I am glad you asked this question.
If you are an entrepreneur or a marketer, or sometimes even as a writer, you will probably ask yourself this question.
“How long should my sales letter be?”
Short answer: It depends.
There is no right answer to that question. A sales letter can be short and long depending on the message that needs to be conveyed.
It can be merely 500-words long or can stretch up to 35 pages or even more sometimes. Can you really decide beforehand how long it should be? No, because like all forms of writing, the medium and the intended effect precedes length and not vice versa.
Whether you are writing a novel or a jingle, the length of your copy is decided by your target audience and not you. In fact, everything about your writing (the language, the length, the rhythm, etc) varies according to what your target reader base wants and expects in a particular medium.
If you are writing a snippet for a banner ad, it would probably be 3-7 words and not more than that. The shorter, the better.
If you are writing a corporate manual for an innovative Silicon Valley product, it would probably go on for pages.
It depends, you see.
How long should a sales letter be?
It depends on two particular factors.
One that focuses on the product, and the other that focuses on the audience.
Are you writing for the B2B or B2C niche?
Does it matter? Of course, it matters.
To start with, B2C consumers are far more generous with time than their B2B counterparts.
Imagine someone chilling out at home, with a bag full of potato chips on one hand and a bottle of beer on the other, and your mailer that caught his attention while checking the mailbox that morning. The rest of the mailers went to the bin bag but yours, it’s right in his hand and he wishes to check it out while watching Sunday football.
Now, imagine a top-level executive gulping down his coffee to attend his meeting in ten minutes, with his secretary taking down notes by his side while he scans through your sales letter for “relevant” information. (I stressed on the word “relevant” because a B2B consumer does not have time for any fluff or baloney, frankly.)
With B2C consumers, the usual motto to follow is “the more you tell, the more you sell.” Also, daily consumers are not in the habit of taking decisions worth hundreds of dollars in a matter of a few minutes. They ask their friends for suggestions. They use the internet for reviews. They do the preliminary research before they decide. Unless the consumer is an impulsive human being or your product is an impulsive purchase, you need to coax your audience hard and long to take any action.
B2B consumers are experienced in taking high-priced decisions rather quickly. Heck! He might already be shelling out thousands on a similar product. If you ask my opinion, the sale becomes a lot harder yet easier due to this. What do I mean? Well, B2B consumers are practical to the core and all they want to hear from you is VALUE, VALUE, and VALUE. They want you to get to the point fast and tell them why they need to choose you over others.
What kind of product are you selling?
There are basically two types of products, viz. need-based products and want-based products.
What are the need-based products? These are the products that you cannot live without. Plumbing services, food, clothing, dental care, college admission―these are things (or let’s call them products) that we ponder little before buying them.
On the other hand, when you are buying a tourist backpack, a lawnmower, a car or a financial newsletter subscription, you check for reviews online, ask your friends and study the product before you bring out your wallet.
The best way to categorize these two types of products is by asking one simple question, “Does research matter in the sales process?” First, a little disclaimer, choices always matter. You might like one plumber better than the others. You might trust a dentist more than the others. You might visit one local hotdog stand more than the others. Preferences exist. However, do you conduct intensive research before your purchase? If not, then it’s a need-based product. If yes, it’s a want-based product.
But how does that affect the length of your sales letter?
Usually, you don’t have to sell those need-based products much. Your customers will buy anyway because they need them. But not so with want-based products. They need a little persuasion before they take action. They would need you to talk a bit longer than usual―longer than you would do to a need-based product buyer.
The truth is that consumers don’t really need those want-based products and they can go living their lives without it. It’s your job as a sales copywriter to incite desire inside them where the “want” is perceived as a “need”.
So, how long my sales letter should be?
The answer to that is difficult.
Want to sell something that one does not need? Write longer sales copies.
Want to sell to a business executive? Write shorter copies.
So, what if you are selling a want-based product to a B2B consumer? Good question. The thing is, business consumers do not go for want-based purchases. B2B consumers purchase only need-based products. Why? Bottom-line issues. No room for indulgence, howsoever you cajole with your words.
There you go.
If you were to take away one piece of advice from this article, know that length does not matter. Sales do.