Psst! The Secret's Out

By the Letter

I've offered innumerable tips in this column for writing effective sales letters, but none are more important than the two I utilized in Brian Beswick's revised letter. One is to use a headline that draws the reader into the body of the letter to discover a payoff to the curiosity-piquing headline . . . and hopefully to continue reading the rest of the sales copy. If you read this column regularly, I hope you're long past the notion that you're somehow defacing a letter to use a headline at the top. If the words tantalize and entice, as every advertising headline should, they will help you get your letter read--and responded to.

The second tool is an extremely short opening sentence or paragraph. Why? Because it looks oh-so-simple to read compared to the three- or four-line paragraph most people mistakenly use to begin a sales letter. A big, fat paragraph sends the signal that "this is going to be difficult to consume." If you can, come up with just a few words that play off the headline and pull the reader in with their simplicity.

As an example, I once introduced a weight-reduction product with the letter headline "Announcing the Chocolate Pie Diet." The letter then began with the single-word opening paragraph "Shocked?" to draw people in. I then went on to explain how a diet of moderation allowed for the most sinful of foods while avoiding cravings and yo-yo weight gain. (Come to think of it, would I have gotten more attention with a headline that introduced a Secret Chocolate Pie Diet?)

I later developed another sales letter promoting data recovery software that used as a headline the single word "Whew!" in large type. That was followed by a one-sentence paragraph explaining "That's usually what you say when recovering a diamond from a dish drain." The second paragraph elaborated: "But it's also the typical response of Norton Utilities users who've used our software to recover valuables of another sort: lost data."

You get the idea. Lure readers with just enough information to get them interested. Then, once you have them safely hooked, feed them the rest of your sales pitch.

Jerry Fisher is an advertising copywriter, consultant and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising ($39.95), available by calling (800) 247-6553. If you'd like Jerry to consider your materials for a makeover in this column, send them to "Advertising Workshop," Entrepreneur, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614, or contact Jerry via America Online at

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This article was originally published in the November 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Psst! The Secret's Out.

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