The 3 Ways a Sales Letter Can Fail (and How to Avoid Each)
Sales letters are an essential part of promoting products. And depending on the product, sales letters can be either simple or complex.
For example, an e-mail newsletter is a pretty simple product. You don’t have to devote a lot of space to selling it, especially if it’s free.
Bookkeeping software such as Quickbooks, on the other hand, can be expensive and complex. You’ll need to devote more space to explaining what it does and justifying its expense.
Either way, sales letters succeed or fail based upon three things: the copy, the offer and the list.
I can’t adequately tackle these three concepts in one post, so I’m breaking it down into four–an introductory post (what you’re reading now) and three more posts expanding the three concepts.
Think of it as a sales letter makeover series. Let’s explore each briefly.
One of the prime ways a sales letter fails is when it provides an inadequate offer. What exactly do I mean by “offer”? An offer is what the buyer will get in exchange for giving you something of value.
Let’s use a car wash for example.
In exchange for ten bucks, an automated car wash will wash, rinse and dry your car. Pretty simple. But not very unique.
An innovative car wash operator might throw in a wax job, tire shine and guarantee (if you’re not satisfied you’ll get a free wash), and not raise the price. As you can see, he’s differentiating himself from other car wash operators.
In essence, a sales letter can fail when the offer is weak or missing critical features. Furthermore, the beauty of the offer is that you enhance value by piling on more benefits. More on this in our final post.
When it comes to copy, you, as a writer, have some control — more, in fact, than with the other two components.
Copy usually fails in four predictable ways:
- It makes a weak promise
- It doesn’t paint a convincing picture
- It lacks proof for it’s claims
- It never asks for action
To correct these mistakes you need to think about two things: what problem is this product solving? And the four Ps.
What are the four Ps?
It’s a proven formula for writing a great sales letter.
How does it look in practice? Simple: in your sales letter you should make a compelling and relevant promise, paint a convincing picture of how your product will enhance your customer’s life, provide proof your product can actually deliver on those promises and then push your prospect to respond. More on this in our third post.
The list is nothing more than the group of people who are going to see your sales letter. Unfortunately, if you’re writing for a client, the list is probably the one area that you have the least control over.
A list could be e-mail or blog subscribers. It could be catalog readers. It could be a list a new start-up bought. If you’re writing a script for radio, it’s the people who listen to that show at that time. If it’s television, it’s the people who watch a particular show.
And here’s the thing: the people on that list all share a particular interest in common. That means if you send a sales letter about a cyber-security product to a list of social media wonks–I don’t care how great your sales letter–it will fail.
However, send a mediocre sales letter about a cyber-security product to a list of cyber-security professionals and it will at least do okay. Send a great sales letter to them and you’ll look like a stud.
That’s how important the list is. In the next blog post I’ll tackle the list and show you how to fix a broken list (if it’s yours) and how to avoid writing for a bad list (if it’s for a client).
What sort of problems do you run into when you are writing sales letters? Length? Structure? Getting started? Feedback? Testing it? I would love to hear your thoughts. Brutal and all.
Part of the Sales Letter Makeover Series. Other posts in the series:
- 10 Idiot-Proof Ways to Generate Trust with Your Landing Page Copy
- Everything You Need to Know about Writing Seductive Offers in 7 Easy Steps
- Gimpy Web Copy? Use This 4-Step Copy Formula to Make It Killer
- The List: What Copywriters Have in Common with Jockeys
Image courtesy of Diesel Demon