The Death of the Long Copy Sales Letter

If you ever wanted to take a peek at the premise of the Tubetorial business model, you’re in luck. While 2006 was the year online video went big, 2007 will be the year when we all see how it is best utilized for marketing.

“Now wait a minute Brian,” you may be thinking. “Haven’t you repeatedly said that long copy works?”

Yes, long copy works, but keep these two things in mind:

  • Long copy works because with certain types of offers, people want as much information as they can get before committing to the purchase, and
  • Copy is the basis of audio and video as well as textual information.

Long copy works. Online sale letters that use long copy (i.e 20, 50, 100 pages)… not so much anymore. Especially the ones filled with ridiculous hype and garish colors and fonts.

Some of you are jumping for joy right now. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to provide a lot of information (copy) in various formats, with video being the most effective.

So what’s with the “death” headline?

If anyone took a dramatic turn in philosophy last year, copywriter Michel Fortin certainly seems to be leading the pack. The guy who wrote a 50+ page sales letter that made $1,000,000 in a single day is now turning away from the format.

He’s written a great manifesto that explains his reasoning, and I’ve felt the same way since last summer when we put Tubetorial together. There’s no opt-in required, just a straight download.

Click here to grab it (PDF)

Speaking of Tubetorial, you’ll see some drastic changes this year as we implement the part of the business plan that you won’t read about in Michel’s document. I’ll try to blog as transparently as I can about the process along the way, because I think there are some good lessons about what can be done with a “blog” when you step outside the current thinking of what that term is taken to mean.

 

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Comments

  1. I enjoyed debating about this on Michael’s forum. I agree that the long copy sales letter is dead and losing its street cred.

  2. Brian;

    Could it be that special reports and white papers are taking over where sales letters left off?

    Mike

  3. Michael, that’s the approach I’ve taken for years in lieu of a typical long copy sales letter, and I think that it will continue to work.

    However, video adds a new dimension to the mix. Some people simply don’t like to read, or do not process written material as well. Adding video to the mix is going to make some people extremely wealthy in the direct sales environment.

    For some items, such as software to name just one, I think video will be the go to choice.

  4. I dont know if I agree with long copy being dead yet its only jan 6 for god sakes. I think what should be killed this year and should be done publicly is the use of the term “is(fill in the blank)dead”. Let’s see adsense was supposed to be dead, affiliate marketing was supposed to be dead, no long copy is dead. Can we please breath some life into something for a change instead of using the tired old buzz words people.
    Cheers and beers from Canada
    Shane

  5. I hear what you’re saying and totally commiserate.

    But… you read and you commented.

    That’s why people keep using an approach that works. ;)

  6. 51 pages? Should I wait for it to come out on YouTube?

    “Copy is the basis for audio and visual as well…” Yep.

    Lovin’ Tubetorial. May long copy sales ‘letters’ rest in peace.

  7. Damn !

    Now I’m gonna have to go write a post about this topic du jour.

  8. It makes sense that things are moving this way. In the Web and software world (where I spend about half my time) we’ve been very successful using screencasting as a sales tool. Of course this is to “warm calls” that have already been pitched, but the effect of seeing video as opposed to just copy and static slides is pretty effective.

    The same way info products are becoming richer with the ability to add value through video, it seems logical that the initial marketing and pitch would do the same.

    Maybe this is the year where we see it really take off…

  9. A sales letter should be as long as it needs to be to support your call to action. And not one word more or less.

    Just as a 300 page book isn’t inherently better or worse than a 200 page book, a four page sales letter isn’t inherently better or worse than a one page letter.

    The long copy letters with numerous fonts, crazy highlights and hyped offerings are out of style and have been for some time. The reason thought isn’t their length, that has nothing to do with it. The reason it doesn’t work is because the target audience has been abused by it – we no longer believe.

    Sales letters, both long and short are valid and will remain so for a long time. Hype, tricks, and gimmicks are what’s dead.

  10. I think most people have too short of an attention span to read though long copy. Especially on the web, on a screen. I know I do.

  11. Brian,

    I couldn’t spot the portion of the Tubetorial business plan in Michaels long, long letter… even though I was interested to see how you plan to develop your buisness… !

    I even searched the PDF for ‘tubetorial’ – but nothing.

    So that means I wasn’t that interested in finding out, or that the letter was too hard for me to read

    I think many copywriters – even now – have not properly come to terms with the multimedia opportunities of the net.

    While they are still limiting themselves to text… they miss out on the dimensions of sound and video.

