Effective Sales Letters – How to Create Them

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Every marketer wants success from their ads and sales letters.

This article shows how to get predictable and measurable results from every dollar invested in promoting products or services with sales letters. The key is eliminating common copywriting mistakes. Here are the top seven reasons salesletters fail:

1. Failure To Understand The REAL Purpose Of Advertising.

Make no mistakes about it. A sales letter is an ad for your products and services. Ask any ad agent the reason to advertise and they will say things like, ‘exposure’, ‘to be seen’, or ‘to get your name out there’.

These concepts may all sound logical but reality is that none of these ideas can put money into your pockets or cover the expense of the ad themselves. Image ads are designed to appeal to you and your sense of feeling good about seeing your image professionally displayed.

Image ads do nothing more than show your picture and contact information and perhaps a slogan such as ‘we care’, ‘we try harder’, or some other phrase that anyone else can also claim.

That is all wrong for small business.

Clients are more skeptical today than ever before. They don’t believe these slogans and are not drawn to image ads (unless you are unusually attractive).

Besides, it takes five to seven years of that kind of ‘image’ advertising before people to permanently remember who you are–and still, there is no guarantee they will do business with you.

The idea that people need to see your ad 6-12 times before they’ll remember you is a fallacy. Having them remember you later is far less important than having them take action and do business with you, or at the very least identify themselves to you, now!

The real purpose of advertising is to generate sales.

This includes attract new business, get existing clients to buy more, and get past clients to come back. Nothing else matters but sales. Period!

“The only purpose of advertising is to make sales.” – Claude Hopkins author of Scientific Advertising

“The only objective, reality-based measure of any ad is sales” – Ted Nicholas author of Magic Words That Bring You Riches

The first step begins with recognizing that the only reason to advertise is to make money. Once you agree with that, all else comes easy.

2. Marketing To The Wrong Audience.

If you go wrong here, your entire campaign is doomed. It doesn’t matter how exceptional a product you have, how convincing your copy is, or what incredible price you’re offering. If you try to sell this amazing widget to the wrong people, I guarantee you that you’ll flop.

On the other hand, if you offer an average product promoted by pedestrian copy and bearing a median price, but offered to precisely the right people, it will always pull in some business. Not that this is your goal. I’m only mentioning this to show you the difference caused by properly defining your audience.

What can you do to make sure you’ve selected the right market? You have to start by defining precisely whom your product or service appeals to. Your objective is to find the largest possible market that wants and can afford your product.

At the same time, you want to make sure that your focus is tight enough that you aren’t trying to appeal to too broad a range of interests at once. If you do, your marketing can easily become so watered down, it won’t really appeal to anyone.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a product that appeals to multiple markets, you’ll need to develop distinct variations of your sales pieces for each specific market.

3. Focusing Your Copy On You, Your Company, Or Your Product.

This is a mistake that’s made by companies of all sizes. Larger corporations are frequent offenders. Everyone likes to see their name in print. I do. You do. Everyone does.

I’m sure that you’re rightfully proud of your company and the products you sell. But I urge you to resist the temptation to stroke your ego in your sales letters.

Here’s why. Customers don’t care. They don’t care about you, your company, or your product. That may sound cruel, but it’s a fact of business life.

Customers care about themselves, their problems, important goals they’d like to achieve, and the things that will make their lives easier or better. That’s just human nature.

I’m sure that the last time you bought a book through the mail on reducing your taxes, you didn’t think, “Oh boy, here’s the perfect opportunity for me to give McGraw-Hill more money and to help Sally Author get on the best seller list!” Instead, you were thinking something along the lines of, “Here’s something I can use to hang onto a few more of my hard-earned dollars!”

In order to get someone to dip into their wallet and part with their hard-earned currency, you must prove that what you have to offer is worth so much to them, that parting with the money is insignificant. And that, my friend, is a tall order. To accomplish this, you must talk directly to their needs, wants, desires, problems, and goals.

This means you’ve got to drop down and get personal. Use a lot of “you” language. Kill all of the technical babble.

Get rid of anything that makes you sound like a pompous, marble encrusted institution.

What’s that? You say you’re selling securities, gemstones, or some other high-ticket, upper echelon item and you need to sound sophisticated? Sorry, but you’re disillusioned – and you stand to compromise your potential profits.

Even the upper-crust are people, human beings, carbon-based life forms who respond to being treated personally.

Successful marketers understand this. They consistently use it to build their fortunes.

