8 Steps to an Effective Sales Letter
Writing copy that converts is an essential skill that all marketers should have. For anyone running their own online business, this is a skill that many never develop, which can lead to two different outcomes: they either have to spend extra money outsourcing to a good copywriter, or their business flounders because their landing pages don’t convert as they should.
To put it bluntly, your marketing funnel is like a leaky bucket if you don’t know how to write a compelling, effective sales letter. Whether you’re trying to turn visitors into leads or turn those leads into customers, the sales letter is the all-important link between them. No matter how good your products are, or, if you’re an affiliate, no matter how much you believe in the products your promoting, if you can’t convince your prospects of that, it’s all for naught. As such, your copy must be more convincing than all your other marketing.
Mastering this skill will not only help you build your email list and make sales or commissions, but it will also help you write your ads, meaning spending less on pay-per-view or pay-per-click traffic if that’s your primary source of leads.
Lucky for you, good copy isn’t some mysterious skill that only those born under a certain star sign or with a silver spoon in their mouth can learn. No, it can be learned by anyone! It might take some practice, as few skills are learned overnight, but you won’t have to pay freelancers forever if you take the time to learn the process.
The process is simple: your sales letter must highlight the pain points your target customer is suffering from, show them a solution, highlight the benefits of your product or service, and weave a compelling story. No, you don’t have to have majored in the arts or creative writing to tell a story. Mankind is an innate storyteller, and when working on a sales letter, you don’t have to possess the writing skills of your favorite novelists to grip your audience.
Step 1: Brainstorming
Remember when your high school English teacher insisted that you brainstorm before writing your essays? That wasn’t just to pile on more work, it was to make sure your writing was polished and comprehensive. Brainstorming is also a great way to find the inspiration to write a complete sales letter.
So, what you want to do is grab a blank sheet of paper, although there is also software for this if you really don’t like doing it by hand. Print the name of your product right in the middle of it, then draw a circle around it. This is the main topic of your sales letter, which should always be your product. Every bit of the letter should orbit around your product in some way, and this mind map will help you keep it that way.
Now, branch out and write the number one problem your product solves, circle it, then draw a line from your product to it. If your product solves multiple problems, focus on just one or two so that you don’t overwhelm your prospects.
Next, branch out and write down the benefits of your product. You can even write down your ideal customer avatar if you want, just to make sure this person is fresh in your mind as you go, but make sure not to link it back to your main product. Why? Because all of those circles you just made are going to be headlines in your sales letter.
Here’s what you’ll want to focus on in your sales letter brainstorming mind map:
- The problems it solves.
- How it solves the problems, written as benefits.
- Your story, which includes your struggle, triumph, and willingness to help.
- Social proof.
- The offer and call-to-action.
You can branch out as much as you want from these main categories or keep it as bare bones as you want. The important thing is to create a skeleton outline that you can reference as you write.
Step 2: The Main Headline
The main headline is possibly the most important part of your sales copy, as it’s the first impression, and you can’t overstate the first impression. To do this, your headline must point to your product’s biggest benefit (more detail on that in a bit) without giving away the entire solution. The idea is to generate curiosity by promising a solution to one of their pressing problems.
Example: “Discover the 7 Steps We Use to Turn Ice Cold Leads into Sizzling Hot Buyers”
The headline points to a pain point many marketers face (deadbeat leads) while also pointing out what our product purports to do, which is to teach people how to turn leads into buyers. There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re writing a catchy headline, though.
- Keep it short.
- Call directly and indirectly to your target.
- Emphasize a pain point either directly or indirectly.
- Highlight the main benefits
- Use creative language that engages the imagination.
These are the things that will get your prospects to continue through the sales letter. It should be short and easy to scan over while emphasizing a pain point. You don’t have to point out the pain point directly; you can use the solution to indirectly bring attention to your customer’s main problem.
Your headline should also let the viewer know whether or not this product is for them. If your headline starts out with “Calling all Doctors” then you know an electrician isn’t going to waste time reading your sales copy. In the above example, it’s obvious that the product is aimed at marketers and solves a marketing problem without having to explicitly mention it by name.
Next, you reveal the benefit in a way that doesn’t promise anything untrue. One of the best ways to do this is to use evocative language in your headline. If you can conjure up a visual image, an emotion, or another one of the senses, it’s extremely powerful. Again, referencing the example headline, words like “ice cold” and “sizzling hot” play with the imagination.
Step 3: Point Out Their Problem and Twist the Knife
Your potential customers have a burning problem. They may have two problems that go hand in hand, but you should never focus on too many at a time even if your product solves many problems. Try to keep it down to one problem to focus on if you can, two at most if they’re related to each other.
The most important thing is to twist the knife as you do this. Make them feel the pain and frustration as keenly as possible so as to put them in the mood to solve that problem right now. Remember, your product is the solution, but you’d never pick up a book hoping to get the ending first. The ending doesn’t have an impact if you can’t experience the protagonist’s burning desires and hardships.
To that end, you bring the problem to their attention and convince them that it can’t be left alone. It won’t just solve itself, and the longer it plagues their life, the unhappier they’ll be.
For example, notice how weight loss programs focus on the lethal statistics surrounding obesity and make it personal by showing overweight people struggling to get thin and putting themselves through a lot of pain at the gym to get there, all to no avail. They emphasize how much they hate looking in the mirror or hate going to the beach.
All of this is done to make them primed for the solution, whether that’s a supplement or a personalized weight loss program. Focusing on the product from the start doesn’t have the same impact; you need to keenly feel the struggle.
