I’m a little tired of being told that the long form sales letter is as relevant as ever – and a must have part of every copywriter’s toolset. It’s not that I disagree… it’s more irritation at the smug way this wisdom’s often delivered.
There’s an implication the source is on nodding terms with John Carlton… or he’s got a missing Gary Halbert manuscript on his study wall or something.
But that’s not the point of this post. Long form is alive and well because it still works. It’s made the transition from print to web and found a whole new life there.
For the bottom feeders – red headlines, yellow highlighting and fake handwriting slipped into web long form like a greased snake. And there was no pressure. You could try whatever you liked. Slap it together – quick and cheap – and blast it out with $50 worth of PPC. If it bombs… try again. No sweat.
Closer to the surface there’s a little more quality. Some persuasive copy and a little psychology. Make friends with your readers and turn them into clients. Give loads of stuff away. Use extended copy to explain stuff that needs explaining.
On the whole… the web’s used long form pretty well… if you keep your distance from the Clickbank end of the scale. And we’re also told by snooping technology that most long copy is not read anyway… so we’ve all come closer to perfecting long web copy for the skimmers.
So what’s my point?
Here’s my point.
I want long copy to talk… or sell to me… in a moderately subtle and thoughtful fashion. I would like the copywriter to establish some kind of relationship with me. I want him (or her) to confess to being a copywriter… and not the inventor/developer/creator whatever of the product he’s trying to sell. I want him to tell me he’s being paid to write this stuff.
Then he can weave a tale around how he found out that the product he’s selling is actually “pretty good”… so he really can recommend it to me in good faith.
You see… he had a sample of this product and put it through some pretty rigorous testing – so as to do the best job he could on the copy. And… to his astonishment, it passed with flying colors. In fact it was so much better than he expected – he actually bought one for himself.
And this made his copy easy to write. Because he’s one of that rare breed of copywriters who are not comfortable writing copy for products they don’t believe in.
Now I like this person straight off. Because I feel he’s “leveled with me” in a weird way. He’s made an effort to avoid the stereotype bullet listed benefits solving all my problems and my pain.
(I don’t want a cure for my pain. Why do I need to be in pain to buy something?)
And I’m not even sure I’d cynically dismiss this approach knowing every other person reading the message was getting the same story. I don’t think I would, even though I’m a copywriter. It’s the effort I appreciate.
It’s being treated like an adult.
And I’d like something reasoned and cogently argued. I want the copywriter to sound like my best friend when he tells me why I should buy this particular model of mountain bike. Because he’s passionate about mountain biking… and he’s got that model. And he’s really concerned that I don’t make a mistake and buy the wrong one. Like my best friend would be.
I also want him to apologize for taking up my time… and for subjecting me to a sales page. He must tell me how he hates sales pages, just like me. We’re almost brothers now.
Then he should tell me “look, this message was never meant for someone like you anyway – so there’s no hard feelings at all if you want to pass on this offer”. He understands completely if I pass on his offer.
And in the incredibly unlikely event that – at some stage in the future – I find myself contemplating the possibility of thinking about maybe considering getting one of these things… his sage advice is that I should think about getting this particular one.
And I don’t need to buy it from him. In fact he’d be fine if I got it somewhere else. As long as I get the right one… his job is done. He’s just thrilled he had the privilege of introducing this model to me… and is honored that I took the time to read his copy.
And if I ever need any help or advice in the future he gives me his twitter handle. How discreet is that?
How much do I like this guy now?
Well he’s almost certainly got the sale. How could I go anywhere else after this tour de force of self-effacing brilliance? I’m following him on Twitter.
I’m also stalking him… he might even be my new copywriter.
J.D.Salinger said it best
“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”
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