All marketing campaigns include some kind of sales letter to convert leads into customers. It could be in the form of a landing page, or it could be broken up into multiple drip emails. Not much has changed since the dawn of direct response marketing by mail, and the same fundamental principles apply to all ad copy campaigns. Learn how to better reach your target market with this helpful sales letter formula that can be used for online and offline marketing. This guide is for creating single page short-form sales letters that engage the customer and close the sale.
1. Identify the Target Customer
The most crucial component of a successful marketing strategy is identifying your ideal customer. You’ll have more insight into what works when you know exactly who you are trying to attract. Answering these important questions will prepare you to write a more inclusive sales letter.
The statistical data associated with your target market helps you make a broad generalization of how to optimize your sales letter. You can use those statistics to determine the general wording of your advertisements and sales letters. For example, an elderly demographic may respond better to a more professional tone, but a younger demographic may prefer the complete opposite. That information can be useful, but the broad generalization of basic demographics will really help you avoid marketing to people who will never become your customer under any circumstance. If your average customer is a 50-year-old male golfing enthusiast living in Florida with an income of $60,000, then you shouldn’t word your sales letter like you’re talking to a 16-year-old skateboarder. You should gear everything towards reaching the right person and avoiding the person who’s unlikely to become a buyer.
• What type of person is currently buying similar products and services?
• Where do they live?
• What’s their income?
• What’s their age?
• How much do they spend on average for similar products and services?
Matching Their Personalities
Once you have a basic idea of the current buyers in your target market, then it’s time to narrow that group down into your ideal customers. Who exactly is your product for, and who can you most easily sell it to? It’s important to be as detailed as possible. This allows you to paint a mental picture of the person you are trying to reach through your ads and campaigns. Great sales letters depend on your ability to personalize them for your best possible buyers. If your average customer is a 50-year-old male living in Florida with an income of $60,000, then think about what they might like. Consider their interests, and get a mental picture of someone like them. It can be a fictional persona, or it could be based on a person you know in real life with similar interests. Write your copy like you’re speaking directly to that person as an individual. People tend to seek out others like them. If you can single out any common characteristics in your target market, then you can simulate that type of personality in your writing. Find the answers to the following questions as a starting point.
• How do they talk, and what words do they use in conversation?
• How do they dress?
• Where do they spend their time?
• What do they like to do?
• Where do they shop?
• What type of careers do they have?
• What hobbies do they share that are not related to your product or service?
The trick to writing great copy in any sales letter is understanding your ideal customer on a more personalized level. A sales letter aimed at providing upper-class golf enthusiasts with a GPS tracking golf ball is going to sound a lot different than a lawn care services brochure. That’s like comparing apples to oranges. It’s exactly why you need to have a clear representation of who your perfect buyer is.
2. Define Their Desires and Goals
Creating an effective sales letter is more than disguising a sales pitch with a relevant case study. The ideal direct response campaign will be centered around adding immediate value to the reader, and it should focus on an achievable desire of the target customers. Think about what your customer really wants to get out of it. For example, a jewelry store could conduct a simple survey to find out why their customers are buying jewelry in their shop. They could discover a vital piece of information on the driving forces behind those purchases. That store might find out that most of their customers buy jewelry for their spouse. Do they buy it based on how much they like it, or do they buy based on how happy they think it will make their partner? The answer to that question will directly determine the most effective angle of approach in that store’s direct response marketing. Asking your potential customers the right questions is the only fool-proof way to uncover those hidden motivations and desires. However, it’s perfectly fine to make a few assumptions and test the effectiveness through utilizing different campaigns.
• What benefit does the customer really want?
• Are they purchasing for themselves, or someone else?
• What do they gain through buying from you?
• Is there an ulterior motive behind their purchase?
Using Desire as a Motivator and Trust Builder
Your angle of approach can be significantly improved by defining those underlying desires. Look at the example of the jewelry store, and use a little common sense to come up with an angle. Would you focus on how much your customer’s spouse would love a new set of diamond earrings? That would be the surface-level approach to helping them visualize their desired outcome. Your opener could say, “Imagine the look on your wife’s face when she finds out what you did!” The real desire of that buyer is to see their spouse enjoy the gift, and you should remind them of how great that’s going to feel. You could dig deeper than that, and focus on specific situations that determine why they want to give a gift in the first place. The more specific you are, then the more likely you are to get a strong emotional response with your direct response marketing. Maybe husbands are buying jewelry as an apology for spending the weekend with friends. Your angle might sound like, “Let her know you care with these gorgeous diamond earrings.”
