Less converts more – how to write succinct, engaging copy
Rob Sattler has some practical tips for producing succinct copy that’s more likely to connect with an audience.
‘Want to save the puppies? Keep reading.’
In these times where more and more of our communication takes place online, and attention spans are getting shorter (now less than a goldfish), it’s more important than ever to use short, direct copy.
You actually want results from your marketing, right?
Writing online content to drive conversions requires highly succinct copy, so the customer can quickly see:
- What the product or service is/does,
- the benefit(s), and
- how to take action
In the same way that winning headlines are usually eight words or less, a short description that gets across the key points and a benefit (or three) will get better results because people can make a decision faster – based on the information they’ve got at hand.
Where short copy matters
Here’s a story about Goldilocks.
Many of the business owners I talk to (and a fair few marketers) have told me they struggle to write copy that’s short. They want to tell a story, go into detail, and amaze people with their ability to create a play on words.
And it’s any wonder they struggle – writing short, sharp, copy is one of the hardest skills for a professional copywriter to learn.
It’s called the ‘Goldilocks’ style of writing.
Not too many words that your prospects will get bored and click away, but also not too little that they won’t be able to make a decision. It’s all about writing ‘just enough’.
Writing less is critical when you want a prospect to make a low-value decision, quickly (like an email sign-up) for a free ebook, free consultation, free puppy et cetera.
According to Slate.com you’ll lose approximately 38% of your viewers before they even start reading, and more soon after. So, you need to write in a way that captures their attention (confirming that you’re offering what they’re looking for) and piques their interest (by telling them some immediate benefits).
When doesn’t it matter?
Writing short, succinct copy isn’t for every application. It doesn’t work when you need to teach and inform a prospect about your product or service; or when you’re selling something of high value.
Long-form sales copy has been proven time and time again to be a winner when a purchase is involved. If you’re going for a big sale, or the prospect has never heard of you and your product or service before, you’ll need more words on the page to get the result you’re after.
If you’d like to visually keep everything brief, then give away more details in a PDF download, or in the same way that Amazon or Dropbox does it (by using ‘Read More’ buttons that hide large swathes of text).
Short copy is great for catching scanners
Apple has perfected this.
Its copywriters truly understand the value of writing to capture attention, using powerful small headlines down the page, and short, engaging copy to get the message across.
It’s designed to not only appeal to people who just visually scan pages, but also to create excitement for people who want to read everything on the page.
Here’s an example image from its 2017 MacBook Pro page:
It features an eye-catching sub headline that tells you it’s the best tool and that it’s for everyone (in just six words),
And in the following short paragraph of just 41 words, it tells you that it’s:
- A cut above the rest,
- adaptable to everything you’re going to do with it,
- has the newest technology graphics,
- has high performance processing, and
- the latest technology storage, plus more.
It could have used 100+ words, but only the die-hard technical fans would read them, whereas with 41 words, your grandma would read it all.
It’s an example of well-crafted copy that’s very succinct, but tells a lot in a short paragraph.
Dropbox is another great example of great, short copy that’s visually appealing to both scanners and readers.
- The six-word headline confirms that it’ll work for you, whether you’ve already been thinking it or not,
- it utilises short, four-word sub headlines to get the key messages across fast for skim readers, while giving short, informative paragraphs with more detail for the people who like to read everything on the page, and
- taking it one step further, it has ‘Learn More’ buttons that hides extended text within the page, reducing clutter and improving their conversion rate. Even these sections have short, single or dual sentence paragraphs, keeping everything as brief and informative as possible.
It’s the Goldilocks effect, done perfectly.
The thing to get from both Apple and Dropbox is that you can read about laptops worth thousands of dollars, or about highly technical cloud file storage, without needing a degree in computer science or a full pot of coffee to get what you need to know.
Part of their success is design. But remember, design doesn’t mean anything without the words.
How to say more with less
Here’s how a professional copywriter produces short, sharp copy. The following steps assume that you’ve already put together some notes on the unique selling propositions, key features and benefits, as well as the angle you’re intending to take.
- Write your copy in the most compelling way you can. Make sure you include every benefit your product or service has. Just spill it onto the page for now.
- Walk away from your writing for at least a few hours. A whole day is better. This is critical. Too many writers don’t step away and clear the work from their mind – and then wonder why their writing has errors and isn’t as good as it could be. Your subconscious mind will continue to ‘work’ on the copy while you’re thinking about other things. And you’ll also be likely to pick up some cool new angles and lines you hadn’t thought of before.
- Look at every individual sentence and work out how to use half the words. If your word count is 300, try to get it down to 150. Also, work out what benefits are actually beneficial to getting the action you want. If they don’t add anything to get the conversion, then pull them out.
Using half the words will get your mind into actively removing text you don’t need, making it easier and faster to read, which is what will get better results at the bottom of the page. You might not get down to 150 words, but your copy will still be much better than if you didn’t.
Your future business success might come down to doing less. Regardless of whether you need to write copy for your website or not, crafting messages using less words is a universal skill you’ll be able to leverage across everything you do.
It’s certainly not an easy thing to do straight away, but by taking your time to write, rest, and then review (by going for half the words), you’ll not only improve the public perception of your business, but you’ll also have more effective marketing campaigns too.
Less, is definitely more.
Rob Sattler is a professional sales copywriter for brands and digital marketing agencies.
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