Step 4: Relate Through Your Story
Empathy is a trust builder, and if your customers know that you’ve felt the same pain points and solved them for yourself, they’ll be more likely to trust you as an authority. When most Internet marketers and business owners, both large and small, go into a specific niche that provides solutions to people, it’s because they know what it’s like to struggle themselves. They’ve struggled to turn prospects into customers, lose weight, learn that language, or build an authority site. This not only makes them a true authority but also gives them a story they can use to build rapport with others.
Even if you’re an affiliate marketer, promoting products that aren’t your own, the story of your own struggles and how you found a product that made all the difference goes a long way in connecting with others.
Tell your own story with passion, letting your potential customers know that you, too, have been in their shoes and have tried all the things they’ve likely tried. You’re not some slimy hand reaching for their credit card, you’re a real person, and a credible one at that.
Don’t skim over the struggle, either. Go into the details of how you lost sleep over your troubles, got into financial hardship, felt like you were letting yourself and others down, or even made a total fool of yourself. It makes the success all that more palpable, like getting to the end of a good book and realizing that the protagonist is going to triumph.
People love stories, and humans are the ultimate storytellers. We use them to change minds, help people see things from another point of view, and even sell products and services. It’s an innate gift that everyone has, so use it to your advantage.
Step 5: The Benefits
By this point, you’ve twisted the knife and built rapport with your targets, but now you need to actually tell them how you’re going to solve their problem. This is the solution, where you introduce your product or service, or at least the product or service you’re promoting.
However, it’s important to overcome one little temptation that derails a lot of marketers and winds up hurting your sales, and that’s the temptation to play up every last feature.
People don’t necessarily want features, they want solutions. If your customer wants to drive a nail through a board, they don’t care if you tell them that you’re selling a hammer with spring-loaded action and Wi-Fi capabilities. No, they just want to know that your hammer will do a better job than someone else’s.
To that end, if your hammer has Wi-Fi capabilities and a spring-loaded head, you need to turn those things into benefits. Benefits let the customer know that these features will help solve their problem more efficiently. So, maybe the Wi-Fi capability in said hammer can bring up a video of a professional teaching you how to pound a nail through in one or two swings. Perhaps the spring-loaded head puts more force behind every blow.
By turning a feature into a benefit, you present solutions. As many people view features as extras they may not need, they view benefits as key elements in getting them what they want faster and better than the competition can. That’s the power of a solution.
Again, using your creativity, try to paint a picture for them that demonstrates how the unique features of your product will benefit them. If you’re afraid of too much text in your sales letter at this point, this is a good place in your copy to utilize bullet points. They’re easy to scan and digest without making your landing page look like a textbook.
Bullet points are also easier to remember than paragraphs of text, so if your prospect is just skimming the sales letter or gets to the end and wants to go back and reread some key points as they try to make up their mind about a purchase, bullet points come in very handy. They stay in the memory and are easy to find.
Step 6: Social Proof
Another great way to move people off the fence is by providing social proof. If you’re brand new and selling your own products or services, then social proof may be something you don’t have off the bat. If you really want it, you should consider offering your product for free to a few people in exchange for reviews. Regardless, social proof can be a real boost, and if you’re an affiliate, you can probably pull reviews from the product’s website or social media pages.
These testimonials can be screenshots or videos people have made, hopefully singing the praises of your product or service. Sometimes you can even provide case studies showcasing the effectiveness of your solution.
Screenshots and videos are great because prospects can see that they’re from real people and not just you or your marketing team making things up. They also provide a sense of community, letting people know that you’re engaged with social media and that people actually engage with you back.
Step 7: The Offer and Call-to-Action
Now you’re ready to tell them what you expect to be paid for bringing them this solution, and by this time, they should be primed and ready.
Start by telling them what the offer includes, but don’t get bogged down in details. This is a great time to recap your solutions, and bullet points are again a good use here. Make sure they understand that your product is unique and leave it at that.
This is also where you can introduce bundles, such as the ability to buy two or more bottles of a supplement for half price if you’re selling that type of thing. Bonuses, even for digital products or services, are great ways to entice people to buy, especially if you frame them as benefits and not just extra stuff you’ve thrown in.
The point of the offer is to drive home the amount of value a customer is getting when they make a purchase. Anything you bundle, give away extra, or advertise about your main product or service should provide maximum value.
Finally, end the offer with a call-to-action (CTA). This is merely the last line or two of text prompting the prospect to make a purchase. While it may seem silly and obvious to the marketer that a potential customer should know to do this, a simple test run will always show that these prompts really do make a difference.
Remember to keep the CTA simple, not a multi-step process. It should be clear-cut and easy to understand.
For example, a simple “Take Control of Your Weight Now!” is sufficient. If there’s an application process to go through or a sales call, you’d like to get them on, a simple “Fill Out the Form Below to See if You Qualify!” will work so long as the form isn’t lengthy or too invasive.
Step 8: Proofread
Finally, you want to make sure your sales letter is polished to perfection. This means making sure the spelling is correct, the grammar is good, and you’ve got your commas and periods in the right places. Again, there’s software on the Internet to help you out here.
You’ll also want to read it aloud, making sure that it flows well and doesn’t sound too cringy or clunky. You don’t want your sentences to read like a 19th-century treatise, but you also don’t want a series of short, choppy sentences. Reading aloud will help you refine your sales voice.
Finally, make sure all your links and videos are working before you publish it and start advertising.
Remember, learning to write effective copy is a skill and if you don’t get it right away, don’t give up. Keep tweaking your sales copy and testing multiple versions of the same landing page so that you identify what’s working and what’s not. In time, you’ll be able to ditch the freelancers and build your own funnels with your own sales copy.