For many companies, sales letters (direct mail) are the main thrust of their marketing. But no matter how much you rely on them, you need to know how to write them effectively.
The humble sales letter has been used for many years so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel with this post. What I will aim to do, is to go through the basics of the letter to ensure yours is as powerful as possible.
The 3 main components
There are a number of different components to a sales letter, but here I’m just going to concentrate on the three main elements – the headline, the offer and the call to action.
As with most forms of marketing, if you don’t grab your reader’s attention from the outset, they aren’t going to read your copy.
The headline of your letter must drawn them in. If possible use this on the envelope too to maximise your chances of it being opened. Many people have a sixth sense when it comes to spotting mail shots, so having a teaser on the envelope that will encourage them to open it is a great idea.
There is always a temptation to make your headline gimmicky and clever – this rarely works. The best headline to go with is one that’s benefits driven. Make your headline specific, tell them what you’re selling, its price (especially if this is one of the most attractive things about your product), tell them what it will do for them and what will happen if it doesn’t work.
Now that’s a lot to cram into a headline but it can be done. Take this famous example from Domino’s Pizza for example:
Hot Pizza Delivered to Your Door in 30 Minutes or Less or it’s Free
Anyone reading that will know what they’ll get, when they’ll get it and what will happen should something go wrong.
It will take a bit of practice, but see what you can do. Even if your initial attempt is long winded, work on it, refine it and reduce until you have a powerful, snappy message.
Before I move on to the offer, one other thing to remember is never finish your headline with a full stop. The full stop tells you to stop reading and that’s the last thing you want to happen. You want the headline to draw the reader into the rest of your letter.
This is the real meat of your sales letter.
Don’t assume your reader knows about your product. Make sure your copy is explicit. Tell them about the benefits of your product, then tell them the features. But remember to keep it interesting. Bombarding them will strong sales patter will turn them off – make it interesting; make them believe they need your product.
When it comes to the specific offer, you have to make it as compelling as possible. Create urgency by limiting it by time, price or number – only 1000 available, special price for first 50 orders only, reduced price only available until 31st May…
- Call to action
This is it; mess this up and you’ve lost them forever.
Your call to action must me clear, concise and compelling. Don’t confuse them – call now, order now, book now. Also make sure you provide them with several ways of buying – order form, phone line or email. Everyone has their own preference for buying so try and cater for all.
The key to a successful direct mail campaign is to keep your letter interesting, relevant and benefits driven. Make sure you have an attention grabbing headline and a strong and clear call to action.
Sally Ormond – freelance copywriter