9 Tricks for Writing an Effective Sales Letter

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Let me start by saying I know this is an SEO blog, but this isn’t an SEO post. See, I believe it’s still important (especially with today’s economy) to learn effective offline marketing techniques that you can incorporate in your small business. Too many people think you have to choose between either Internet marketing or print marketing. I say, why not do both? A well-rounded marketing campaign is the best way to build a successful business.

One important facet of any print marketing campaign is the direct mail sales letter. The best sales letters grab the reader’s attention and cause them to take action immediately. Unfortunately, few sales letters achieve this. Instead, most end up in the garbage.

So, what makes for an effective sales letter? Here are 9 tricks for writing sales letters that get results.

1.    Target a specific audience—More times than not, the reason a sales letter fails is because it’s too generic and it tries to be all things to all people. To be truly effective, a sales letter needs to target a very specific audience. As an example, I’m a copywriter. I have specific sales letters to target lawyers, real estate agents, SEO companies looking to outsource work, print marketing companies looking to outsource work, and more. See, if I tried to send the same boilerplate letter to all of these different audiences, I wouldn’t get any results. But by speaking directly to each audience’s needs, I’m able to generate quality leads.

2.    Start with a great headline—What’s the first thing someone sees when they open your sales letter? It’s the headline. And if your headline stinks, your letter will end up in the trash in just a few seconds. That’s why you need to focus on creating a great headline before you do anything else. Your headline needs to give people a reason to keep reading. You can do this by posing an interesting question that your target audience can relate to. You can (and should) also sell your most important benefit in the headline.

3.    Get to the point—Just like the headline, your first paragraph often determines whether the reader will stick around or not. This means you need to get straight to the point. Don’t be vague, and don’t beat around the bush. The inverted pyramid technique is a style of writing where you put the most important information in the document first. The goal of your first line is to get your reader to move forward to the second line. The goal of your second line is to get them to read the third line. And so on.

4.    Answer “What’s in it for me?”—Let’s be honest: consumers are selfish. They want to know how they will benefit from your product or services. This means they don’t want to hear you going on and on patting yourself on the back talking about how great your company is. What they want to know is how their life will be better by doing business with you. If you can’t answer “What’s in it for me?”, you have no chance of being successful with your sales letter.

5.    Use a conversational tone—Remember earlier when I said your letter needs to target as specific an audience as possible? This is because you want your sales letter to feel personal. Another way to achieve a personal feel is to use a conversational tone. This means using the word “you” more than “we” and “I.” This also means not using jargon. Instead, don’t be afraid of being informal and friendly. Basically, write your sales letter the way you talk. Great copy is a conversation, not a lecture.

6.    Close the deal later—To me, the point of a sales letter is to generate leads, not sales. See, the person reading your sales letter probably doesn’t know a lot about you, and they’re probably not quite ready to fork over their money just yet. That’s why your goal should be just to get their information for a future sales lead. Include a contact card in your sales letter that your reader can fill out and send in for more information about your services. For example, my sales letters include a contact card that, when sent back, means I’ll send the prospect a complete information kit with samples of my work, useful articles, testimonials, information about my services and rates, a client list, and more.

7.    Incentivize your call to action—People are lazy. Sometimes, even the simple act of filling out a contact card and dropping it in the mail is too much to ask. That’s why you need to sweeten the pot by incentivizing your call to action. Something as simple as “Send this contact form back by April 21, and you’ll receive a free sample of (insert product name here).” The key is you need to motivate your readers to take action.

8.    Don’t forget the P.S.—The P.S. is an important part of your sales letter for a couple of reasons. First, numerous eye-tracking studies have found that people read the P.S. before they read the body of the letter. For this reason, you need to treat the P.S. like your headline. This means you need to sell a major benefit in the P.S. That’s another reason the P.S. is important—it reinforces the main theme of your sales letter. Repetition is the key to an effective sales letter.

9.    Follow up on your leads—If you follow all of the tips above, you should earn a few leads when you send out a batch of sales letter. Please, please, please follow up on them. Don’t just file them away. These are leads. Use them!

Do you use direct mail sales letters to generate leads for your business? Which tips would you add to this list?

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