Combing Personality Statistics with Desires to Create a Personal Connection with the Reader
In the first step, you defined several personality traits that your target market has in common. Particularly, you probably found out some information about their hobbies that isn’t directly related to the product or service you are selling. Now, that might seem like useless information, but it can be extremely useful with the right application. Keep thinking about that jewelry store example, and pretend that store is right in the middle of Daytona, Florida. The average customer for that business is a 40-year-old married man that hangs out at the Daytona International Speedway on the weekends. They love racing, and they collect model cars as a hobby. The jewelry store doesn’t sell model cars, and their customer’s wives probably wouldn’t be interested in race-car themed jewelry. That doesn’t make the information useless to the jewelry store. All data can be a valuable asset if it’s applied correctly. In this instance, the jewelry store could take advantage of that knowledge by combining it with the first direct response advertising approach. An efficient opener could read, “Show her you care with new diamond earrings before she finds out about your new season pass for the race track.” Alternatively, the sales letter could add a sense of urgency by saying, “You’ll have to buy her two sets of diamond earrings when she finds Your Daytona Speedway Season Pass!” Those are just a few examples of how seemingly useless information could narrow down your direct response marketing for stronger results.
3. Breaking Down an Annoying Problem with a Big Benefit
Pain points during the buying process can seriously reduce the conversion rates for any marketing campaign. It’s important to address any objections that the average buyer may have when thinking about making a purchase. A common way to overcome those issues is by facing the objections directly in the copy, but you’ve got to know what those objections are. Thankfully, you’ve already thought about the desired outcome that your customer wants. You’re halfway there already. Surface level reasons for purchasing aren’t always the most powerful driving force behind a purchase. Your direct response strategy can become more effective as your ad copy becomes more specific. You can focus on the problem your customer is trying to avoid by clearly defining the big benefit you provide. It’s like reverse engineering.
Focus on a Benefit That Relates to Their Underlying Desire
Defining a great benefit as the solution to an annoying problem is dependent on how in-depth you were with understanding the customer’s desires. Take a look at your average eCommerce clothing brand. On the surface level, you might think that the desire of the customer is to just look good. That’s not a very defined desire, and it probably won’t be a very effective angle. If it was that easy, then every ad would read, “Buy this and look great!” It would be safe to assume that there are other fundamental reasons that people buy certain brands of clothing. You’d probably come to the conclusion that a lot of shirts are bought because they relate to a hobby or character that the customer is interested in. Their desire evolves from looking great to supporting an idea or expressing a philosophy. The real desire in that example is to express something personal about yourself. What’s the big benefit of buying a certain shirt? You can show the world who you are before you meet anybody. It can break the ice during a conversation. You can attract like-minded people who are interested in the same ideas. Go back to the jewelry store example from the last section. The motivation isn’t that they want jewelry, and the big benefit isn’t owning the jewelry. The real end-goal is to make their spouse happy, and the big benefit is that they can go to the race track without feeling guilty.
Using the Big Benefit to Determine Their Really Big Problems
There’s almost always a direct correlation between the benefit you can give a customer and their pain-points. They want to meet new people with their interesting t-shirt, and their annoying problem is that they have trouble finding other people they can relate to. One guy wants to keep his partner happy with a new necklace, but the real problem is that his partner feels neglected. One company manufactures golf balls with GPS trackers built-in. The big benefit here is that a golfer can know exactly how well they’re performing, and they might be able to take a few strokes off of their game without spending so much time on the course. Their problem is they don’t have enough time to practice, and they need your gadget to make their time on the green more efficient.
Using Stories to Address Annoying Problems and Gain Trust
A very powerful way of using points of pain to your advantage is by talking about an experience you’ve had with the same problems. It doesn’t have to be a personal experience. You can always refer to someone else, or you can call back to a case study. The key is relating to their problem by bringing it up and showing that you understand how they feel. Even a small mention can work. Let them know that you understand what they are going through. Remind those jewelry buyers how hard their spouse works all week. Throw in a story about your buddy’s wife, and talk about how she felt when he went to the races every weekend. Tell those t-shirt buyers how you didn’t fit in with the rest of the crowd, and talk about that handsome guy you met that liked the Indie rock band on your shirt. Let those golfers know that your uncle Bob only had two spare hours a week to golf, and he still took two strokes off his game. Every piece of data you collect from your target market can be used to build trust and appeal to their personality.
Price Objection is a Qualifier, It’s Not a Problem
In step one, you described the basic statistics of your target market. If you did your job, then you know what the average income of a customer looks like. You also know how much you can expect the average customer in your demographic to spend on a purchase. You’ll constantly see poor-quality sales letters address the price as a pain point in the copy. That is a huge mistake, and it could waste your customer’s valuable attention span. Price should never be focused on unless your intention is to beat out price with the perceived value of your offer. If the price is a real issue, then that person isn’t your ideal customer. If they can’t afford to buy what you are selling, then they can’t become your customers. There’s no point in spending any time at all trying to overcome most cost-related objections.
