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May 09, 2017

The Case for Long-Form Copy in Direct Mail Marketing

Streamworks Marketing Long-Form Copy

Last year, Streamworks partnered with the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis to design and implement a direct mail fundraising campaign to help them reach their 2016 fundraising goal.

We designed an A/B test for the direct mail campaign that pitted long-form copy against short-form. One version was a flashy 6x10 full-color brochure that reflected the bold look and feel of the Guthrie’s recent rebrand, mailed in a see-through envelope showcasing the high-design cover. The second version was a long-form appeal letter, mailed in a #10 envelope.

Which one do you think performed better?

While the 6x10 brochure package had a bolder design than the letter, the long-form letter package significantly outperformed the brochure  in fundraising conversions. Not only did the letter achieve a higher overall response rate, but each individual gift was larger than those received from the 6x10 mailing.

The verdict? Long-form messaging outperforms eye-catching design.

Data supports the conversion power of long-form copy. The question is, why does it work so well?

The “Whys” Behind the Success of Long-Form Copy

1. It creates a relationship. Ask any salesperson and they’ll tell you that sales are built on relationships, generating a rapport between you and the prospect before getting down to business. Long-form copy gives you a greater opportunity to convey brand personality, cultivate a relationship with your reader, and make your case.

2. It qualifies your prospects. Long-form copy answers more questions and resolves more objections than a short mail piece can. A prospect who won’t take the time to read through your materials probably isn’t qualified to buy your product, but one who does is likely to be your target customer.

3. It’s more credible. Long-form copy performs better online because readers and search engines alike consider it more authoritative than short-form content. The same is true for direct mail. A well-written appeal letter is more persuasive than a short request for money because it offers readers a compelling case for why their donation matters.

4. It increases customer satisfaction. The more a customer knows about a product or service before they buy, the more satisfied they will be with their purchase. Because long-form copy answers so many questions before prospects even have to ask, there’s less room for misunderstandings or misinterpretations – and therefore, greater satisfaction.

5. It appeals to all prospects. Some readers prefer to skim for the highlights, while others read every word to understand all the details and specifics. Long-form copy gives you the opportunity to appeal to both audiences by alternating between text-heavy paragraphs and more “skimmable” sections, formatted in lists or bullet points and broken up with subheadings.

All that said, don’t go long just for the sake of it. Long-form copy only performs at its best when it’s high quality. If your copy rambles, isn’t engaging to read, or doesn’t have enough substance, you will lose readers long before its time to convert.

Long-form copy is an undervalued direct mail tactic, but it isn’t always the best solution. There are still instances when shorter copy will perform better. That’s why you should always engage in testing. Keep experimenting with new formats for every campaign, and replace your “control” whenever you land upon something that performs better.

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