||Psssst! Want to read a really bad
sales letter? Check this one out.
"A DECADE OF R&D IS FINALLY PAYING OFF. I' writing you today to let
you know about the terrific coffeemaker I've developed. First of
all, I know it's TRULY terrific because I spent years studying
coffeemakers of all kinds, fro dip to perk to electric. I then
expanded my field of research to include the commercial
coffeemakers, and I learned all the possible secrets of what makes
the java flow at the big cafe chains. Now, SEVEN YEARS LATER, I'm
ready to let you in on the fruits of all my RESEARCH. I've developed
the EZ CAFE and let me tell you, it will make all other coffeemakers
you have ever seen pale by comparison.
This is a modified version of a real
sales letter. What's wrong with it? Well, just about everything.
The headline is all about the writer and does
not speak to the customer. Plus, it uses some business jargon -- "R&D" for
research and development -- so it has an industry insider tone, which may
actually confuse some consumers,. We're given absolutely no idea what the 10
years of work refers to. And we're given no reason to care, either.
Nothing in the headline or the copy mentions
"WIFM," or "what's in it for me." Potential customers would be lost. The
headline alone is boring. The copy emphasizes all the wrong things and
drones on about the years of development rather that the payoff for the
customer. Why should we care?
To be effective, a sales letter must jump out at
you. It must grab your attention with a compelling promise and then deliver
Besides a powerful headline, your sales letter
must have an immediate clear benefit for the intended target. Then it must
build a reader's trust. It should make generous use of "you" and "your" --
so it is clear the customer's needs come first, not your desire to sell
Be upfront and bold about promising a prize or a
tangible reward in exchange for time and attention. Forget cute or clever
lead-ins,. Begin by simply explaining "WIFM" or "what's in it for me."
More writing tips are coming, but let's back up
a bit and talk about your primary vehicle: direct mail.
Hitting your targets
After a romance with e-mail, marketers are again
gravitating toward direct mail as they figure out how to use all possible
channels to send seamless messages. In addition, companies are more
sophisticated now about selecting the time and the medium that works best
for each product. E-mail can be extremely effective, but direct mail remains
a great way to reach a targeted list (such lists are available from a number
of companies that specialize in direct marketing).
Before writing and sales letter, of course, you
must do the homework of acquiring and analyzing appropriate lists of
Sales letters are the most customized for of
direct-mail marketing. Brochures or fliers, however glossy, tend to be
impersonal and may be dismissed as "junk mail." By contrast, sales letters
should address the customer by name and need. You're one step ahead.
The idea is to offer solutions that speak
directly to your customer's problems and challenges, whether that's
business-to-consumer or business-to-business.
To send out the right sales letter, harness
these 11 tips from a cross-section of sales experts, coaches, and trainers.
1. Build trust.
Besides the benefit billed at the letter's
opening, you can bolster interest and interject pizzazz by adding
high-profile endorsements from associates or former clients. "I out a
testimonial quote from a marquee name at the top of my letter," says Anne
Miller, a New York City sales trainer who leverages compliments from such
clients as Salomon Smith Barney, Estee Lauder, and The New York Times.
2. Get to bona fides, quick.
"You need to establish credibility and be believable by the second
paragraph," says sales coach Daryl Logullo at Strategic Impact in Vero
Beach, Florida. This is where you explain who you are, why you're so cool
(or smart or cheap or special or useful) and what you have to offer. How you
package that information, of course, varies with your targets and your
products. Some options: Avoid being long-winded or boring in this
"credentials" section, cautions Bette Price, a management consultant based
in Addison, Texas.
Be unique. Don't just offer some generalized statement."
3. Make it memorable.
One of the advantages of a sales letter
is the prospects can tuck it away for later action. "Great mailers have
staying power -- sometimes they will end up on a refrigerator door or a
bulletin board for years," says Wilson Zehr, chief executive of LaunchPoint,
a Portland, Oregon, direct-mail provider. He suggests you include reasons
for your customers to spend more time with the letter and therefore more
time considering your offer. For example, a computer repair service might
include the top 10 tips for PC maintenance.
4. Emphasize good looks.
"Design your document for visual impact,"
says Deborah Dumaine, author of Write to the Top: Writing for Corporate
Success. "Make it easy to navigate so your reader reaches for it first-ahead
of the competition's." You can easily create professional-looking templates
for your sales letter that you use your company logo, branding and colours
with Microsoft Publisher, part of Microsoft Office 2010.
5. Include a call to action.
"Inform the reader about what he or she
should do next," says Joe Hage at MRA, a branding agency in Syracuse, New
York. "An example is: 'Please call me on my cell phone (123-456-7890) before
Friday, the 28th.'" Or, say you'll follow up with a phone call or more
material. Then, of course, make sure you do.
6. And include an incentive.
Always explain when, why and how customers should act, say Patti Abbate of
Sunrise Public Relations in Needham, Mass. "Then, include an incentive for
acting sooner, such as a discount, special offer or something free."
7. Resist "Mail Merge".
Despite the ease and speed with which technology can "find and replace"
in electronic documents, don't succumb to the temptation of form letters.
"The best sales letters, especially when dealing with your own current list,
are quite individualized," says Shel Horowitz, author of Principled Profit:
Marketing That Puts People First. Tap your database for information about a
customer's sales history and preferences. Then send specialized letters
whenever it's appropriate. "If you notice it's been six months since a
customer has been in, it might be time for a friendly 'We miss you' letter
with an offer specific to that customer," suggests Horowitz.
8. Forge connections.
Similarly, don't get caught up in
pushing services or products. You want to develop a long-term relationship
with the customer, not pressure him into one discounted sale. Use your
letter to investigate whether you can solve customer problems or meet needs.
Try to build a relationship that will last into the future.
9. Test. Test. Test.
When you're planning a bulk mailing, in contrast to a selected best
customer target, send out a few versions of the sales letter to small groups
of targets. Then see what pulls.
10. Hit the right notes.
"Your letter should sound like you," says Annette Richmond, a career
coach in Rowayton, Connecticut. If your style is casual and informal, you
don't want to create a stiff pitch letter, filled with bizspeak and
corporate jargon. Match your letter to the way you do business.
11. One last tip: Before sending
out the letters, calculate the highest possible response you can handle.
Make sure the volume of your mail drop correlates to that expected
response. You wouldn't want to create the perfect pitch and then be unable
to fulfill all the orders that come flooding in, would you?