by Wayne Nelson
Ninety percent of you who will read this report will at some time get involved in marketing by direct or response mailing.
Whether you solicit through mailing lists or have people write to you for information, there is one thing you must do to make the most of your investment, and that is to write a sales letter. If you send only the material requested, you will drastically decrease your chances of success.
Most of you have by now seen the world famous Edward Green marketing letter, one of the most successful quasi-legal pyramid plans of all time. It is an absolute masterpiece of salesmanship, and when all five of the recommended pages are included in the mailing, it bull-baffles so many people that a great number of its users do make money with it.
We do not recommend you try it, however, since it does not offer dollar value and puts you in a very poor light when you do have something to offer later that does give good value.
The personal sales message is the most vital piece of any direct or response marketing campaign. Write a good one and you can literally make a fortune. Write them regularly and you can make excellent money helping others to make fortunes. Good sales letters from professional direct mail agencies can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.
If you've never written one of these letters, we'd like you to try an exercise before proceeding with the rest of this article.
First, write a letter from 300 to 500 words long explaining to your friend cross-country why you got involved in the best program you have right now and why it might be something he would like to try.
Next write a letter of the same length explaining to a mail order dealer this program you have right now and why it would be good for him and why you'd like him to get involved.
This is a deadly serious request, and to prove it, we're stopping the article right here and continuing it under another title on the next page. For your own sake, write those letters!
SUPER TIPS - PART 2
We hope by now you have the two sales letters we asked you to write. We'd like you now to place them side by side and carefully note the differences in the two letters. If you're not experienced with this, you will notice immediately that you gave both the fictitious mail orders dealer and your faraway friend different reasons why they will like your opportunity. Excellent! Because the most effective sales letter for both your friend and your dealer will be somewhere in the middle.
For the time being, don't worry about the grammar or structure of the letter, for it's the content and presentation that's important.
We gave you a word limit because the letter should be short to keep the reader's attention. Many of the people you reach via direct or response mailing receive loads of offers every week. They have to in order to keep up with the state of the industry. And they're not going to sit through a lengthy explanation unless you grab them at the start.
What you do is focus on the single most important benefit the owner will enjoy from it. It doesn't stop there! You've got to tell the client about the benefit in an interesting, let's say, compelling way.
Say you're selling the Crust-Buster Widget. It's the best widget available for busting crusts, and reduces the daily time required to bust crust by at least one third.
Here's how we would open out the sales letter:
"I'll have to admit I was shocked. Two weeks after I got my first Crust-Buster Widget, I got so mad it was frightening."
Intriguing? You bet. The reader expects a put-down for the Widget. But that's not what you're getting at.
You've caught the reader off-guard, and for shock value, you'll want to put those two lines in capitals at the top of your letter, but you don't want to use underlines for emphasis or it will look a little too contrived. You could use this line to open a letter to a friend or a stranger with equal effect. Now, here's where you're taking the reader:
"At first, I was amazed that the Crust-Buster really did cut a lot of the time it takes to bust crusts. But when I realized how long I'd been doing it the old way, and how many chances I had to own a Crust-Buster Widget, I was furious at how stubborn I had been."
Let's examine the methodology here, because it applies to any good sales letter. The first sentence does not explain the rage mentioned in the lead sentence, so the reader has to read on to get the explanation, and the longer you can keep the reader hanging, just like a good whodunit, the more likely they'll read to the end.
It also satisfies the requirement for a good lead sentence. It explains the major benefit of the product, and does it in strong language. The writer is "amazed". The product "really did" the job. And it says nothing to the prospect about buying the product.
While still using a personal example, a testimonial, which is an excellent technique in most sales letters, the writers points out what the prospect is doing, busting crusts the old way, and points out a situation the reader has probably encountered.
Chances are good that the writer knows his prospect and has seen the Crust-Buster Widget many times before but still doesn't own one.
And finally, he very subtly points out why the prospect probably doesn't own it by using himself as an example. He's saying that people are basically stubborn, and no one likes to be that way. he's set himself as someone much like the reader, stubborn to try new things, and angry at his mistakes.
Now, the writer knows that it is a mistake not to own the product, but if he actually came out and said "If you don't own the Crust-Buster Widget, you're wrong", he's not going to make any friends or sell widgets.
One last point is worth noting. It doesn't take a degree in English to write such a paragraph, just a bit of thought and a whole bunch of editing and rewriting so it reads just right.
Let's continue the letter and see where it might go, and why it may go that way:
"I'm not saying it'll do for you just what it did for me..."
