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Jul 10, 2007
Case Study

How Long Copy & a Clean Landing Page Got 12.5% Opt-ins in Less Than a Month

SUMMARY: If you think all email marketing copy needs to be short and to the point, you’re wrong. A long opt-in letter with a strong voice and a compelling message may be just as effective.

See how one publisher signed up subscribers by the tens of thousands for their latest newsletter with a 945-word offer letter, a clean landing page and an easy-to-spot sign-up form. They are also quite happy with the conversions they're getting for paid products.
The Internet has created an explosion of information options for consumers wanting to learn about travel destinations, and free newsletters are a dime a dozen. To attract attention (let alone sign up subscribers), you really need to hone in on what differentiates you from the rest.

Still, getting fresh subscribers is a necessity for International Living, which features 12 free email newsletters and a flagship print magazine. The newsletters are among their biggest customer acquisition drivers, which lead to magazine subscriptions and sales in their online bookstore where they specialize on how-to-move-to-a-country guides.

To launch their latest newsletter, The Untourist, Marketing Director Matt Broad wanted an opt-in piece that showcased what the newsletter would bring and what content it would feature. “It had to attract the people who would want to learn about the nitty-gritty local flavors of places like Nicaragua, Croatia and Thailand. The effort had to emphasize the uniqueness that the brand we envisioned would bring.”
Broad wondered whether their opt-in email and landing page could keep the same stylish (and long!) tone that the newsletter would contain.

First, Broad tapped a veteran International Living travel writer to be the newsletter’s editor and take up an alias (Georgina Adams) to ensure that she didn’t get preferential treatment from hoteliers and restaurateurs.

To launch the newsletter, here are the five steps they followed:

-> Step #1. Focus offer letter on value proposition

In terms of the offer letter, Broad had Georgina craft a prosy, 945-word piece titled “The Woman Who Can’t be Bribed” to establish the newsletter’s devotion to authentic reporting in the travel-writing world. The copy was meant to position the newsletter as an objective information source.

“We wanted a strong voice that got both the point across and reached out to our audience by speaking their language,” Broad says. Here is an excerpt from the email:

“They assume that like many other writers, I can be bought with ‘special favors.’ Free hotel stays. Free meals. Free everything. ... Only today, I got an email from the general manager of a group of eco-hotels in India. He wanted to draw my attention to two new hotels added to the group ... and invite me to stay in one or both for free on my next trip to India. You may think I'm crazy to pass up such opportunities, and maybe I am. But I hate the travel industry's conspiracy to delude readers that everywhere in the world is perfect ... worth seeing ... worth spending your hard-earned dollars on.”

To let readers immediately begin identifying with Georgina Adams, Broad used a silhouetted picture of a woman writing at a desk with the window shades drawn and the tagline "Georgina Adams" underneath.

-> Step #2. Consistent subject line

Because the title of the offer letter, “The Woman Who Can’t be Bribed,” was only 29 characters long, they used it for the subject line, too, to establish a level of consistency between the marketing pitch and the prose. They generally limit their subject lines to under 35 characters (a superb best practice).

-> Step #3. Emphasize sign-up link

Within the copy, Broad and his team highlighted the paragraph with the sign-up link in yellow to offset its importance from the rest of the letter. Since International Living built their online brand with a heavy offline sensitivity, the effect was meant to combine a familiar aspect of old-world print reading (a yellow highlighter) with the modern convenience of email.

“We wanted the link to jump out. We had seen it perform in other types of our offers in the past, so we thought it should work well in this long-form occasion.”

-> Step #4. Similar look for landing page

The highlighted link took users to a cleanly designed landing page with sign-up boxes to the right and at the bottom. They used a slightly larger image of the silhouetted woman in the upper margin of the layout.

Then, Broad and his team tweaked the copy on the landing page, incorporating the headline “The Woman Who Can’t be Bribed” into the page header. However, instead of repeating the offer letter word for word, they condensed the text to 383 words -- 40% the length of the original letter, although the tone stayed the same.

“The idea of a landing page is to get their email address, so we didn’t want to delay it -- but be direct and to the point,” Broad says.

-> Step #5. Leverage the Thank You page

Users who entered their email address into the subscribe box were immediately taken to a Thank You page that listed a sign-up form for a dozen other International Living newsletters. Additionally, in the thank you/confirmation email, Broad cross-promoted the site, other newsletters, online bookstore, blog, etc.

“My philosophy is ‘no dead-ends.' No matter what we send a reader, it’s another opportunity to [offer] something.”


The long-form copy combined with the clean landing page sent The Untourist shooting out of the gate and then some. The email blast received a 12.5% conversion rate, three times the number of opt-in names that Broad expected.

“Of course, we are really excited about what we’ve seen so far, and it continues to grow daily,” he says. “To be able to really build on the [launch] in a big way confirms that our instincts were right in launching this sort of newsletter. The opt-in letter was a huge reason why.”

The subject line and highlighted signup link also aided the opt-in rate, while open and clickthrough rates were “at least double digits” higher compared to the norm.

Although he couldn't go into specifics, Broad is very happy with the results the confirmation email and thank-you page have had on extra sales at the site bookstore or incremental subscription growth. "We want to do more cross-promotions.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from The Untourist email campaign:

International Living:

The Untourist’s sign-up site:

See Also:

Comments about this Case Study

Jul 10, 2007 - Jeff Herrity of Red Boots Consulting says:
I think it's interesting to take this approach in testing a long email copy - but i think it begins a bit off kilter in that they hired a seasoned travel writer to create the copy. Would a 945 word email drive the same traffic that an ordinary marketing copy writer would have used? I don't really think they were testing copy length as much as they were testing copy experience and style. I think an a/b copy test against a seasoned travel writer and a regular ole marketing copy writer would yeild different results. I've tested long copy and short copy many many times and would say short generally wins, but there are those occassions when the longer copy does better. It comes down to offer, and ease in finding a link to convert.

Jul 11, 2007 - Ivor Morgan of Morpheus says:
Not long copy but a sample. People like to see what they are getting before they buy and that's what the article showed them - what we do, how we write and what we stand for.

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