Writing effective sales letters

Get Results: writing sales letters
Get Results: writing sales letters

Plan your Writing 

The aim of writing a sales letter isn’t to impress the reader with stylish prose, but to present your sales pitch as clearly and logically as possible. Ask yourself, what your product does for the customer:

  • What problems does it solve?
  • How does it do this?
  • How can I prove its benefits?
  • What exactly does the products do?

Make notes, then write a list of the reasons why someone should buy your products. Use this list to form the spine of your writing and provide a seductive sequence of emotional and logical reasons why your readers should say “yes”.

Know who your customers are

It is critically important to understand who your customers are and who you are writing to, so that you can gauge how to pitch your words. You need to understand your customers motivations, what makes them happy, what makes them angry or fearful and what aspects of their life they want to improve, what they want to gain or avoid. The psychological triggers that make people buy are based on either

  • Logical motivations e.g. saving time, money or improving how they perform a task
  • Emotional feelings e.g. being more successful, popular or wealthy

When structuring your writing you need to identify how you can appeal to both these triggers.

  • How can you make the reader feel that buying your product will make them more popular or successful?
  • What are the practical reasons why it will be money well spent?

If you’re able to satisfy both triggers your writing will be able to tap into the powerful mental process that motivates people into buying products and services.

know the difference between your products benefits and features

knowing the difference between benefits and features will help you to aim your communication at the core issue in your customers mind, the underlying need or want, which will leverage your message to give maximum impact and move your customer into buying mode. Product features are simply the characteristic of a product, the things the product actually does or has, The features of a car might be having

  • air conditioning as standard.
  • economical on fuel
  • having Rolls Royce branding
  • anti lock brakes or ABS

while these are important to mention, they are simply the “means to the end ” they aren’t the underlying reason a customer buys. Using the feature list above we can identify the benefits:

  • Having ‘air conditioning as standard’ means being comfortable even on very hot and sunny days (comfort)
  • Being ‘economical on fuel’ means keeping more of your money to enjoy on the things that are important to you (enjoying more wealth)
  • Having “Rolls Royce branding ‘ means looking successful and wealthy (prestige)
  • Having ‘anti lock brakes or ABS’, means you and your loved ones are safer when you’re out on the road (safety)

A handy trick to find the benefits, is to add the phrase “which means…” to the end of each feature. The benefits from the list above are comfort, prestige, greater wealth, safety and security, and by highlighting the benefits, you are giving prospects a reason to want what you have to offer. So having done this preparation lets get on with how to structure your writing.

Structure – AIDA 

Attention – the headline  

In basic terms, your headline should clearly promise a benefit the reader will gain. This could be the promise of valuable information, how your product can solve a problem or how you can enrich the reader’s life.

“On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that, unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money.” – David Ogilvy

You might be a copywriting genius, and composed a sales letter that can sell ice to eskimos. But if you can’t pull the reader into your writing then your compelling copy will merely be a waste of words.

Whether on the cover of a magazine, in a sales letter or on a web page, headlines are the most important element of persuasive writing. It’s your headline’s job to hook readers with the promise of a tasty reward that will reel them into devouring your copy. So let’s be clear: your headline must be able to attract the reader’s interest if your writing is going to have a chance of selling your product

“If you can come up with a good headline, you are almost sure to have a good ad. But even the greatest writer can’t save an ad with a poor headline.” – John Caples

Interest = benefit + curiosity

People are, by nature, motivated by pursuing their own objectives in life and what can benefit them personally. So they’ll only read your copy if they think there’s something in it for them.

This means your headline needs to offer the promise of a benefit the reader will gain from reading what you have to say. People are also curious, and headlines should feed on people’s curiosity by hinting at the benefits your writing offers. So whether it’s the promise of valuable information, solving a problem or a full proof money making scheme, your headline needs to offer the promise of a benefit and build curiosity if you’re going to reel in readers.

You’ll need to write as many benefit and curiosity laden headlines as you can. Some copywriters will write out over 100 before they settle on one they’re happy to use to bait their sales letter.

