“With a prospect standing before him, would you confine [a salesman] to any certain number of words? That would be an unthinkable handicap. So it is in advertising. The only readers we get are people who our subject interests. No one reads ads for amusement, long or short. Give them enough to take action.” — Claude Hopkins, Scientific Advertising
Let me tell you a quick story about a client I fired last year.
This was not the reason for the firing.
(There were other factors in the decision.)
Anyway, here’s the gist of it:
He was the type who, in the name of not spending a lot of time writing emails (and in his case I think some of it was signaling he’s a big shot who has better things to do), would rarely offer more than short, sometimes one-word responses.
No punctuation, of course.
Perhaps you’ve encountered such a creature?
Ultimately he was shooting himself in the foot because no one could understand what he wanted. And besides that it usually required multiple follow up emails to get that clarity, when it easily could have been spelled out with that first touch.
Indeed, some of his worst sins of under-communication included:
*Not making clear which project he was talking about
*Responding only partially to emails with multiple questions within them
*Never saying “please” or “thank you”
*Completely not responding to emails, even when you’re unable to move forward without his direction
I remember working with some other contractors and partners of his and them going, “What’s with the cryptic emails”?
Thus, the rub:
Confused people don’t take action.
I’ve often heard this imperative from clients, “It’s good but can we make it shorter?” The problem with catering to short attention spans is you risk some of your point getting lost in translation. To the right prospect, your copy can’t be too long, only too boring.
As long as you’re speaking to their self-interest, and sprinkling a bit of drama and contrasting ideas throughout, and entertainment, you want as many words as necessary to make the sale. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to be said for simple and concise language; especially in their inbox where ignoring you is a simple as hitting the delete button. But don’t let the call to brevity cut off your sales message at the knees.
If you’d like my help with striking the right balance in your sales letters or emails, good news:
I have a spot open for a new client next month.
Ride the information superhighway over here to peep my calendar and schedule a time to talk:
We can even keep it short.
Just not too short.