This is a soft-sell, and it works wonders. It tells the reader what he already knows, that the product is not perfect. It's honest. It implies that the reader should see for himself how useful it will be.
"...but it's allowed me to spend a lot more time doing other things, and that's meant my business runs more efficiently and makes bigger profits."
This is the benefit the reader has been waiting for, the one that really hits home... money. Depending on the product, it could be happiness, attractiveness, anything. All products touch on one of these two human needs: the need to increase happiness or avoid unhappiness. One will always be more important than the other, and one type of happiness or unhappiness is the central focus of the sales letter as it relates to the product sold.
The writer has led up to this benefit slowly enough so that it has built to a climax, and now the reader will either move directly to the advertising material, which is the whole point of the letter in the first place, or read this letter to the end.
At this point, it's always a good idea to mention that the product will pay for itself over a certain period of time, if indeed it will do that and is not merely a novelty or convenience item. That's a common claim, but it's effective, because it makes the product look practically cost-free.
From here on, you detail the other benefits you've noticed that may not be in the sales material, and if you can't think of any, expand on a couple that are in the material.
As often as possible, use emotion-charged words and phrases but don't overdo it or you'll come across as a cheap hustler. "An extremely good value", "built to take the absolute worst", "jammed with amazing ideas", "unforgettably satisfying" are all valid phrases. Think in terms of the movie review quotes you see in your daily paper.
Those short snippets are chosen by the advertisers precisely because they excite people's emotions and get them to the theater. Toss them into your letter at strategic points and you will hold the reader's interest.
Now, take the two letters you wrote before and see how many of these points you managed to include in the two of them. All told, your score should be pretty high. But you probably notice a lot of filler material, especially in your letter to your friend, and a lot of excessive hype in the letter to the mail order dealer. Chances are good that if you find the middle ground, you've got a good sales letter.
Rewrite the letter with this in mind, but don't use this article for reference as you do it. Let it come naturally to you. You should find your rewritten letter ideal for both your friend (who won't think you're putting a heavy business-type hype over on him) and for the dealer, who'll get the impression you're writing to him as if he were a friend.
Now you've got a workable sales letter. There are two steps left:
Firstly, get it checked for sentence structure and grammar. Get the best person for this job that you can think of. It might be a school teacher, a reporter, even an English student, but it must be someone who can turn someone else's writing into flawless English... without removing the enthusiasm and snap of the copy. This can be a headache, but it must be done for good results, and every good aspect of your sales letter is money in the bank.
Secondly, add a little note on the bottom of the page, just before your signature, reminding the reader to look over the sales material and make his own decision. Follow it with something unique above your signature. "Yours truly" won't cut it.
One of the finest lines we've seen above the signature is "May you make thousands rich and yourself happy, (signed)." It's thoughtful, conveys sincerity on the part of the writer, and leaves you with a good feeling about the person who wrote it.
You are now ready to commit this letter to a sale letter. Put it on top-quality stationery, the best you can afford. Especially if you're marketing income opportunity information, you must look as if you're doing well yourself.
When you have it copied, use premium parchment or other quality paper. Make it look as professional as you possibly can! Have a letterhead made up if you don't have it already; you'll need it eventually anyway, and typesetting for a letterhead is just a one-time investment.
And finally, and we cannot stress this too highly, sign everyone individually. Never, never, sign the original and have your signature copied.
There is one more special touch which has been proven to get results, and the fact that mail order people especially use this touch an awful lot proves its effectiveness.
This is the personal sales letter, hand-written which is attached to the major sales letter. And it can be done in one or two ways. Either leave a couple of inches at the top of the page for handwritten messages, or affix a 3x5 Scotch Post-It note to the top of the letter.
If you've received a request for information and the person has dropped hints as to what he might use the item for, by all means target the note to the person's needs, but if not, simply use it to advise the person to look over the material carefully.
Make it short, fifty words or less, and address it directly to the reader. It's a time consuming job, especially on a direct mailing of 500 or more pieces, but the time you spend doing this will be well-rewarded.
By the way, this handwritten personal note makes it unnecessary to put any sort of address such as "Dear Sir" at the top of the sales letter. There are no good addresses you can use at the top of the sales letter which will not alienate at least some of the readership. We advise using no address at all, and just starting the letter.
The standards such as "Dear friend" and "Hello, opportunity seeker", and in fact any descriptive address in this style, is so overused that it looks phony and contrived, and serves you no purpose other than to turn off the reader. Simply start the letter.
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