People love stories. Indeed, a tale well told will linger longer in our memory than a few dull stats used to string together an equally bland B2B blog post. And yet long-form copy is often neglected in favour of short and snappy social media posts.
The question beggars: why do so many organisations (and marketers) view long-form content with suspicion? It’s because they’ve been sold a dud narrative. Consumers have short attention spans. Therefore, content must be short too or the prospect will lose interest.
And yet, these busy prospects – who are apparently joined at the hip to their smartphones – still find time to relax with a good book. Either that or listening to a podcast.
The response to this is usually the same. Marketing isn’t fiction. We can’t compete with Stephen King.
Except you can…
In this blog we’ll explain:
- what long-form copy is vs. short-form copy
- why it’s enjoying a renaissance in 2022
- the benefits of mastering this artform
What is long-form copy?
Format and length
Long-form copy is always written. Typically, it’s material like blogs, how-to guides, white papers, and is at least 1000-words. Although other types of content can be long too – videos and Instagram posts are two formats that spring to mind – they’re excluded under this definition.
B2B content needn’t be dull. Why not break through the monotone drawl of your competitors by telling a compelling story instead. That way, you can share your brand values without overtly selling to your audience (which they’re bound to find refreshing).
Your long-form content could be a story about:
- Your brand or product making a customer’s life easier
- How your business has grown over the years and its future plans
- A story about an employee who’s worked with you from the get-go
- A seasonal story with no other purpose than to spread cheer
Although gentle in its approach, the aim of long-form content is still to sell. Your aim is to tell a story that shapes your brand in a positive light and, ultimately, persuades them to take action.
Using long-form content to connect with your audience
Having identified your theme it’s time to start planning your story. As with a conventional novel, it’s important to follow a tried-and-tested structure that’ll reel your readers in and keep them immersed to the very end.
Incorporate the following elements into your tale and you’ll stand a better chance of winning your audience over…
#1 What’s your hook?
To draw your reader in, start with something punchy or unexpected. Let’s pretend you’re a roadside assistance provider. The story could start off with a customer breaking down on a Smart Motorway – introducing an element of imperilment that’ll capture attention.
#2 Who’s your hero?
Good stories feature heroes who overcame
adversity. Perhaps the protagonist of your story is a roadside mechanic who circumvents stormy weather, roadblocks, and other obstacles to rescue the stranded customer featured at the start of your tale.
#3 Is it believable?
Long-form content has no barriers. Your story can be set in space. It can feature monsters or people performing superhuman feats. But it still needs to resonate with your audience.
That’s why a tale about a person stranded in their car hits the spot. It could happen to anyone which means readers will sympathise with the main character’s plight and be more likely to read the entire article.
What is short-form copy?
Short-form copy is written content up to 1000-words in length. Examples include social media posts, blogs, and emails.
- So when should you favour short-form over long-form?
- When customers know and trust your brand – meaning less education and persuasion are needed
- If the product or service you sell is inexpensive or requires minimal or no explanation
- Wordcount is restricted by the medium – for example, you might be writing a PPC ad
Which is better – long-form or short-form content?
Neither is better than the other. The format you choose – and the length of your content – will depend entirely on context.
- Why are you writing this content?
- Who are you writing it for?
- What does your audience know?
- What is their particular challenge?
- What do you want them to do?
From this will evolve a plan that tells you whether short or long-form content is the better storytelling medium to use.
Long-form content on its own isn’t enough
This might come as a surprise to you. Surely a story with a strong hook, a memorable hero, and a convincing message will resonate with your audience? If only that were true. Unfortunately, there’s more to digital storytelling than serving up a great narrative. Your customers have to find your content first.
Why Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) matters as much as content length
Optimising your content by including relevant keywords and phrases will help. Including other media – like video, graphs, and images – is another way to rank highly.
It’s also important to:
- Include links to external trusts – which will show Google your site is trustworthy
- Use title tags to improve rankings and demonstrate your content is relevant
- Ensure your web page, paper, or guide is optimised for smartphone users
If all this sounds like double Dutch, don’t worry. We’ve written a dedicated blog on the topic. So don’t forget to check it out when you’ve finished reading this short guide.
The overall point we’re making though is that good content isn’t good enough on its own. You’ll need to learn to write for search engines too.
Long-form and short-form content are often tag team partners
That’s right, a blog post and short-form advert could work harmoniously together as part of a joined-up campaign. In fact, it’s common practice.
Perhaps you’ve launched a new product or service and want to shout about it. So you create a long-form blog and link to it via an ad, email (or both).
The trick is not to view the two as separate entities. It all comes down to context and user intent. So don’t be afraid to combine long- and short-form content if it fits your strategy.
Long-form copy is a viable way to reach and convert customers to your brand – even in this high-tech and fast-paced world we live in.
To find the right length for your copy:
- Determine how much your customers know. More education may be needed if they’re unfamiliar with your offer.
- Consider how interested they are. If you’re remarketing to an engaged database, short-form copy might be better.
- Decide upon your goals. Are you trying to win a sale, build brand awareness, or ask prospects to download an ebook?
Finally (and arguably most importantly) what is your resource capacity? Writing and researching long-form content takes time. And that’s a problem if you lack the in-house skills or resources needed to write a 5,000-word white paper.
That’s where we come in…
You can trust us to write long-form B2B content for your organisation that performs
So contact us to discuss your content challenges so we can create a plan of action designed to build awareness of your brand and convert its stories into provable ROI.