Write a winning sales letter

Direct mail can be extremely effective but companies waste thousands of pounds sending out inappropriate material to their existing and potential customers.  Here are some tips to make sure that you are increasing the value of your own communications.

First and foremost you must have your list in order.  Make sure the data is clean and the audience is relevant and you have the correct contact for your product or service.

Secondly, you need to determine exactly what the objective of the mailing is.  From here, you can then get into the compilation.  Don’t make the language you use too technical and ALWAYS put yourself in the recipient’s shoes – ask yourself (and answer honestly) would you respond to this mailshot?

Headline.  The headline must be of benefit to the reader and attract attention.   You will be competing with dozens of other communications that land on your prospect’s desk.  Most people open direct mail and don’t even read past the headline!

“You” versus “I”.  Focus on the recipient.  If you do this, you cannot lose.  Use the words “you” or “your” rather than “I and “we” throughout the letter.   Make statements that you can see the recipient nodding his or her head to as they read.

Copy.  Think of the letter as a story but don’t write a novel unless every word is critical – be ruthless!  It has to have a beginning, middle and an end.  The content must be in line with your objective.  If you are trying to increase sales, you need copy that will influence people to purchase your product from you and you need to provide benefits for potential customers.   Bypass intellect for emotion.  If you can appeal to your audience on a personal level, they are far more likely to respond.  Remember at all times that the person receiving your letter does not care what YOU do, they only care how what you are offering will benefit them.  They don’t need you; they need the benefit or solution which you can provide.  You must communicate this in a clear and concise manner.

Examples & Testimonials.  Fact is stronger than fiction.  Don’t use the letter to tell your prospect how wonderful you are!  Instead, use real life case studies outlining where your product or service has provided benefits to a customer.  If possible get testimonials to support your claims – people buy people and if you can illustrate how you have helped someone else to solve a problem, it will add credibility and “reality” to your sales letter.  Be specific and not general.  For example, “…increased sales by 25%”, “…saves us 2 days a month”, “…has saved us £2,000 to date” etc.

Give a clear call to action.  Perhaps give an offer up front.  Give your recipient a reason to respond and make it easy for them to do so.  Either include a pre-paid response mechanism or fax-back form or at the very least, make sure you have given a telephone, email and website address if appropriate.  Put somebody’s name on the mailing in addition to a sense of urgency “call John today on…”, “respond by…” etc.

Tell people not to make a mistake.   One very effective way to get people to use you or your product is to tell them “…don’t make the mistake of spending too much money on…” or “don’t make the mistake of relying on another system that does not provide the results we do”.

Add a PS! Research indicates that most people read the PS even if they don’t read the rest of the sales letter – you can use the PS to sum up the letter or re-mention a special offer etc.

Professionalism.  Nothing will remove confidence in you or your company quicker than an amateur mailshot.  If you are sending enclosures with your letter, have these printed professionally or if you are producing them in-house, make sure you print on a laser printer, not an inkjet.

Timing.  When is your mailing going to land?  Research indicates that letters arriving on a Monday morning will find their way to the bin faster than those arriving mid-week for example.  Also, is it holiday season or a short working week?  Timing is key.

Test, Test and Test. I would always recommend that you test several versions of the letter to find out which one attracts the most response.  It is amazing that a tweak in headline, offer etc can dramatically increase your return rate and this will also save you money rather than mailing out the entire list without testing a sample first.  Testing should be ongoing – markets and conditions change and what you offered six months ago may not be relevant in today’s climate.

Response Monitoring. Put a code on every mailer so you can assess where the responses have come from.  This will help you to calculate your return on investment and effectively plan for future campaigns.

Every company is unique and the above guidelines are generic and definitely not conclusive.  If you would like to discuss your own campaign in more depth, please contact us.

About Marie

I started Elite Edge at the end of 1999 and I am still as passionate about marketing today as I was then - probably more so because I consider myself very lucky to do a job that I love every day! My area of specialism is strategic planning but like most people these days, I wear many other hats too!
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