So You Want To Write A Sales Letter Huh?
13 Jan 2009
I have been re-reading one of my favorite books titled "The Ultimate Sales Letter" by Dan Kennedy. This is probably the 3rd time I've read it in the last 18 months and like most of the books Dan has written, I can't read it enough.
All of us, everyone of us on this planet, does some sort of selling every day. Think about it. We sell our products, skills, and services but it doesn't end there. Ever ask a woman (or man) out on a date? Been on a job interview? Bug your spouse for your favorite dinner? Practically everything we ask for requires us to sell ourselves just a little bit.
Since I fell in love with the world of marketing a few years ago I have become totally obsessed with writing good sales letters. I don't claim to be very good at it, but I am improving every day. (In fact, I just re-wrote the sales letter for Mom and Pop Money - head over there and see if you can resist that letter.. yes, that was a shameless plug)
I figured I would give a few tips from what I've learned and what has helped me improve and get past my serious problem with writers block and constant distractions... ooh.. look at those shiny lights outside... Sorry - another distraction. Back to the tips!
Tips For Writing Your Next Sales Letter
OK, here we go. Some of these may seem silly and until I tried them out myself, I would have agreed. Now these are rules I "write by," even for things like this blog post.
Write Something! - Seriously. Just start writing something. Anything. Get your creative juices flowing. Once you get going, you'll find it hard to stop.
Write in the Dark - This one will help the first tip above. And I don't mean sit in a black room and write. Get one of those software programs that turn your screen black except for your "sheet of paper" in the center. It gets rid of all the distractions your computer offers.
Do NOT Edit - Don't worry about grammar, perfect punctuation, or sentence structure. You can edit the draft later. For now just write until you can't write no more. Editing during this initial stage does much more damage than it does good.
Write as Yourself - I'm sure you're a pretty cool person. Your writing should show your uniqueness. Your reader should be able to feel your personality through the text.
Write for 6th Graders - If you write your letters in a language that a 6th grader understands perfectly, you've done a great job! Nobody likes to be made to feel stupid... especially the people you are trying to sell to!
Write How You Speak - Your sales message should come across as if you are speaking to your reader. This is an extension of the 6th grader rule above. Make the letters feel personal as if you are speaking to your prospect face to face. (Perry Belcher is an expert at this... I'm sort of stalking him & his work at this point)
Must Haves For Any Sales Letter
Sales letters can be fun to write, but don't forget the whole reason you are writing it. To sell something! These are absolute requirements for any sales letter...
Strong and/or Shocking Headline - There are many different headline formats and some work better than others in some markets and not so well in others. Your headline should grab your readers attention and practically force them to continue reading.
Pre and Sub Headlines - Sometimes a little teaser line before your main headline (called a pre headline) can help convey the message of your main headline better. Same applies for a sub headline directly under the main headline.
Greeting - Greet your reader in a friendly and personable way. "Dear Friend" is common, but almost too common in my opinion. Of course, it's probably so common because it works! Still, if you can switch it up and make it a little more specific it can help results. For example, "Dear Internet Entrepreneur", "Dear Neighbor", or "Dear Frustrated Musician". You get the idea.
Compelling Opening Paragraph - This may be the most important part of your sales letter after your headline. The idea is to really peak your readers interest to encourage them to keep reading.
Sub Headlines - Use a sub headline every few paragraphs. Make sure they are large, bold, and bright. Basically they should stand out. These are very important because they keep the reader engaged. Another purpose of sub headlines is to "sum up" your offer for those readers who will simply scan your letter. A good chunk of your readers will simply scroll through your letter and read the sub headlines as they go. So make sure your sub headlines are powerful.
Testimonials / Social Proof - People love to know that other people before them were satisfied with your product or service. Gives them the feeling that "they're not alone." The more authentic the testimonial is the better. That means include a name and website of the person leaving the testimonial. Use video testimonials if you can.
The Irresistible Offer - You need to offer your reader so much perceived value that the cost of your product wouldn't be a problem. You can offer bonuses of some sort to help boost the package value. If you can build up the perceived value high enough that the cost of your product is 10% or less than that number, you will really improve your sales rate. I've written in the past about perceived value and that post goes into greater detail.
