A well-constructed sales letter is still the most powerful weapon in a marketer’s arsenal, because a letter allows you to make your sales presentation to thousands of people at once . . . without you ever having to leave your office or sofa. These ten rules apply both to old fashioned mail and letters you put on the Internet. If you follow these ten rules, your success is practically assured:
- Craft a great first sentence that creates intrigue. Leading off your letter with a question is often a good device to engage the reader. Here’s a good one: If I can show you how you can double your income by giving me just 30 minutes of your time a month, would you like to learn more?Questions can be effective lead sentences because you’re immediately engaging your reader in a conversation. You’re asking your reader to give their opinion. You’re putting your reader in charge of the conversation. And you’re doing so in a way that gets your reader thinking and imagining. Or here’s another way to start: I’m writing to you because your business may be having financial problems, and I think I have a way to help you. This is attention-getting because you have just told your reader that you know something damaging about them.
You have inside information about your reader. It’s a bit of a shocker. Who would not keep reading after being hit on the head with such an opening line?
- Explain all the benefits of what you’re selling, and promise your most important benefit first.
People don’t buy things or products. People buy great results. You’re not buying leather seats for your car; you’re buying comfort, beauty, and prestige. Am I selling drivers to golfers, or am I selling long straight shots guaranteed to take balls an extra 20 yards down the fairway?
Before you start writing, list on index cards all benefits (results) you can identify that your product or service will achieve for the prospect. Then organise them in order of priority. Ask others to organise the cards in the priority they think is right. Take a kind of mini-poll—because what you think is important might very well be wrong. The larger your poll sample, the better your data will be. Ask as many people as you can to help you prioritise your benefits on index cards.
If you can, find a ‘hidden benefit’ that can further strengthen your appeal. Anytime you can share a secret or show people something ‘hidden,’ their ears will perk up.
A hidden benefit of aspirin is that it helps diminish the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes by thinning the blood and thereby unclogging arteries.
A hidden benefit of the time-management program you’re selling is that not only will it make your reader more productive and their business more profitable, but they’ll have a lot more time for family, golf and for doing the things they love doing.
In almost every product you sell, you can find ‘hidden benefits’ that might be even more attractive than the obvious benefit. ‘Hidden benefits’ are like ‘hidden treasures.’ They are so much more exciting to read about.
- Describe your most important benefit in detail.
Your readers must be persuaded that your claims are true. You must prove your claims.
You do this by going into a fair amount of detail about how and why your product will achieve the wonderful benefit you’re describing. You don’t do this with a lot of hype. You don’t do this by using empty words like ‘amazing’ and ‘incredible.’ You do this with facts, reasons, and interesting little-known details.
Here is a famous marketing case study.
The great advertising writer Claude Hopkins, back in 1919, was hired by Schlitz beer to craft an ad campaign that would rescue the company. Schlitz at the time was running about fifteenth in beer sales and was in deep trouble.
Hopkins made a trip to Wisconsin to visit the brewery. He needed to learn more about how beer was made. Hopkins knew that it was impossible to sell without a thorough knowledge of the product being sold.
The people at Schlitz showed Hopkins the entire brewing process, step by step. They showed him how deep they had drilled their wells to find the purest water. They showed him the glass enclosed rooms that kept the water pure, the kind of yeast they used and where they got it. They showed Hopkins the place where the bottles were cleaned, re-cleaned, and sanitised a dozen times.
‘My God,’ Hopkins said, ‘Why don’t you tell people in your advertising about all these steps you are taking to brew your beer?’
But, answered the Schlitz people, ‘all companies brew their beer about the same way.’
‘Yes,’ Hopkins countered, ‘but the first one to tell the public about this process will gain a big advantage.’
Hopkins then launched an ad campaign for Schlitz that described in detail the company’s step-by-step brewing process for making the beer. Within six months, Schlitz jumped to number 1 selling beer.
Hopkins proved with his ad campaign that there are no boring subjects, just boring writers. ‘Who wants to hear a story about the step-by-step brewing process of making beer?’ one might wonder. It turns out those who love beer are fascinated by the subject.
