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The Perfect Pitch

7 tips for writing dynamic sales letters

Does your mind go blank when you begin writing a sales letter? Do you have good ideas that somehow don't come together on paper? If so, you're not alone. These are common obstacles many business owners face.

These seven tips can help you write more effective sales letters:

1. Be the customer as you write. This is the most important aspect of a good sales letter, but it's often overlooked. Imagine yourself as the reader of your letter, and write what the customer wants to know--not what you want to say.

You have one page to attract a customer; you'll lose the opportunity if your sole emphasis is on your business. Remember, your customer's main concern is fulfilling his or her needs and desires, not increasing the balance in your bank account.

2. Organize your letter. Sales letters, just like high school term papers, need an introduction, a body and a conclusion. In the introduction, tell why you're sending the letter. The body is your "sales pitch," where you'll explain why your offer is irresistible. The conclusion wraps it up by briefly bringing your points together and asking the customer to take advantage of the offer.

3. Make it easy to read. Many sales letters are thrown away without being read simply because they appear too complicated. Don't let this happen to you. Use the following guidelines:

  • Write in a conversational style, just as you would normally speak; formal tones are usually unnecessary in sales letters.
  • Use short sentences. Once you start writing more informally, you'll notice your sentences will get shorter.
  • Compose short paragraphs. People like to have breaks in their reading. If it doesn't flow smoothly and sound natural, rewrite it.
  • Edit and then re-edit your letter. Besides being difficult to read, misspelled words and grammar errors destroy the credibility and effectiveness of your letter.

4. Capture your reader's attention. Headlines are not limited to ads. They can also be used in letters to tell readers something they want to know in a bold way that grabs their attention.

You can also use longer headlines--up to three or four sentences--to present important information. In either case, always make the headline compelling so customers want to read the rest of the story.

5. Get your readers interested. Involve the reader in the letter by bringing it to life with a steady flow of interesting information. Write in an active voice.

Build on your sentences and paragraphs so the reader is encouraged to continue reading. Every sentence needs to be interesting; a reader can become bored quickly.

June Van Klaveren, owner of Compelling Communications, a copywriting firm in St. Louis, recommends including a handwritten note or an arrow in a different color ink to highlight an important fact and retain your reader's interest. "I also include a `P.S.' at the bottom of the letter," says Van Klaveren. "You can count on this and your headline being read because you've piqued the reader's curiosity."

6. Make your readers want your product or service. This is best done by answering the reader's question, What's in it for me? People are bombarded daily with billboards, commercials and direct mail--all trying to sell something. Your letter can stand out by not selling, but offering benefits.

People don't buy products or services, they buy the benefits derived from their purchases. Remember, you're not selling dining room tables; you're selling a joyous haven where families bond and friendships flourish. There's a big distinction between the two approaches.

7. Ask your readers to take action. Potential customers won't know what you want unless you tell them what to do next. If you want them to call you, say that in your letter and provide your phone number. If you want them to visit your facility, invite them to stop by and give them clear directions and specific office hours.

It's also important to urge your readers to take action right away. The longer it takes them to respond, the less likely it is you'll hear from them. If you're running a promotion, offer the special for a limited time. If you only have a few units available, be sure to state that quantities are limited. This generates urgency to follow up on your letter.


Cynthia Perun is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in Algonac, Michigan.

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This article was originally published in the January 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Perfect Pitch.

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