Why long sales letters are six feet under

I’ve found someone who thinks just like I do (believe me, that’s rarer than you’d think). It’s Canadian copywriter Michel Fortin, whose compelling Death of the Salesletter I’ve been reading over the last couple of days. For somebody who makes his living from writing sales copy, this is a pretty radical position. But like Seth Godin‘s provocatively titled All Marketers Are Liars, the reality is somewhat at odds with the catchy title. The sales letter isn’t dead. But the long web sales letter is. You know the one: it picks you up, sweeps you along, endlessly teases (but wait – there’s more!) and eventually lets go when you slap the mat to submit. But wait – there are three bonuses and 10 PS’s. The giveaway with these sales letters is the scroll bar that’s tiny, hinting at 35 more screens of breathless sales copy to come. Death of the Salesletter has taken me a couple of days (with breaks) to read for one simple reason – it’s 51 pages long. Now I know what you’re thinking (I thought it too) but to be fair to Michel, he does say upfront that the idea started as a blog post and grew from there. And he just kept going until he’d got it all down. In a nutshell, here’s what he says:
  • Long scrolling web page sales letters are dead.
  • Web 1.0 (the static, simple page version) was one-way: the seller spoke to the buyer.
  • Web 2.0 changes all that. It can ‘humanise and magnetise’ a website, build relationships and communicate more effectively. It’s not about technology – it’s about people.
  • It’s not the message that’s changing – it’s the delivery.
  • Sales letters are changing not because people are changing, but precisely because human behaviour will never change (you’ll have to stop and think about that one, like I did)
  • Multimedia (sound, video, picture) creates a ‘multi-sensorial’ experience, which pushes up sales. Not surprisingly, eBay gets most bids for auctions with pictures.
Michel’s got some great recommendations for sales letters that work:
  • Turn your sales letter into a non-sales letter – make it look like something else
  • Be more newsy
  • Give more great content first (then, you can sell)
  • Tell more stories
  • Use copy to connect with your reader
  • Be discreet in your selling effort
  • Focus on building credibility
  • Turn your sales process into a sales experience
  • Use brevity
  • Incorporate multimedia
  • Offer more proof – audio, videos, demos, samples, reviews
Amen to that. It’s fascinating read, and I found myself nodding from start to finish like one of those little toy dogs in the back window. If you’ve got time, check out the report here: Death of the Salesletter.