How to Test Your Sales Letter

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It doesn’t matter whether you use snail mail or email to reach prospects. Either way you should plan on doing some aggressive testing.

Why? Because if you don’t have a testing program in place that’s dedicated to helping you beat your “control” mailing, you’re missing one of direct response’s great benefits: the ability to constantly and quickly get direct feedback from the marketplace. Your testing program should be like a feedback loop that constantly funnels vital data back to your marketing team.

What should you be testing? Well, by now just about everyone knows that, first, you’ve got to test lists and offers. But don’t forget to test your letter. It’s one of the keys to direct response success.

Here are just a few questions you should ask yourself as you prepare your “control buster.”

1. Is my letter long enough?

If you’ve been using a one page sales letter, consider testing two or more pages. NOTE: Years ago the direct mail mantra was “the more you tell, the more you sell” so copywriters, myself included, often wrote four-page letters. This is less true these days. Now, people expect to get their information more quickly and telegraphically. As a result, you might want to write somewhat shorter letters and email. But this doesn’t mean you can’t test longer lengths, too.

2. Am I starting out with a terrific headline?

Makes sure your letter gets off to a fast start by setting it up with a punchy headline placed above the salutation. It doesn’t have to be short. You can easily
fill up the first fifth of your cover page with your headline introduction.

EXCEPTION: If the letter is personalized or more formal, you don’t need a headline. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to blow all the advantages of a “personal” relationship by using a headline that’s shouting about your offer.

3. Does my letter get off to a fast start?

If you don’t grab the reader’s attention right from the beginning, you’ll never make the sale. If you’re beginning with a soporific like the following, you know
you’re in trouble: “Allow me to introduce my company, DullsVille Software. Our mission is provide a comprehensive suite of solutions to businesses who need
to solve a broad range of problems” The reader’s response? This is Borrrrrrrring.

4. Am I devoting an entire section to my guarantee?

All too often letters bury the guarantee in the body copy. Big mistake. You should really highlight your guarantee and feature it as a distinct graphic element, complete with a border (a 1-point rule will do fine). The guarantee overcomes resistance and should really pop out of your letter or HTML email.

5. Am I including a P.S?

The humble postscript, sitting beneath the signature, can have a tremendous effect on the power of your letter. Copy research proves it. For example, René Gnam, a fellow direct mail specialist, reports the following results. He did a split run test where one letter contained a postscript. The other letter was identical except that the postscript copy was moved to the last paragraph above the signature. That was the only variable. The result? The mailing with the P.S. outpulled the non-P.S. letter by three to one!

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