Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Long and the Short of It

Marketers just like you regularly ask me, “When is a letter too long? Is a 4-page letter ‘better’ than a 2-page letter?” Is a Letter too long?

My answer is always the same: it depends.

If your audience is aware of and involved in your issue/cause/message, the letter can be quite brief. You don’t have to sell them on anything. They’ve probably already bought into it.

On the other hand, if your audience is fervent about your issue/cause/message, a longer letter often works better because it gives you more time to whip up that emotional enthusiasm.

Conversely, if your audience knows nothing about your issue/cause/message, maybe you need a longer letter to explain the nuances. Or maybe you need a shorter letter because you don’t want to bore them with critical minutiae until they understand more.

There are legitimate reasons for any and every approach. Potentially, everything you do will be wrong. It can make even a confident marketer weak in the knees.

Test Packages! Be Scientific.“So what am I to do?” you whimper.

My answer is always the same: test.

Test packages against each other. Select your data so that long letters and short letters alternate. Then track the results. Keep all the other elements alike to be completely, scientifically honest.

You see, direct marketing—whether direct mail or email—is a perfect vehicle to test creative approaches. You know how many you sent out, how many people responded and how many dollars resulted. Only DM can take the guesswork out of the perennial question.

Test several times so you eliminate fluke responses. If your housefile always responds better to a longer letter, then you have your answer. If your prospects always respond better to a shorter letter, then you know what to do going forward.

But are you tracking the number of responses or the dollars generated? You should track both.

Keep accurate records to see if there is a trend. Then follow that trend.

And that’s the short of it.

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