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Sales Letter

Definition: A form of direct mail in which an advertiser sends a letter to a potential customer

Whether you send it out solo or as part of a direct-mail package, a sales letter can be one of your most effective marketing tools, allowing you to speak one-on-one to prospects and customers. What makes a good sales letter? There are three key rules:

1. Start with a hook. Begin your letter with a provocative thought or idea that "hooks" readers and makes them want to keep reading.

2. Give them the facts fast. Quickly list the top two or three benefits of doing business with your company.

3. End persuasively. Close the letter with a strong argument that compels readers to respond.

How long should a sales letter be? The standard answer is "long enough to do the job." And yes, it takes longer to persuade a prospective customer to buy than to merely get him to inquire further. But in today's high-tech age, people become impatient with anything that takes much longer than a blink to read.

Does this mean the sales letter is dying out? No; people will still read sales letters. However, they don't like it when you make them work at it-so keep it lean and mean. Equal in importance to your message (some would say more important) is the look of your letter. It should be visually inviting. As soon as prospective customers pull your letter out of the envelope, before they read one word of your sales message, they instantly have a positive or negative reaction based on the overall look of the letter. If it's crammed with words, readers will get a negative impression right away.

To have the best chance of being read, your letter should be open and airy-looking with short paragraphs--including some that are one sentence or even one word long. (A one-word paragraph? Here's how: Write something like "I have one word for suppliers who say they can't offer you a one-year guarantee." Follow that with a one-word paragraph such as "Baloney!" or any similar word you want to use. It is a real attention-getter.

Strip your sales message down to the essentials so readers can breeze through it. This may mean hacking out words and phrases you have slaved over. But each extra bit you take out increases your chances of actually getting a response.