Every Good Sales Letter Has 5 Simple Ingredients

by Joe Pelissier on October 14, 2010

lettersA good sales letter is a much-maligned piece of marketing media. And that’s not just because everyone thinks that the best way to win new business is via the web. It’s because most people hate writing them and are not very good at it.

As a result they send out bad letters and get a very poor response. This automatically confirms their belief that ‘sales letters’ don’t work.

But they do. As the copywriter Jay Halbert wrote, “The answer to every business problem is a good sales letter”.

Direct mail statistics from Pitney-Bowes show that

  1. 55% report ‘greater enjoyment’ reading regular mail rather than e-mail
  2. 85% say they ‘open, sort, process and read’ selected mail every day.
  3. 40% have tried a new business after receiving direct mail
  4. 70% reported renewing a relationship with a business they stopped using
  5. 75% are examining their mail more closely for ‘coupons’

Having a supply of good sales letters that you can pop in the post at the drop of a hat is a good strategy. In these web-obsessed times, it sometimes pays to go against the grain.

A good sales letter has a physicality that will always trump an e-mail or online sales letter.

Providing you get over the hurdle of not landing in the waste-paper basked with a resounding thud, your letter is a constant reminder of who you are and what you have to offer.

By comparison, an e-mail rapidly disappears from view as more urgent and pressing e-mails command attention. You are more quickly forgotten.

A good sales letter has 5 simple ingredients that you should always include.

Get these right and you can spend less time worrying about the ebb and flow of your words. That’s because psychologically, these ingredients are the things that most readers respond to.

To Write A Good Sales Letter You Must…

1. Open With A Compelling Headline

Nothing new in that….But imagine that your reader is opening your letter standing over a bin – which they probably are. You have around 6 seconds to grab their attention…or, scrunch.

If your headline fails, the chances are that they will not skim over the rest of the letter to see if there is anything of interest.

Solution: Craft a memorable and meaningful headline. Make the benefit of doing business with you stand out so that the reader knows what’s in it for him. If you can add a twist of curiosity, so much the better.

2. Include Some Great Testimonials

If you want the reader to believe you are capable of delivering what you offer, include testimonials. It is one is one of the first things a reader picks up on after the headline. With luck it will encourage them to read the rest of the letter.

Solution: Build up a library of testimonials and use them with confidence. Testimonials are about believability. The more believable you are the more willing people are to do business with you.

3. Always Have a Strong Offer

The ‘offer’ is the benefit your reader is going to get if they do business with you. It could be linked to price, peace of mind, removal of pain, excellence of customer service etc.

The trick is to make your offer clear at the start of the letter as well as at the end. In this way, you can beef up your ‘call to action’ – a meeting, a conference call of whatever is appropriate.

Solution: Make sure you are very clear about your ‘offer’. Try to find out which type of offer is going to be most appealing to your target reader.

4. Guarantee Your Product or Service

Understandably, a lot of people are suspicious of guarantees. But a specific and properly worded guarantee is essential. It demonstrates confidence in your product or service and it helps to give peace of mind to the reader.

Solution: Be clear about the sort of guarantee you offer. Is it Financial, Satisfaction or a combination of the two? Above all, confirm with your colleagues that you are happy to honour the guarantee you give, otherwise it will risk sounding like a cheap marketing trick.

5. Use Both Sides of the Page

A 1-page sales letter is lame. It looks as if you don’t have much to say. And if you are going to go to the trouble and expense of sending a good sales letter why waste space that you could profitably use it to communicate something to help you win an appointment or close a sale?

If you are determined to keep it short, why not fill the back page with testimonials? People, naturally turn a piece of paper over to see what’s on the back.

Solution: Structure you letter correctly using these ingredients and an explanation of the benefits of your product and service. If you do this, I confidently predict your letter will be longer than 1-page.

The humble sales letter is an important part of your marketing mix. It is also highly affordable and measurable.

Once armed with a supply of good sales letters it is easy to send them out on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. As a process, it is also easy to measure response rates and to test different headlines and testimonials

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

PeteB October 16, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Your article got me thinking how I could make a piece of paper correspondance be just that bit more memorable – as an academic exercise if not for any other immediately practical reason.

The point about using the back made me think, “What if there were dotted lines and instructions in how to fold the paper into a plane, or other simple origami shape, especially if you were clever enough to ensure that your logo ended up in a strategic place on the ‘sculpture’?” It might stay around for weeks or months on a desk rather than immediately go in to the bin.

Maybe one rainy Sunday afternoon I’ll set about trying to see how easy (or not!) it is to actually create one.

Thanks as always for the inspiration.


admin October 19, 2010 at 9:09 am

Why wait for the raining day? Sales letter writing and origami could be a powerful combination.

It would certainly be memorable as would the experience of trying to create something…

But it’s true, so much wasted opportunity goes by when the back page is left blank. At the very least a memorable quote would be better.


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