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The 6 Essential Components of Effective Sales Letters

The 6 Essential Components of Effective Sales Letters
Image credit: Nikada

The following excerpt is from Craig Simpson's The Advertising Solution. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Think of the following six points as a kind of “Sales Letter Writing 101.” These are the six components that legendary ad copywriter Robert Collier believed to be the basis of every great sales letter -- although it’s not necessary for them to always be presented in this order:

1. The Opening. You need to start off with something that will immediately capture and hold your readers’ attention. When your readers first view your ad or website, they’re probably thinking about something in particular. They’re looking for information on a specific topic because they have a problem they need to solve. Or they want to find the perfect gift for someone. Or they’re just aimlessly surfing the web, while their background thoughts are about how depressed they are or what that cute guy at work thinks about them.

Related: How to Sell With Emotion

They’re in an “internal conversation.” Somehow you have to jump into your readers’ existing train of thought so they’re immediately interested in and curious about what you have to tell them.

A good opening will get through and motivate people to read the rest of what you have to say. Without that, readers may cast the letter aside or click to the next website before you get the chance to present your case.

2. The Description or Explanation. Now you have to introduce readers to what you’re all about -- what product or idea you’re trying to sell them. This is where you lay out your basic prop­osition, presenting the important features and some of the nec­essary details. You prepare your readers to see things your way by giving them the groundwork of information upon which your arguments will rest.

3. The Motive or Reason Why. Here you move past the intel­lectual and into the emotional. Readers should long for your product, or feel motivated to give to your cause, or desire to do whatever you’re trying to influence them to do. You must impel them to take the action you’re going to propose.

This requires that you go beyond merely describing your proposition. You have to get your readers to understand what your product will do for them, or how good they’ll feel if they do what you suggest. This is where you lay out all the benefits they’ll experience if they take the action you want them to.

4. The Proof or Guarantee. Even when you make great argu­ments for your case, people may still be a bit skeptical. They may be concerned that they may do something they might later regret. Now you have to make your readers feel comfortable about their decision to respond to your offer.

You do that by giving them proof that what you’re telling them is true (for example, by backing up your arguments with scientific data or presenting testimonials from other satisfied buyers). You provide some kind of guarantee that they won’t lose anything if they take you up on your offer and then aren’t happy with the product. They can return it for a full refund.

5. The Snapper or Penalty. Even if people are completely con­vinced that what you’re telling them is right and that they’d benefit from following your suggestions, you still have to get over their basic inertia. Getting people to take action requires an extra boost of energy. If they don’t act right away, they could soon forget all about you.

Related: 4 Advertising Principles from Ad Legend David Ogilvy

An old saying tells us to “strike while the iron is hot.” You want to get your readers to feel that’s what they have to do. This is where you induce a sense of urgency that will encourage read­ers to respond immediately. Make it clear that if they don’t respond right away, they’ll suffer some kind of loss, whether it be monetary or some kind of prestige or opportunity.

6. The Close. By this time, hopefully, you’ve got your readers eager and ready to take action. In the close, you tell them exactly what they need to do, with complete instructions for how to do it. First, you want a very clear call to action: “Call Now,” “Click This Link,” “Come to Our Store Before the End of the Month.”

Second, you want to make it easy for them to take the final steps to order, request a call by a salesperson or whatever the goal of the letter is. Make the phone number, website address, email, link or whatever it is very obvious.

These six essentials should be familiar to you if you’ve ever read any kind of ad or sales piece, and they certainly make logical sense. It takes more than this, though, to produce something that really works.

There is one more ingredient that the letter writer, blogger or applicant must bring to the task if the result is going to be successful at motivating people to take action. It’s really simple. If you want to persuade other people to love something, you have to love it yourself. According to Collier, “It is getting the feel of your message that counts."

If you’re completely dry, you can’t write a good promotional piece. It won’t have any life in it. A good copywriter or promoter gets excited over an idea. That excitement gets conveyed into the writing, and that’s what really grabs people.

Enthusiasm is the key to selling anything. The ability of a great marketer to take an ordinary commodity and turn it into a specialty item is game-changing. This is being done all the time online today. Marketers start with a commodity, but the way it’s sold makes it look so different from the competition -- so much more exciting.

You have to find something that really makes your product or service stand out, something you feel compelled to tell people about, something that makes you feel excited. Then you have to make sure the enthusiasm you feel comes across in whatever you write. That’s what breathes life into it. When you’re excited about something, others will be too.

Related: 4 Tips for Crafting the Ideal Sales Letter

If you’re in business, there’s something you love about it, something you believe makes you stand out from your competitors. Start with the basics, capture that enthusiasm in everything you create for that promotion and people will respond.