4. Assuming You Know The Benefits Your Customers Value The Most.

Here’s another presumptuous error that can cost you dearly. Too often, companies think that since they created a product, they are the ultimate authority on that product and its benefits. This gets them into trouble.

While your market may remain the same, its needs are volatile and prone to change during the life of a product.

When a product is new, its very newness may be the most appealing factor. As it becomes more common and other competitors enter the market, price, quality, and additional features take on more importance.

Also, the problems that your market faces today may be solved tomorrow. Then you’re faced with having to reposition your product to offer solutions to other problems.

Now, where you may ask, do you get all of this crucial marketing data? You go to the source: your customers. You must constantly poll your customers to find out what their most critical needs, aspirations, problems, and objectives are. Once you’ve found out, you seize the opportunity and adjust the benefits in your copy accordingly.

5. You Think That Your Ad Or Your Product Are Important.

Well maybe they are, but not to your customers. It’s important to you, your family, your friends, and your employees. But that’s as far as it goes.

Customers don’t care. They don’t wait eagerly to get your sales pitch in the mail. Chances are they’ll pass right by your ad in a newspaper or magazine. They might have a mild interest in your product, but you’d better be able to seize their attention, to reach out and grab them by the throat in order to make your case.

You accomplish this by featuring a benefit in your headline that is so potent it can’t be passed over.

This benefit headline should be as subtle as a jackhammer. Look, you have only a few seconds to stop someone and pull them into the detail of your ad or sales letter.

If you can’t grab them here and now, you’ve lost them forever. The page gets turned or your letter hits the trash.

To avoid this, you’ve got to roll out your biggest, loudest gun right away. Feature it as prominently as you can. Make it so irresistible that only an idiot would pass it by.

This is a radically different approach than most ads take. They focus on a clever, catchy headline or eye-popping visuals. To the detriment of the people who use them, these techniques don’t work. They’re pure window dressing.

If you want to win more leads and sales, forget about your ad and its fancy layout. Forget about being clever or creative.

Concentrate instead on hitting your customers right between the eyes with the most potent benefit you have to offer.

6. Failing To Track Your Results And Use What You’ve Learned To Compound Your Profits.

If you really want to cash in on direct response principles this is one mistake you should correct as soon as possible. One of the greatest advantages of direct response marketing is that it’s completely measurable.

By keying your ads and sales letters (with a unique department number, suite number, person’s name, or other identifier), you track precisely what kind of response you get from every sales letter you use.

Most ad agents claim that advertising is not measurable. Hogwash! By keying your ads and sales letters you can track exactly how many people inquire each time your ad runs, how many buy, how many continue to buy.

Being able to track your results gives you a strategic benefit: CONTROL

Your results tell you what’s working and what isn’t. And exactly how well things are working. This let’s you know which marketing efforts to stick with and which to modify or abandon. It also tells you which product lines are effective, what geographical areas to hit harder, and which media and lists outperform others.

With all of the advantages to be gained from proper tracking, you’d think that everyone would do it routinely. Not so. Just watch your mail for the next week. When you see how many of the letters you get aren’t keyed, and therefore not traceable, you’ll be shocked.

Here’s my own personal rule on this critical issue:

Every marketing piece you create should be keyed for tracking.

Everything. All ads, all sales letters, all news releases. You name it, it should be keyed. If not, you’re unnecessarily limiting your income.

7. You Don’t Have A Profitably Planned Follow-up Campaign.

This is a crucial point to consider. Why? Because when run properly, an effective follow-up campaign can double or triple your profits.

The fact is that it’s much easier and less costly to sell to someone who’s already bought from you than it is to bring in new business. This means that the greatest rewards can be gained from working your house list.

But think about it. When was the last time you bought something and then received a follow-up offering from that same company? I’d wager that you couldn’t even recall the last time.

The companies that are consistently making big profits in direct response have well-oiled follow-up programs in place. Get your name on the mailing lists of American Express and the American Management Association. These companies run follow up programs as well as any I’ve ever seen.

Here are a couple of hints on how to get the most out of your follow-up program. Always include a follow-up offer with every order you send out. Offer a discount on 3 or 4 recommended items. Strike while the iron is hot. It’s the best and easiest time to make another sale.

Send follow-up mailings at least every quarter (even to those who have inquired but have NOT bought from you yet). Every other month is even better.

Keep your products in the forefront of your customers’ awareness. The more you sell to someone, the more trust they build in you. And the more inclined they’ll be to buy again. It’s a wonderfully perpetuating cycle.


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