unlikely).
I think combining a mixture of the short sales letter, video sales letter and long sales letter would be a good catch all. Show a clear call to action Buy Now button above the fold with a few simple bullet-point benefits and a sales video. Then below that you can continue on with the long sales letter for those who still have pre-sales questions.
And yes, great ideas about mixing it up.
That's the KEY to all of this. You don't know exactly what will work best - the answer lies in testing it out! :)
The long form is particular popular with this market targeting method because "ugliness" doesn't matter especially if you position the product as a ultra-niche subject matter authority.
I'm surprised to see that the article doesn't mention that the long form also benefits from SEO juice (more word, better chance of google rewarding keyword context relevance).
Does anyone have insight into this? How well does the long sales letter format translate to the app store?
With impulse buys, which is what many apps are, you really don't need the middle level of countering skepticism. You are looking to encapsulate the vision of the app in a short and compelling pitch. Most apps lack the depth to provide the material for long-form copy and you may well lose target market by giving too much and losing attention of the skimmers. Furthermore, consider the negative associations many have with such type of copy, and the correlation of those people with the tech-enabled app-market.
Regardless of your opinion of Moeed's use of ShowHN for a non-product here http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2275703, his landing page shows about the level of detail I would expect to see in ad-copy for an app. Just try to picture how you would extend that in order to sell the concept further - if you've run out of ideas, you've hit the level you should be at.
It all depends on what gives you the highest conversions. It's really as simple as that.
Yea it's hard not to generalize since it's only 1 article, ya know? I tried being as specific as possible without turning it into a 30 page article :)
And yes, you're absolutely right... and hit on something most people don't understand.
It all depends on the target market! ;)