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How to Write Sales Letters that Pull

By: Todd Marchand

Todd Marchand is a copywriter and consultant who helps businesses, organizations and individuals promote their products, services and ideas through clear, persuasive communications. For other resources, visit his Web site at

For many businesses, direct mail surpasses both print and broadcast advertising in effectiveness. Businesses choose direct mail for a variety of reasons: Direct mail can be anything from a simple postcard to a complete package containing a letter, brochure, and product sample or other insert. It can be targeted to select groups of prospects, and copy can be tailored to the needs and interests of each. Plus, direct mail can be easily and precisely measured by the number of order forms, reply cards or phone calls it generates.

Direct mail can be used to generate sales leads… to sell products and services to new and existing customers…to renew subscriptions and services…to announce events…to conduct surveys…and more.

The heart of a direct mail package is the sales letter - your spokesperson on behalf of your product, service or idea. As such, it should be both personal and persuasive. Her's how to write a letter that generates responses - a letter that "pulls."

Lead with an attention-getting opening that appeals to the reader's key motivator - for example, the desire to make or save money, or to enjoy better health, higher status, increased security, enhanced productivity or greater convenience. Position the opening as a headline above the greeting or in place of it; or, for more formal letters, as the first sentence after the greeting.

Identify the reader's problem and provide the solution. Consumers don't shop for products or services; they seek solutions. So while there are many ways to start a sales letter, identifying the problem and providing a solution is a logical approach that gets right to the point.

Stress benefits over features. A feature is a tangible or measurable aspect (size, weight, color) of the product or service; a benefit is the perceived advantage the consumer gains from it. For example, a computer features a curved keyboard; it benefits the user in greater comfort and less wrist fatigue. A dry cleaner features pickup and delivery; it benefits customers in time savings and convenience. The more benefits consumers recognize, the greater value they perceive. So emphasize benefits that make activities easier, faster, safer, more convenient, more productive, more comfortable and more enjoyable.

Make a strong offer. Just as consumers seek solutions rather than "stuff," they accept offers rather than make purchases. "Buy this widget for $39.95" names a product and states a price, but it doesn't make an appealing offer. Neither does "Come see me for your insurance needs." However, "Buy it today at 33% off - regularly $59.95, now only $39.95" does. And so does "Come in for a no-obligation insurance review, and take home our FREE 24-page security booklet, "Home, Safe Home."

But what if you can't lower your price or offer a gift? Even your regular price becomes an offer if you state "Compare elsewhere for $79.95 - get yours for just $59.95." (Be prepared to substantiate the value claim.) "No-cost, no obligation" is also a perceived money-saver.

Include a guarantee. Eliminate consumers' fear of being stuck with an unwanted purchase by providing a way out. Back your offer by stating "Full refund or replacement if you're not 100 percent satisfied." Customers will rarely purchase a product or service just to return or cancel it later - they simply need assurance you'll stand behind it.

Tell the reader what to do. Like a salesperson, a sales letter must ask for the order. So tell the reader to act immediately, by calling, writing or coming in.

Make it easy to respond. Always include a response mechanism - an order form, business reply card, postage-paid reply envelope, local or toll-free phone or fax number, Web site address or e-mail address, or directions to your place of business.

These simple "how-tos" are the basics of effective sales letters. Apply them to your next mailing and test the results. Still not sure your letter is working its hardest for you? Consult a professional copywriter to review, revise or craft a new letter that meets your business's unique needs.

Try these 10 tips to boost response to your letters
  1. Write in a conversational tone. Use simple, everyday English. Avoid technical jargon and legalese in your offer, terms and guarantee.

  2. Offer something of value for a response, such as an estimate, consultation or demonstration.

  3. State "no cost, no obligation" when appropriate.

  4. Put a time limit on your offer. ("Demand is high - order in the next 14 days to ensure prompt delivery.")

  5. Impart urgency. ("Now's the time for an air-conditioner tune-up- before the hot Texas summer.")

  6. Use type emphasis. Underlined, boldfaced and italicized type catch the reader's eye, as do bulleted items (o items) and indented text.

  7. Include a handwritten note at the top or in the margin to give letters a personal touch. ("We've had lots of compliments on this service. Let us show you what in can do for you.") Or, add a postscript (p.s.) to emphasize a point.

  8. Include physical objects in the mailing, such as a product sample or promotional premium with your business name and address or phone number.

  9. Remember that your envelope sends a message, too. Envelope "teaser" copy should command attention, generate interest in the contents and impart urgency.

  10. Test your letter. Send half of your mailing list your existing letter, the other half a new one. Use the one that pulls best as the control in your next mailing, and test another new letter on a portion of your list. Note the responses and keep testing.

© Copyright, Todd Marchand 2004

Other Articles by Todd Marchand

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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