4. Creating the Opener and Headline
You can brainstorm and summarize the opening header with the simple formula below. Create your own version of it, or add a personal twist. This is just a basic formula you can follow to create an attention-grabbing opener. You could simply fill in the blanks to create a decent header.
How [Ideal Customer] Can Get [Main Benefit] Without [Problem]
Structuring the Opening Sentences
You’ve got plenty of creative freedom with your opening sentences, and you should aim for a very personalized perspective. It’s a good idea to start the first sentence reminding the reader of some positive experiences and associating yourself with it. It’s best to capitalize every word in a headline when writing a sales letter. Check out the examples below.
How Racing Fans Can Enjoy The Speedway And Keep Their Wife Happy Without Feeling Left Out!
Remember that look on her face when you popped the question? It’d be great to see that same smile every day. You want her to feel like you did after the big race Friday night, but she doesn’t like the track. You know, she really deserves something nice, but what does she like?
Into Indie Rock? Make New Friends Without Looking Like A Dork
There’s nothing like going to see your favorite band. Everybody just gets it, and you really feel like you belong. It works the same way when you rep your favorite band with a cool shirt. You meet people just like you.
Working Golfers: Cut Two Strokes Off Your Game Without Quitting Your Job
When you’ve got a whole day on the golf course, it’s like paradise. If you had just one day like that a week, then you wouldn’t have a problem taking a few strokes off your average. You can’t get more time, but you can always get more out of your time on the green. Here’s how my uncle Bob did it last Spring.
5. Writing the Sales Letter Body
The bulk of your sales letter will serve the purpose of building trust and relating to the potential customer. It’s divided up into three main sections, but you don’t necessarily have to separate each section with a sub-header. Keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with breaking grammatical rules when writing a sales letter. Paragraphs can be one sentence long. Incomplete sentences can be effective. Just write naturally, and break the sections up in a way that’s comfortable to read.
Section One: Leading with a Story
This point can’t be stressed enough. You should seriously consider personalizing the sales letter with a real story. It can be anything related to the message you want to get across. Get into the mindset of your potential buyer. If you can’t write from a first-person perspective, then talk about a case study to prove your point. You can also reference historical figures if the story fits the bill. Only use anecdotal evidence if you are writing from your own perspective.
Section Two: Agitate the Problem
This is where you’ll really get them thinking hard about the problem they are facing. Get them to look at the issues head-on. Don’t sugarcoat it. You want to stir up emotions in the reader. You want them to understand that you know how they. Position yourself on the same team as the reader, and share a common enemy with them. Their problem is your problem, and you know how to fix it!
Section Three: Summarize the Benefits as a Solution to Their Annoying Problems
Really bring all your points home, and let the reader know that you completely understand their underlying desires. You want your potential customers to be blown away by how much you can relate to their situation. Your goal is to leave them feeling like you wrote this sales letter especially for them. It’s smart to add bullet points in the middle of this section to keep their attention. List relevant statistics or problems that are common. Three to five bullet points is the sweet spot.
6. Closing Strong
Create a call to action in the last portion of your sales letter. Urge the reader to take immediate action, and to take the next step right now. It’s perfectly natural to be a little pushy. The potential customer has already spent several minutes reading every word in your promotion. If they aren’t ready to make a buying decision, then they will never be ready. Buying now should be the most important takeaway from this section of your sales letter. Put a strong emphasis on it. The majority of your readers will want to buy at this point, but a large portion of them are very likely to put it off for a later time. They are less likely to complete a transaction when they wait longer to take action. Convince them to handle the purchase now.
7. Rewriting the Sales Letter for Performance and Style
You should have anywhere from 500 to 1000 words written for your first draft. The final step to achieve a greats sales letter is rewriting the existing copy. Your first rewrite should focus entirely on cutting down the word count and removing unnecessary sentences. If a section doesn’t add any value to the letter, then cut it out entirely. Any sentences that don’t flow naturally should be reworded for the sake of simplicity. If you find any complex words, then try to replace them with easier to read phrases. You should have a shorter sales letter when you’re done with that first rewrite. The next step is to optimize your letter for style. That includes adding language that would appeal to your ideal customers, and it also includes formatting the sales letter to be more pleasing to the eyes. Add extra line breaks in paragraphs. Use attention-grabbing sentences between paragraphs. Make your sales letter easy to skim through. You should have a very polished sales letter after rewriting twice.
Now, Send Out Your New Sales Letter
You can use your finished writing in a ton of different ways. It can be used as an effective landing page. You can send it out in emails to potential clients. Even mailing printed copies to potential clients can work. Your job now is to take action. Don’t wait around for your sales letter to work magic on its own. That will never happen. You’ve got to get it in front of the people that can buy your product or service. Even the best sales letter won’t make a penny of profit if it’s sitting on your desk. Send it out, and find out what works for you.
If you have any questions, our team would be more than happy to help. Call us today at 215-393-9787.