Short vs long emails: What works best for drip marketing campaigns?

It's common advice that you should keep your emails short, and in most cases, I agree with it.

For example, if you're sending out cold emails, be concise and have a clear call to action.

But if you want to determine the ideal length of your drip emails, there's a better way than dogmatic adherence to either the "short vs long email is better" theory.

Make your drip emails as long as they need to be to achieve the desired effect.

In order to do that, you need to be aware of where your readers currently are, and where you want them to be.

Keep your audience's mindset and expectations in mind.

Let's look at one of our lead nurturing drip campaigns, our free startup sales course. It consists of relatively long emails. When you sign up, you get a new sales lesson every third day.

People join with the intent of learning how to sell. They expect to be educated. If I'd just send out short motivational sales quotes, most people would unsubscribe or complain, because that's not the practical how-to information they expected based on what we promise them on our sign up page.

But then consider the life of someone working in a startup: they're busy, all the time. So even though they have a desire to learn, they do operate with real time constraints. They expect results, practical advice, not fluff.

When you're planning your email drip campaign, put yourself in the shoes of the person you want to reach. (The best way of doing this is to have actual one-on-one conversations with a couple of these people, ask a lot of questions, and listen very carefully to what they tell you).

Our most effective drip email...

There's one email that generates the highest number of free trial signups for our sales CRM in this drip marketing campaign. It happens to be the longest email of the whole sequence.

Here it is:


Noticed something?

That email is basically a sales letter.

We write about

  • the story of how Close came to be,
  • the major pain-points our solution eliminates,
  • how it makes the life of a sales person better,
  • why we're different from every other sales software provider out there,
  • what our higher purpose is,
  • what customers say about us,
  • how you can benefit from Close,
  • why you should not buy our sales CRM...

Why don't we break this one long email up into several shorter emails?

There are plenty of self-proclaimed experts who would look at this email and say: "Nobody will ever read such a long email! You should break this up into several emails, to make it more easily digestible."

But at that point the engagement level of our average subscriber is so high that they want to read it, and it would lose its effectiveness if we'd break up the narrative flow.

There's a lot more to be said about what makes this particular email work, but for the purpose of this post, we want to stay focused on its length.

Does your drip marketing appeal to various buyer types?

Is this email so long that plenty of people won't read it because their eyes glaze over by just looking at all that text?


Is it so informative and engaging that it makes some people take the next step and sign up for a 14-day free trial of our sales software?

You bet it does ( it works so well we started sending this drip email to trial users as well and it instantly became our highest converting trial user email).

Different people have different ways of making decisions. Some people want to read a lot and learn a lot of details in order to make a buying decision. Others just want a short value proposition with three bullet points.

That's why it's good to create drip marketing content that appeals to different styles of decision making.

Make your long-form emails scannable.

Even though our email is long, it doesn't look like an intimidating textbook. It has a very clear structure - there are subheads, certain words and sentences are bolded, we make use of bullet points and numbered lists.

This makes the letter more easy to navigate. Recipients can quickly scan the email, without fully reading it, and maybe one bullet point or one phrase catches their attention and makes them read a certain paragraph.

When crafting long drip emails, format your text in a way that makes it easy to read.

Think long-form emails don't work for your market?

A lot of people who work in startups snub long-form drip emails. They think these lengthy letters might work for people buying hair growth potion, but not for their sophisticated B2B prospects.

If you're one of these people, I encourage you to put this assumption to the test: send out one really well-crafted and strategically timed drip email and look if it creates better results.

What Joanna Wiebe has said about sales pages also holds true for drip emails:

"Like everything, the length of your page depends on your visitors and prospects. It’s not about picking one length or style of page out of a hat and simply shoving your messages into that." - How Long Should Your Pages Be?

Want to learn more about writing long-form copy?

The same principles which made long sales copy so effective a hundred years ago when marketing pioneers like Robert Collier and Claude Hopkins were practicing "salesmanship in print", still make long sales copy effective nowadays.

Here are some great case studies of how web-savvy companies have utilized and experimented with long sales copy - studying them will give you plenty of ideas to create killer drip emails:

Long Copy + Short Copy = “Hybrid Pages” (With Instructo-Graphic)

Table of Contents
Share this article