    If this letter had audio – I could have listened to it whilst blogging – wating only to hear the portion I was interested in…

    Regards

    TomC

  12. Write it well. stick a stamp on in, and address it to the recepiant by name…

    and it will be read, if the reader has any intention to buy what you’re selling.

  13. Tom, sorry… I didn’t mean to imply that Michel discusses Tubetorial specifically. I meant that the topic of his paper illustrates the reason why Tubetorial was created.

  14. Hi

    Your website is fantastic and has helped me out a lot..

    Not to be pedantic, but ‘peak’ in that context should be ‘peek’. Excusable on a website that is not a copywriting site, but worth a comment here.

  15. Whoops, thanks! I dashed this post off pretty quickly. :)

  16. Brian, another great post. I tried to read through Michel Fortin’s Manifesto but my eyes started to get tired after the first chapter went on and on again and again that he wasn’t trying to sell me something or have me click on any links (but I could if I wanted to) and then as I started into chapter two, he kept having to explain himself, time after time, explanation after explanation, I was so tired I finally gave up and came back here for a Copyblogger, Readers Digest version… whew… enough said…

    John :-)

  17. thanks for pointing this out, brian. the ol’ long salesletter is such a one-sided conversation, especially online where (as michel pointed out) people are looking for conversations…

  18. Video is cool. And it will be nice to deliver it exactly when and where we want – without all the hassles and expense of the past.

    I’d love to recount some of the hoops we jumped through to get a VHS tape into the hands of the right executive, but frankly, they’re too painful to remember.

    Now we just stick it right on the site (or e-mail, or blog, or…).

    One point though; long-format sales letters aren’t alone in the intensive care ward. Traditional interrupt marketing efforts are looking a little pale too.

    In fact, a few late-night beer discussions with two marketing folks have revealed a growing sense of panic over the falling ROI of ads and other traditional one-way efforts.

    I’m a big proponent of engagement marketing, but also wonder if the future won’t include chopping long-format efforts into bite-sized pieces (video, text, whatever) and feeding them what they want when they want it.

    Remember, the user runs the show in Web 2.0, and our competitors are only a few clicks away. Keeping prospects interested takes on a whole new urgency.

    My best sales letters always read like conversations; they were flowing in one direction, but sounded like I was sitting in the chair next to the reader.

    Suddenly – with Web 2.0 – that literally can happen. (Well, it can happen virtually. Don’t confuse me when I’m writing.)

    One thing’s for sure; if Fortin wanted to bury the long-format sales format, his article did it. I couldn’t finish it either.

  19. Hey Brian, no worries.

    It’s always hard to leave that kind of comment without coming off as an idiot.

    The last two articles written for my website use your headline techniques. I’m also starting each article with the headline – it really does help organise my thoughts that much better.

    Keep up the good work.

  20. I can’t agree with you more that video and infomercial is the way to go, but I doubt Long Sales Letter will die, it has its value and effect.

  21. I guess it is all in what you do to your visitors before they hit your site. In the pre-sell. That is where the sale is made.

  22. Where’s the data to support the ‘success’ of these long-copy letters? The only ones who say they work are the copywriters allegedly paid a fortune to draft them. I don’t know anyone with the time or patience to sit through them.

    Also, in my experience, longer letters never actually offer more information, either – they just babble on with a load of predictable nonsense. I’m a copywriter, BTW.

  23. I’m with Jim Logan and others on the length of letters… and imagine Michel’s case is more rich and complex than just a turnabout on whether long copy works, knowing Michel.

    As for Nigel (#30) asking where the data is to support the success of these long copy letters, at least in my own case, the only reason I don’t post it is because it’s not mine to post. It’s the client’s.

    But I assure you, it’s a vast mistake to assume EVERY letter over a certain length automatically loses it’s reader or is less effective at selling. And the comment “people’s attention spans are too short today” (common to this discussion) under-estimates the complexity of the target customer.

    People will not give you time for dull things. People will not give you time for things irrelevant to their own interests. But they will give you all the time in the world and then some if they love what you’re saying… or selling. Period.

    I’ve made sales with short stuff. I’ve made sales with long stuff. One thing I’ve never seen work, in 15 years of writing copy: Making a strong letter shorter with the hopes it would attract more willing — but impatient — readers.

  24. I see more and more video sales letters..seeing is believing..

    Do you think long sales letters can apply to service businesses like photographers looking to take more photos or accountants looking to obtain more clients?