10 Killer Tips for Persuasive Sales Letter Writing
Sales letter writing is a critical skill that’s frequently underrated. With the advance of e-mail, text messages and other technology, people rarely send letters to each other anymore. But it’s this exact phenomenon that makes sales letters so unique. A persuasive letter is an unexpectedly personal means of engaging directly with prospects; it’s also one of the most effective forms of print marketing.
Without solid writing, however, a sales letter can easily end up in the trash can. Here are some tips and guidelines for how to write a sales letter that gets positive results.
Don’t forget a salutation
A salutation is the part of your sales letter that informs the reader that you’re addressing him or her. You should make your salutation as personal as possible; “Dear Mr. Smith” will be a lot more effective than “Dear Sir or Madam.”
If you don’t have access to the recipient’s name for whatever reason, you should still try to sound as familiar as you can under the circumstances. “Dear Friend” is generally a good option.
Your opening is key
The quality of the first sentence in your sales letter’s body will determine whether or not people keep reading it. Try writing something that will really grab the reader’s attention. An intriguing offer, captivating story or problem that your reader can identify with are all effective ways to open a sales letter.
You also might want to include a headline, something that’s rarely seen in more personal correspondence. A bold, larger font can help to give a statement extra impact and draw your reader in before they even get to the salutation.
Free is good
You’ve almost certainly received a letter at some point proclaiming “You may already be a winner!” It’s a decent (if rather cliché) way to compel someone to keep reading, but know what’s even better? “You are a winner.”
A guaranteed gift or benefit is perhaps the best thing you can offer to get your audience interested. It doesn’t have to be something extravagant like a new car or a big cash prize. A promotional product (such as a customized pen) or a discount detailed in your sales letter can be surprisingly persuasive.
Keep it personal
Unlike billboards, TV commercials or magazine ads, writing sales letters can make potential customers feel as though you’re speaking directly to them. It might not seem that way from your end, especially if you’re mass-mailing them. But from your reader’s perspective (depending on your sales letter writing abilities), direct mail can be the most personal form of marketing there is.
Don’t write with your entire mailing list in mind. Instead, imagine that you’re speaking to one specific person who represents your customer base. Make use of informal, colloquial language to give your sales letter a human voice. If possible, use your reader’s name throughout the body of the letter (but not too often, or you’ll start to sound like a robot).
Call your reader to action
If the goal of your sales letter is to convince people to take action (such as buy your product or sign up for your service), don’t forget to tell them what you want. Your call to action should stand out in some way; make it bold, make it a headline, or place it somewhere that the reader is very likely to see.
At the very least, make sure to provide some way for the reader to get in contact with you. This could be a phone number, an e-mail address, a URL, reply form, or any other means for them to respond.
One way to further encourage action in your reader is to imply a sense of urgency using a time limit. “E-mail us to receive a discount” might not receive as big a response as “E-mail us within the next month to receive a discount.”
Add a signature
A signature from an authority in your company makes your sales letter look even more professional and personal, and shows the reader that you’ve put genuine thought into it. Don’t worry, you don’t have to sit and sign thousands of letters by hand (though that would certainly display your dedication). You can add a digital signature that looks practically like the real thing.
Include a P.S.
You might not expect a postscript (P.S.) to be a very important part of your sales letter format. After all, when writing personal letters, a P.S. is usually more of an afterthought, something you only remembered to include after the letter was already written. And why would you even need a P.S. when computers make it easy to insert text later?
In fact, writing a P.S. is extremely important. It’s almost like a headline at the end of your sales letter. Many readers will actually skim straight to the end of a letter to see who it’s from. Take this opportunity to either restate the most important part of your offer or some other eye-catching information that will get the reader interested.
Watch your layout
Your sales letter format should allow for plenty of empty space. A dense, compacted “wall of text” with no paragraphs or line breaks is intimidating and ponderous to read. Use elements such as bullet points, headlines or images to break up text and add visual interest.
Make sure to use one font throughout your letter, but feel free to underline, italicize, or embolden key words and phrases.
Length can vary
“Less is more” is a frequent mantra of copywriters. It’s true that shorter copy can be effective, but longer copy has its place too; in fact, sales letters are usually written using long copy.
A sales letter can be up to two pages long. In general, longer sales letters will be more effective when you’re selling something big, expensive or complicated. Readers will appreciate a lot of written information because it makes them feel like they’re making an educated purchase.
Conversely, short copy is quick, simplified and easy to understand; perfect for smaller purchases and impulse buys. Use as many words as seems most appropriate.
Be careful with envelope teasers
A teaser on the outside of your envelope is a double-edged sword; it can either increase or decrease the chances of a prospect reading your sales letter.
On one hand, an envelope teaser makes it very obvious that there’s something advertising-related inside. Many readers will immediately label an envelope with a teaser as junk mail and toss your sales letter directly into the garbage without even reading it. But if you can offer your prospect something compelling enough, an envelope teaser can work to your advantage.
Some companies trick readers by using a message like “Inside: important information about your account!” to make the letter seem more momentous and read-worthy than it actually is. This somewhat deceptive tactic might get them to open the envelope, but they might get ticked off if the sales letter inside is just a plain old ad.
If, however, you use an envelope teaser like “Free gift inside!” and are able to follow through on that promise in the contents of your letter, you could end up with a much greater response.
With a little practice and planning, persuasive sales letter writing is a lot simpler than it may seem. A good sales letter doesn’t sound like a strategized sales pitch or a grandiose announcement. Rather, it sounds like you, casually speaking to your customers in an informal way. If you’re personable and able to provide your reader with a compelling offer, your sales letter is bound to pay off.