Get it right: Expert advice on your e-mail copy length

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E-mail marketing routinely garners the highest ROI and remains the most frequently used online marketing tactic, according to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). However, e-mail success hinges on proactive planning and that includes figuring out the right copy length.


Your copy bears the responsibility of gaining and maintaining a high level of confidence from your e-mail recipients. But what length works best? Will shorter or longer copy work better for you? Many marketers automatically want to shorten their copy, assuming readers have limited attention spans.


While this might be true, we recommend you test and prove your assumptions based on your own target audiences with your own product/service. Only testing uncovers the true revenue potential of your e-mail campaigns. Since no universal rule exists for copy length, take a proactive approach and test, test, test.


Offer-driven e-mail campaigns

For shorter copy, stating the offer, deadline and call-to-action right off the bat might be the way to go. However, for one of our clients, we discovered an opportunity to expand on copy to increase the audiences' confidence and increase click-throughs. The two leading competitors had e-mailed offer-heavy messages with very little supporting copy at all. We proposed competitive offers with more descriptive copy about how the timeliness and great value of the offer would impact the audience. The strategy worked.


A one-step communications program

You may need more copy to persuade the reader to buy now. You can be more persuasive with longer, more engaging copy, and it's a better form for “story selling,” typically used for high purchase prices and multiple payment options. In a two-step program, your e-mail can afford to be briefer. The call-to-action, rather than urging the recipient to buy now, suggests less commitment-driven action, like requesting a free kit to learn more.



For each test group and e-mail send, track the open rate, click-throughs, cost, cost per click, revenue generated, ROI and conversion rate. These metrics will help you measure “apples to apples.” When testing copy, be sure to control your other e-mail variables. Page design, layout, graphics, etc.,can all affect its performance. For each copy test, the other test elements should stay the same.


The rules for copy length success remain in place. Test copy length vs. your leading competitors' e-mails. Test copy length based on the type of sales communication. Measure the right metrics when testing your e-mail copy. But, whether short or long, remember that the quality of your copy counts. Make it relevant.

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