Think sales letters are out of fashion in the digital age? Think again.

[Image courtesy of Bev Goodwin at Flickr Creative Commons]

“Do people still send sales letters?” asked a client recently. He’d had limited success with e-mailshots he’d been doing, and was wondering if there was still life in the old dog yet. There is – and now more than ever. In a world where everything’s gone virtual, there’s still very much a place for the physical. Just a couple of weeks ago, I read a ‘real’ book for the first time in about two years. What a joy. Turning the pages, feeling the heft and weight of the book, the physical contact, and the sense of making progress (pages on the left read, pages on the right still to come). The book created a lasting impression, and not only because it was a good read. It was also a sensory experience, and one that will stay with me for quite a while. A physical letter can do the same. Remember that what makes you stand out in a crowded field is being different. If everybody else is sending out emails, why not send out an old-fashioned sales letter to a qualified list? The mere fact that it’s physical in a virtual world increases the chances of it being noticed.  And since there’s less physical competition, those chances increase yet further. And yes, the cost is higher, but if the hit rate is too, then it’s worth it. So what makes a successful sales letter? Here are my Top 10 Tips for sales letters that sell:
  1.  Keep it short. ‘How long will it be?’ asked a client of a sales letter a while back. Wrong question. ‘How short can it be?’ is what you should be asking.
  2. Tell a story, with a beginning (problem), middle (solution) and end (call to action.)
  3. Show them you ‘get’ them, by immediately addressing a problem or a need they have.
  4. Don’t cross the line by sketching out a nightmare scenario. Scare tactics are a double-edged sword, and can quickly frighten people off.
  5. Make it readable and easy to scan: include headings, bullets, bolded text, call-out boxes, and anything else that leads the eye through the copy.
  6. Include figures, because nothing sells like numbers. Be specific and realistic, otherwise you might be setting yourself up for failure.
  7. Don’t use overblown language, because that’s the sales letter equivalent of the foot-in-the-door salesperson, who just won’t take no for an answer.
  8. Keep it simple, by having one goal in mind that you focus on relentlessly. Don’t hit them with too many details, or make too many offers.
  9. Don’t say everything – because you can’t.  In any case, too much detail may actually put readers off contacting you, as they think they know enough to decide it’s not for them. So intrigue, tease and create a desire to find out more.
  10. Include a P.S. – because you can, and because it works. Repetition may be an obvious ploy, but it’s no less effective for that.
And when you’ve finished, the advice is the same as with all copy. Stop. Then send. Happy selling.