Like most solo professionals, you can't afford to sell yourself with hype. You want to create a friendly conversation with website visitors so you'll attract clients.
But a website that doesn't attract and hold attention tends to grow cobwebs. It looks sleepy!
And research shows, over and over, that long copy sells better than short copy.
So how you do create long messages that don't set your visitors to snoozing... or worse, clicking off to a more wide-awake website?
1. Write conversationally.
Let’s face it: web surfers get bored like everybody else. They’re sitting all alone with their computers and they want to feel somebody cares enough to talk to them. Reading pages and pages of copy should feel like getting a letter from a good friend.
Short copy (and short-short ezines) comes across more like a message left on an answering machine – not a meaningful connection.
Ever had a phone conversation with a friend or even a business relationship when you just enjoyed talking? You were in no hurry to hang up. You were entertained. You felt affirmed. When readers feel this way, they’ll stay tuned – all the way to the bottom of the page.
2. Maintain suspense.
Whether you're writing website copy or murder mysteries (my favorite leisure reading), maintain suspense. Each sentence should motivate the reader to move to the next sentence...and the next paragraph...and the next page, chapter and even book.
I’m not sure who first applied the term “bucket brigade” to copy. But here’s the idea.
Before fire departments got organized, volunteers would fight fires by lining up and passing buckets of water from the nearest well to whatever was burning. Another line would pass empty buckets back for refills. Buckets moved from hand to hand – fast, no stops.
So think of each idea as a bucket you want to pass along, from one sentence to the next. Motivate the reader: “Keep going! Urgent! You need to reach the end before anything else happens!”
3. Ask, “Who’s reading?” rather than “How long?”
Your target market really wants to learn what you have to say. They realize they’ll learn from you, even if you’re overtly making a sales pitch. So they keep reading....and reading.
What’s your favorite personal interest? Dogs? Cats? Hiking? Basketball? Soccer? Music? Art? Real estate?
When you’re passionate, you can’t learn enough. You hope the article, book or talk will go on forever. And if you’ve targeted right, your readers will feel the same way.
4. Encourage your readers to talk back to you.
Marketing researchers know: When we read any message, we tend to talk back! Sometimes we speak aloud (and even throw a magazine across a room – doesn’t work with a computer).
But most often we engage in what psychologists call “counter-arguments.” For example, you read, “This technique will transform your cat into an obedient pet who comes when called.”
You think, “No way!” or, “You must be kidding.”
We also affirm what we read. “That’s a great idea!” “I can save money in the long run!” And (especially if we’re contemplating a big-ticket item) we’re seeking more and more reasons to justify our buying decision. So...you’re probably ahead of me: Longer copy, more opportunities to say, “Yes – it’s for me!”
5. Crawl out on the edge.
What television shows become mega-hits? I should know. I’m somewhat anti-television. No cable in my home because, “There are better ways to spend my time!”
But what do I rent at the video store? You got it: the big HBO and Showtime series that go outside the networking programming box. They’re more like indie films than television – and they attract audiences of millions. And just try to rent a DVD of past seasons: you get on a waiting list. (Desperate Housewives? A desperate imitation! Feel free to email if you disagree.)
Writing works the same way.
Whenever I take a risk with an edgy ezine article, a few readers unsubscribe and some even send a few grumpy emails. But I always get a few orders and queries about coaching, too.
When I write reviews for amazon.com, I just say what’s on my mind. And I get some of my best clients and subscribers.
One reader even said, “Do they call you Cantankerous Cathy? You never say anything nice!” But she signed up for my ezine and attended three teleclasses. At least half a dozen clients claim they hired me because, they said, “You tell it like it is!”
Edgy for me means strong opinions and ideas. Some famous copywriters use strong, colorful language. Adapt your edginess to your audience and your own style.
Bottom line: As long as you're maintaining suspense, your message can be as long as you want it to be.