By Ernest W. Nicastro
Make sure you avoid these 5 deadly mistakes and you’ll greatly increase the odds that your direct mail marketing effort will get a positive response from your customers and prospects.
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To be effective your sales letter must be opened, read, believed and acted upon. In order to do this it must attract attention, warm the interest of the reader, create a desire for your product or service and cause your prospect to take positive action.
An effective sales letter, not surprisingly, achieves the same objectives as an effective salesperson. And just as there are certain mistakes a salesperson wants to be sure to avoid in the selling process, the same holds true for the writer of sales letters.
So today I present Five Deadly Sales Letter Mistakes. Eliminate one or more of the common blunders described here and it’s a good bet your response rates will improve.
Deadly Sales Letter Mistake # 1 — Writing Your Letter For the Hundreds or Thousands of People You Will Be Mailing It To Instead of One Special Person. One sure way to generate an apathetic response to your sales letter is to write for the group or list of people you will be mailing it to.
Approaching your letter with a “crowd mentality” instead of focusing in on a single, real, living, breathing prospect will greatly impair the ability of your letter to make a genuine connection with the reader.
The sales letter is the most personal, one-to-one form of advertising there is. As is often said, it’s the only form of advertising that begins with the word “dear.” So it should read like one person sitting down writing to one other person. And here’s a crystal clear example of exactly what I mean by that statement. It’s from a letter by the brilliant copywriter and non-pareil advertising man, Maxwell Sackheim:
“Thank you very much for having written to me for my latest catalog. A copy is being sent to you in another envelope and should reach you in a day or two.
“When my catalog arrives I hope you will give it as friendly a welcome as if I were visiting you myself. I’ve tried to put into it just the words I would say to you if you were to come here personally, or if I were to come to your home and spend an evening with you.”
Deadly Sales Letter Mistake # 2 — Thinking that Your Prospect Won’t Read a Long Letter. The key question is, what makes for a long letter? To which the answer is, any letter that is uninteresting is a long letter! Even the one-page letter that many salespeople and amateur marketers arbitrarily limit themselves to can seem long.
For example, a number of years ago Kevin Costner made an interminably boring and bloated movie entitled Waterworld that the critics panned and audiences ignored. On the other hand, Stephen Spielberg’s inspiring and unflinching film about the Holocaust, Schindler’s List, was more than three hours long and it was a huge critical and financial success.
Here’s my point: People read long books, take long trips, and watch long movies and plays. And evidence abounds that people read long letters. But people won’t read boring letters, dull letters, obviously self-serving I-me-we-product-oriented letters.
Offer the right product or service at the right price to the right audience and if you have enough to say and say it interestingly enough…you can make a five-page letter pull a better response than a two page letter.
Deadly Sales Letter Mistake # 3 — Being a Slave to the Formal Rules of Correct Grammar. When you were in school, teachers and professors were paid to read your work and they dutifully corrected your writing according to the formal rules of grammar.
In the real world it’s a different story. When writing a sales letter you want your work to have a conversational readability to it. And in most instances that means writing in an informal style. Because that’s how the vast majority of buyers and sellers communicate with one another.
As a result, you’ll break a number of formal grammatical rules. You’ll start sentences with “and” or “but.” Instead of complete sentences you’ll sometimes use a sentence fragment. But that’s OK. And every now and then you’ll dangle a participle or end a sentence with a preposition.
If all of this seems totally against the grain consider this true story. Winston Churchill, a Nobel Prize Winner for literature, was corrected by one of his proofreaders for ending a sentence in a preposition. To which Mr. Churchill replied, “That is the type of nonsense up with which I will not put!”
Your objective is to generate a lead or advance or close the sale. Not one of your prospects is getting paid to read your letter. This time your “grade” will be determined by how well people respond.
This article first appeared in Businessknowhow.com.