By Alice Feathers, M.A. TESOL, Professional Editor and Writer
Do you want to save hundreds of dollars while you make hundreds more? Follow the guidelines below and write the perfect sales letter, then watch your profits soar!
Okay, let’s get started! First, gather a few sales letters that grab your attention from your own mailbox. Give particular notice to the look, wording, and the way the information is organized. Keep those models in mind as you begin to write.
A. Create a short, powerful headline. Center it on the page. Use large type, bold, or color—something to set it apart from the body of the letter. Experiment also with a font that is different from the one used in the text. But remember these rules of design: no more than two fonts, and do not mix two serif fonts or two sans serif fonts. Try a combination of one serif font, such as Times New Roman, and one sans serif font, such as Arial.
B. Start the body of the letter with a polite but personal tone.
Example: “Dear . . .” Use the potential customer’s name. Talk to him or her as a friend.
C. Ask a question that lists the greatest benefits of your offer. How will your product or service make your reader’s life better? Why is your product or offer better than your competitor’s?
Example: “How would you like to receive (first benefit) and (second benefit)? Read on! This might be the most important letter you ever receive.”
Tip: DO NOT ask a question that can be answered with “yes” or “no.” You should control both the question and the answer!
D. Answer the question in one or two sentences. Explain why your product or service is essential or special. Achieving a better quality of life is a universal theme.
“Here’s why . . . .”
“Here’s how . . . . ”
E. Address doubts before your potential customer has a chance to think of them:
“Sound too good to be true? I thought so when I first learned about . . .”
“I know this sounds outrageous. I’d be skeptical too.”
“ Do these results sound unbelievable? I thought so too, but then . . . . ”
F. Give a convincing answer:
Examples: “But the more I learned about . . . , the more I knew that I should give it a try. Here’s why you should too . . . .”
G. List three good reasons that demonstrate how your product will make the reader’s life better, make him feel more secure, or motivate him to action. Keep the reasons short and powerful. Use statements that suggest positive results, facts, and figures.
“Four out of five doctors recommend . . . .”
“Research shows that no other company can . . . like we can.”
“Four out of five customers agree that . . . . “
Tip: Keep your vocabulary simple, short, and to the point.
H. Now describe the special features and benefits of your product or service. A feature is something that makes your product or service extraordinary, essential or valuable. A feature describes what your product or service is or what it has. The benefit of the feature is what the feature will do for the reader. Bullet points are good to use here—they draw the eye to this important section. Benefits sell while features often do not. Many sales letters list benefits only. Others list both features and benefits. Writers often make the mistake of listing features only.
List three or five features with their special benefits.
Feature 1 -- Benefit 1
Feature 2 -- Benefit 2
Feature 3 -- Benefit 3
Tip: Odd-numbered lists seem to work better than even-numbered lists.
I. Ask and answer one final question to lead the reader into the finer points of the offer. You may expand upon the features and benefits that you included in your answer.
Example : You may ask how we can possibly do all this? Here’s how . . . . ”
J. Endorsements sell because they establish credibility. List several short, enthusiastic testimonials that reinforce the features and benefits you have listed.
Example: “But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s what our satisfied customers are saying.”
K. Shoot holes in your competitors’ offers.
“No one can match this offer.”
“Do not buy this product elsewhere unless it has these features: One . . . Two . . . Three . . .”
“Sure, others will try to sell you a product of lesser quality, but can they offer you: One . . . Two . . . Three . . . ?”
L. Cost-to-value ratio is enormous. Boldly state that your product or service has a real value of at least ten times the price. These value statements need to be clear and crisp, with not too many details. Perhaps your product can save valuable time, or make a huge difference in lifestyle, or replace another higher-priced product, etc.
“You’ll get over ten times your money’s worth in value! Guaranteed!”
“Extraordinary savings!” (or quality, add-on products, longevity, warranty, etc. )
“We offer you unbelievable quality for only one-tenth the usual price.”
M. Summarize. Briefly describe the complete product or service. You can remind the reader about the features and benefits, but don’t list them. Rather, add several similar features and benefits and place a high value on them.
Example: “So here’s everything you get . . .
N. Price and urgency. Make a stipulation, then repeat the offer:
Example: “If you respond by (date), you pay only $______. That’s right, for the price of two movie tickets and popcorn you pay only $______, if you respond by (date).”
If this letter is to create a lead, tell your prospect what he/she must do to contact you by a certain deadline. Be sure to make it easy to respond by including your business name, phone number, web site, etc. Ask the customer for all of the information you need, such as first and last names, phone number, address, etc. Make an optional request for the customer’s email address so that you can send future offers by email as well.
O. Premiums. Bundling a free bonus (a premium) for acting by the deadline is an excellent motivator. Be sure to give the bonus value—as much or more than the purchase price is a good idea. If you don’t have an idea for a premium, you can search the web for e-books or informational reports for which you can purchase reprint rights—an excellent and inexpensive idea that has a high value margin.
Example:“Order today and I’ll send you . . . --a $50 value! But remember, I am offering this free bonus for a limited time . . . so order now!”
P. No-risk guarantee. You’ve heard and read many assurances before.
“Buy completely at our own risk . . . ”
“You pay nothing unless you are totally satisfied.”
“There is no risk with our complete satisfaction, money-back guarantee!”
“No questions asked. Simply return the product within 30 days and we’ll refund your money in full.”
Then the advertisers always add the clincher.
Example: “Remember, you keep the free bonus(es). Even if you decide to take advantage of our No Risk, Total Satisfaction, Money-back Guarantee, the bonus(es) are yours to keep—our gift(s) to you for simply trying our . . . . ”
These are all good business tactics, but consider adding a postscript to restate an important benefit and reinforce the urgency of the offer.
Don’t forget the envelope: your all-important introduction!
In order to get someone to open your envelope, you first need to get past the “junk mail” perception!
a. Use a teaser on the envelope—a few words that imply a benefit.
Examples: “Free $50 gift offer enclosed.”
b. Use labels that express urgency.
c. Use real stamps. Real stamps attract more attention than metered mail and you have your choice of which books to buy at the post office.
Tip: Don’t but the reptile books of stamps with the pictures of poisonous snakes!
d. Use a return address and choose the font carefully. Use a readable script font such as Andy that looks like you have hand-written the letter. Credibility sells. This is the first place that you sell yourself or your company. Some people include their personal photos. The absence of a return address sends a junk mail message.
e. Official-looking envelopes. Envelopes that appear to have been sent by a governmental agency are usually opened and read.
Additional Sales Letter Tips:
Price comes after the benefits. Unless you are offering a blowout bargain, and price is the main benefit of your offer, mention price after describing the benefits. Sell the smallest units. If you are selling multiple units, then state, for example, “$4.50 a box” rather than “$45 per carton” to solicit the lowest amount of money. Accept charge cards if you are selling a high-priced item. Supplementary Brochure. An accompanying brochure could visually show the product or graphs research data described in the sales letter. Although a brochure adds cost to your mailing, studies show results jump markedly.
Design. Keep the reader’s eye moving by using several “tricks of the trade.”
Vary paragraph widths
Add personal notes using a script font
Use different colors to mark key phrases