Good Old Fashioned Sales Letters Still Work

The venerable sales letter is somewhat of an anachronism these days. With all these newfangled electronic gizmos, apps, FaceThingies, LinkedIns, utilizing sales letters seems sort of…well…quaint.

But the reality is that a good sales letter (snail mail, delivered online or as a landing page) can generate high value sales leads. The secret lies in the concept of “good”.  A bad sales letter not only gets a fast, one way ticket to the trash bin, it can actually damage your brand.

Writing is one of those skills/arts that everyone thinks they can do. “I done learned it in grade school. I forms words with letters and strung ’em together….” And while that is true for most people (I hope) writing for sales and marketing purposes is different from writing a comprehensive review of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Let me show you how the right approach can make the register ring. There are specific things that need to be present in a sales letter (or any response oriented communication) to elicit action on behalf of your prospects. In marketing jargon, that’s called “Response” or “Conversion”.  And Response is the name of the game. You want the recipient to raise their virtual hand and proclaim “Hey! I’m interested….”.

In order to make that happen, we need to answer the time honored question of “What’s in it for me?”. Here’s the solid truth, brother. If their ain’t nothing in it for moi, most people ain’t gonna care about your new way to floss hamster teeth. I know, that seems harsh. But understand it on your deepest level. If you want people to respond, you must deliver value from the very first interaction. 

You must understand what will resonate with recipients of the letter, what problems you solve (in the prospect’s language), project your credibility and subject matter knowledge, what specifically you want them to do and offer something in return. This is where customer research comes in. Don’t rely on your experience or gut if you want maximum impact. I often interview customers on behalf of my clients to get an objective view of what really matters to customers, how and why they buy and how they choose one solution over another.

Here are some tips for making your sales letters at least as exciting as Twitter.

  1. Personalize it.  The more the better. Use the customer’s first name in the salutation and sign every one. If you have multiple categories of customers, create templates that speak to each category – make it relevant to the recipient.
  2. Lose the company speak. Quickly open the letter with an authentic appeal that states a problem (one you solve) that most customers would have. Write in natural language. If you wouldn’t say it – don’t write it.
  3. List pain points. Nobody cares about what you do or how you do it. People buy products and services to solve a problem or mend a pain. Pick your top three common customer problems and bullet point them.
  4. Mention credibility indicators. Been quoted in a major magazine? Have certain high profile clients or partners? Work it in.
  5. Make the offer. The letter should end with a specific call to action offering the incentive (an executive brief, a free consultation, free trial, whatever). Give them multiple ways to contact you. If it’s a download, give a simple URL –$T^$$$#!// won’t work.

Before you go nuts and tell me I’m a fossil, be clear that a physical mailing is a good tactic for companies that are trying to reach a lower number of potential customers. If you are attempting to reach millions of people, there are better ways. But if you need to reach the top 500 consulting engineers in a product category – letters are worth the effort.

But I’m lazy. Why can’t I just give away an iPad?

Because you won’t know if the person requesting it is interested in what you offer or just a free iPad. Think about it. I’ve seen trade show booths packed with people signing up for the chance to get some free stuff but when it was time to talk turkey, the joint was as empty as the Devil’s soul. If someone is interested in your e-book entitled “7 Steps to Business Process Design” I’m willing to bet they are interested in business process design. But that’s just me.




Ask Pete a Question or Make a Comment