They want to know exactly and precisely why they should pick this beer above all others. Claude Hopkins understood this law of marketing and went on to turn the brewing process into an exciting story, full of detail—and of riveting interest to beer lovers.
- Tell readers exactly what they will get.
Your customers want to know exactly what they will be getting for their money.
When you buy a car, you want the exact specifications, so that when you compare prices with other dealers you know you’re comparing apples to apples. When you buy a computer, you need to know the specifications: How fast is it? How much memory does it have? How big is the screen? How clear is the resolution?
Include all the information. If the information is highly technical such as with computers, you should include this on a separate insert, perhaps along with a beautiful and impressive photo of the computer you’re selling. Technical specifications make for boring copy, so the complete list should not be included in the letter, just the highlights. But a complete list should be included somewhere.
If you’re selling a seminar on tape or a study-at-home course, you should include an impressive photo of all the materials that will be arriving in a box. Your letter, your sales package, is like a show-and-tell presentation. Provide all the information—if not all in the letter, on separate inserts and enclosures. Give your reader a lot of great material to study.
- Provide third-party testimony and social proof for the truth of your claims.
Anything the salesperson has to say is going to be met with scepticism, no matter how compelling the story and claims, and no matter how exact the details are described. You need others—preferably famous and respected people—to confirm that what you’re saying is true.
If you’re selling a cure for muscle pain, you should have endorsements by top doctors—perhaps doctors who work for professional sports teams.
But it’s also important for endorsements not to be just hype. Endorsements are best if they are mini-stories—a mini-story on how the recognized expert discovered your product and then a fairly detailed description of exactly what your product achieved for them is an effective, believable testimonial.
The more testimonials you have the better. If possible, include an entire booklet of testimonials with your mailings. You can never have enough testimonials. Try to secure testimonials on audio and video and put them on your website. Include a CD, DVD, MP3 with your mailing that includes all your testimonials, accompanied by the printed version (because most people will not take the time to view the DVD).
- Tell readers what bad things will happen if they fail to act now.
Your readers must be given good reasons to act now, not tomorrow. People buy more out of impulse. If your prospect puts your letter aside, thinking they will get to it later, your offer is probably doomed. Your reasons to act now, not tomorrow, must also be credible, not hype. Scarcity and limited time offers work very well.
Last chance’ arguments for acting now is a proven formula for success. But, as with all your sales letters and presentations, the claim must be believable and should be genuine.
Avoid using clichés such as ‘Supplies are limited, so act now.’ Everyone knows you probably have a warehouse full of it. Stronger more specific wording would be more credible,
We’re down to the last few books, and it could be many months before we go back up on press with another printing.
So I encourage you to get your order in today. Calling us at xxxxxxxx or ordering online at www.website.com is the surest and fastest way to secure your book.
This says almost the same thing, but it’s far more precise. The reasons are solid. And there’s no hype, just good solid facts and reasons for acting now and not waiting until tomorrow.
- Rephrase the most prominent benefits in the close and in other parts of the package.
Repeating your message is crucial in all successful marketing. But don’t repeat the same words all the time or you will bore your reader. Look for new, fresh ways to underscore what your offer is and what the benefits are. This is where brainpower and creativity come in.
You do this in your lead. You back up your claims in the body of your letter, in the enclosures and testimonials.
Summarise your offer, restating the principal benefit in the P.S. and on the order form.
What you’re offering, what you’re selling, must be crystal clear in about three seconds. Your reader must never need to search for what you’re selling.
- Include a risk reversal money-back guarantee.
This is absolutely essential, because you’re asking your reader, who may never have met you, to trust your claims and send you money. And, as with everything else in your letter, you must make your guarantee believable. Your reader must feel absolutely certain that this guarantee you’re describing is real. It must be unconditional, no questions asked.
Always put the buyer in charge of the guarantee and the decision as to whether a refund is called for.
- Offer instant gratification.
In the 21st Century, the age of high-speed Internet and overnight delivery, you must offer instant gratification. People today are not patient. They aren’t willing to ‘allow four-to-six weeks for delivery.’ That’s like waiting until the next life.
So when your sales letter is mailed, be sure you’re ready to fulfill orders instantly.
- Always include a PS
This is the second most read part of any letter after the heading.
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