After you’ve settled on a winner, you can use your second and third choices as subheads to break up your copy and highlight your argument’s key points. A few headline ideas to get you started. Here are a few tried and tested headline formulas you can adapt:

  • Make a bold promise with a guarantee e.g. ‘Play the Piano in Seven Days or Your Money Back’
  • Provoke curiosity with a question e.g. ‘Do You Make These Mistakes in English?’ (Maxwell Sackheim)
  • Explain clearly what benefit your offering e.g. ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ (Dale Carnegie)
  • Use a strong verb and a commanding tone of voice to suggest what action the reader can take e.g. ‘Win At Poker With These Strategies Used By The Pros’
  • Make a bold attention grabbing statement e.g. ‘Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards To Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks And Slices…And Can Slash Up To 10 Strokes From Your Game Almost Overnight!’ (John Carlton)
  • Make a no frills news announcement e.g. ‘New Dimoxnyl Hair Tonic Grows Back Your Hair and Youthful Looks Overnight!’

Interest – the problem

After you’ve pulled the reader into your writing, you need to continue building interest in the promise you’ve already made.

This means stirring up the reader’s emotions, and poking at the pain you’ve offered to cure. Start by using emotive language to describe the reader’s problem. Create an image in the reader’s mind of the annoyances, inconveniences and shear pain the problem causes them in daily life.

You could open with stats and figures to show how the problem is more common than the reader might think. This can also help to create a sense of inclusion and to build the reader’s confidence that you know what you’re writing about. Describe how you or someone you know has had to cope with the problem . This will help to build a bond with them and a sense of empathy for their plight.

After you’ve finished stirring up the reader’s emotions, make a compelling promise of the tonic you have to sooth their pain and to entice their curiosity into reading further.

Desire – the solution

Now that you’ve created interest, you need to make good on your promises by explaining why your product is the answer to the reader’s problem. Work through the list of benefits you composed in earlier, Describe the emotional and logical rewards the reader can gain from your product.

Use the power of storytelling to describe how your product has improved someone’s life, such as saving them time, money or making them more successful. Heap benefit onto benefit, and provide logical reasons why they should buy what you’re selling, and why it’s superior to the other options available.

Explain the reasons why they need your product in a logical, rational sequence. And provide evidence, whenever possible, to add concrete to your claims. Remember that readers need logic to backup their emotional impulses.

When you’ve finished explaining all the benefits, provide the social proof of your offer with testimonials, stats and real world examples. And when you think your reader is wavering, throw a guarantee onto the pile to tip their  indecisiveness in your favour. A limited time offer or money back guarantee might seem like cutting your profits. But guarantees are a powerful way of removing the sense of risk the reader might have that’s stopping them clicking on ‘buy’. Whilst you might receive a few refund requests, the number of additional sales you can attract with a guarantee should keep the bean counter weighed in your favour.

Action – telling the reader what to do next

After you’ve built the reader’s excitement about the rewards to be gained if they just say ‘yes’, you need to clearly tell them exactly what to do next. Whether it’s entering their email address, calling your sales team or buying that instant, make sure you tell the reader what to do if they want to reap the benefits you’ve promised.

Finally, you could end your sales letter or web page with a postscript (abbreviated to P.S.), thought to be the most read part of a sales letter after the headline. You can use the postscript to restate your offer, remind the reader you’re on their side and to add an additional benefit if they respond today (such as a discount or free eBook).

So, that’s the AIDA principle used by professional copywriters to structure their sales letters and web pages. The way in which it uses psychology to appeal to people’s personal motives makes it a powerful tool indeed. So use it wisely and responsibly.

How to Write Sales Letters that Sell is a great book for further reading on the subject of writing sales letters. Please be aware that all the books I recommend are books I have read myself. Although this link is my affiliate link, meaning I get paid a commission if you click through and buy, I only feature great books, that I believe, you will find interesting and offer great value for money. If you do click through and buy something from Amazon, let me thank you for your support.

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