I love getting comments like this:
“TLDR, this is too long. You ever heard of an editor?”
It makes sense that people ask for shorter versions. They’re busy! They need to get through all this material! Can’t you just summarize it?
It turns out that reality is very different. In fact, what really happens is people CLAIM they want short, “just the facts, ma’am” writing…but when you study their behavior, they respond very differently.
In repeated testing with tens of thousands of data points, my long copy outperforms shorter versions. For example, I recently ran a test of 4 entirely different versions of an email. There were long versions, short versions, and minor variations on each.
In fact, the longest version won, beating out the next-best-email by nearly 50%…in revenue.
Length wasn’t the only reason it won, but I know from repeated testing (including having a 47-page sales page) that what people claim vs. what they do is often very different.
This is the area that I’m fascinated with: what we say vs. what we do. We all “know” that we should go to the gym…so why don’t we?
So I wanted to dig into this example of writing long pieces to show why I do it — and why it works.
Beyond pure performance, and the fact that writing detailed material sets me apart from “Top 10 ___” writers, there’s also another reason I love to write longer pieces.
They’re a barrier to useless “skimmers.”
Skimmers are people who treat material like popcorn…who open up their RSS readers every morning to get their fill, then move on to the next blog, rarely implementing anything. They treat my material as intellectual entertainment and I want them off my site.
Besides taunting them, one way is to write more detailed material than most “easy-to-read” blogs. After they skip 2-3 of my posts, they tend to unsubscribe — which is GREAT! There are better sites out there for them, and neither of us needs to waste the other’s time.
But for the people who are going to take action…they love articles like this (networking) and this (how to stand out to hiring managers). Yes, they may take 3x longer to read….but you can get 5x the results. This is Disproportionate Results in action.
You can use this principle in many areas of life. For example, you can use barriers…
- To avoid kooky people
- To prevent yourself from spending money
- Or with health, like putting your running shoes next to your bed so you can wake up, lace up and go. I used this to more than double my gym attendance.
The idea of focusing on a smaller number of higher-quality people is something that can have powerful effects. Marketers love to talk about it, but few follow through. (This is understandable: After all, would you rather have an email list 100,000 people or 10,000? What if the 10,000-person list was worth 100x the larger list?)
Note: This is not just about email lists. Substitute “friends” or “fans” or virtually anything for “email list” above.
Interview: Psychological Insights About Human Behavior
Here’s an excerpt from an interview I recently did:
People say, “TLDR, this is too long. You ever heard of an editor?” And I said, “It’s interesting you say that among 280 other positive comments. This site’s probably not right for you if the length’s a concern.” The truth is, and we know this from plenty data analysis from video and video conversion- all kinds of stuff; long copy- that if people are interested and engaged in the material, there’s almost no length that is too long.
What that person is doing is basically raising his hand and saying, “I’m going to treat your site like commodity information, and I just want a quick transcript to, in his words, “skim it”. Why does he deserve to read and watch the material that you put so much time into? I think it’s very important for us, if we are indeed creating the best material for our students and for our readers, to demand as much of them as they demand of us. And when we do that, yes we may get fewer fans and follows and readers up front, but the quality of those people is second to none. And that’s really what I’m talking about all of today, is that’ it’s not just about quantity- it’s really, really about quality. And if you can find those readers, the ones who are actually engaging with your material, it’s often better to have, say, 5,000 of those than 50,000 non-engaged skimmers.
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