Call To Action - You've spent all this time writing an awesome sales letter... don't forget this step! Ask the reader... scratch that, Tell the reader what you want them to do next. If that means actually saying "Take out your credit card, click on the order button, and fill out the order form" then do it! I've actually read sales letters that say that. You may want to be a little less aggressive but you have to tell your reader to make a purchase.
A Guarantee - People need to know that they are protected when they buy from you. Offering a money back guarantee is very important. Give at least 30 days but you'd be surprised that your refund rate can actually decrease by offering longer return periods. It's becoming common to see a full year money back guarantee.
Signature - Adding your digital signature to a sales letter will generally increase your sale conversion, even if it's just a little. They help your letter look more "official" and your reader will trust it more. Don't have one? Go get one from My Live Signature.
PostScript, aka P.S. - If I had to pick just 3 things to include in a sales letter a PS would definitely be one of those 3. This is a very important part of your letter. Readers will naturally shoot to the bottom of a letter and you need a strong PS to catch them. Your PS should re-enforce your offer & guarantee. Use 2 or more PS's if you need to.
How To Edit Your New Sales Letter
Writing your first rough draft is the fun part. Now you're going to have to do some things that a lot of people, including myself, find very difficult. Editing.
Forget High School - What I mean is, forget everything you ever learned about proper writing in school. Sales letters are rare in the sense that it is actually better to use improper writing methods. When you speak to your neighbor are you speaking perfect and proper English? I sure hope not :) Your letters should read like a conversation (remember?) so it's OK to "write wrong" in your sales letters.
Be Ruthless - You have to take your emotional attachment to your letter at this point. You want to have the best possible sales letter so be ruthless when editing your drafts.
Ditch The First Paragraph - Joe Vitale recommends removing the entire first paragraph (or even first page!) right off the bat and see if your letter still stands up without it. This is the hardest thing for me to do but just try it. You can always put the paragraph back if you really think you need it.
Easy on the Eyes - Your letter should be visually appealing and appear to be a very easy read. Use proper and consistent colors and stick with the same color scheme throughout the letter. For example, White background, black text and red headlines.
Short Paragraphs - Keep your paragraphs short. No more than 4 sentences per paragraph. 4 is the absolute max! I would say keep your paragraphs to 3 sentences but never more than 4.
Short Sentences - Remember what I said about forgetting everything you learned about proper sentence structure, etc. I meant it. Don't be afraid to use 3, 2 or 1 word sentences. They are easy to read and easier to follow.
Replace These 5 words - There are certain words that should never be used in your letters. Sure they may actually be used here and there but try not to. Never use them in your headline or sub headline. The words are: Buy (use Claim instead), Learn (use Discover instead), Tell (use Reveal instead), Things (use Techniques instead), Stuff (use Secrets instead).
Accent Your Text - Use bold, underlines and italics to add emphasis to certain sentences or words. This helps you get your point across in a strong or leading way.
Graphical Elements - Add graphics to your letter. Use a eCover if you are selling an eBook. Use check mark images, a guarantee seal, etc. Anything to add some life to your sales letter. These can be used to make your letter more appealing or to add to his authenticity.
Take a Break - Yes, take a break. Put away your letter for a day or two. Come back with fresh eyes & rested mind. Re-read your letter and change what needs changing.
That 6th grader again - Remember that 6th grader rule from earlier? Well, if you have access to a 6th grader ask them to read it out loud to you. You'll be able to tell where they are having trouble and fix it in your copy.
Get a Proof Reader - Can't find a 6th grader or already passed the 6th grader test? Ask a friend or colleague to read the letter and listen to their suggestions.
There is so much more that I can go into but this is plenty already. Use the above info to help you write your next great sales letter.
Want To Learn More About Writing Sales Letters?
Here are some books or resources I recommend.
The Ultimate Sales Letter - Dan Kennedy
Hypnotic Writing - Joe Vitale
Scientific Advertising - Claude C. Hopkins
The Robert Collier Letter Book - Robert Collier
The Gary Halbert Letter - Gary Halbert Newsletter Archive. Might be the best FREE resource online for copywriting & advertising.
Copyblogger - Awesome blog started by Brian Clark
A good sales letter can be the most effective form of marketing and selling. It's also the least expensive and it's something that anyone can learn to do... and do well!
So if it's something you're interested in but have been waiting to get started, stop putting it off and start writing!