1. Adapt letter-headed paper
If you’re using company letterhead for direct mail then adapt it to your requirements. The company name and selling benefit should stand out. If you want people to email you, then the email address should stand out. If you want them to phone, then make the phone number prominent. Use the footer as a place to increase sales by drawing attention to a trade association or quality control mark. Make legal information as small as possible.
2. Postal replies
Do you want potential customers to reply by post? Include a pre-paid envelope.
3. Long letters
Don’t be afraid to write long letters (over a page). Nobody will buy something without enough information to make a decision. Keep selling until you have run out of sales points. Every word should be relevant – no rambling.
4. Be friendly
Address your letter to a known person if at all possible because it shows that you care who they are. Second best is to address them by their job or interest, eg. ‘Dear Dog Owner’. The worst salutation is ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
Sign off in a friendly way. Instead of a secretary signing the letter on your behalf, sign it yourself. Include your Christian name and a friendly title. ‘Customer Services Manager’ says that your company cares about its customers.
5. Powerful headlines
At the top of the letter write a headline that communicates the product’s main benefit. It gives the potential customer a reason to read on. Keep it clear and simple – think communication not clever word play.
6. Powerful openings
Grab your reader’s attention. Study magazine articles and newspapers. How do they it? What works? Use your research. Here is a list of letter openers to get you started:
Subheadings make letters digestible. Each subheading should sell the product.
8. Ask for what you want
Don’t beat about the bush. If you want your reader to buy your soaps then tell them so. If you want them to take out a subscription, ask them to sign up (and make it super easy). Ask straight away – don’t leave it until the middle of the letter.
9. Talk benefits
Know the difference between features and benefits. Instead of saying ‘the X65 lawnmower has a barrel of sixty rotating blades’ say ‘the X65 lawnmower develops a healthy lawn within weeks’. Decide which is the most important benefit and put that first. All the other benefits follow.
10. Make it personal
Address the reader as if you were sitting beside them. Make it about them and not you. Every time you write ‘we’ try and change it to ‘you’.
11. Emphasise important points
Emphasise important words by using bold or underline, but don’t overdo it or the power is lost. Indent to emphasise key paragraphs.
12. Make sure the letter flows
Guide the reader gently from one point to another. Sentences should be linked (‘what’s more… ‘, ‘but… ) and ideas should be set out in logical order.
13. Entice the reader to act
Your letter must end with a ‘call to action’. Now you’ve (hopefully!) sold the reader make it easy for them to act. Don’t make it complicated by providing lots of alternatives which involve decisions. Give an incentive too: ‘reply by 20th August and you will receive a free watch’.
14. Provide reassurance
Make sure the reader knows they can’t lose. For instance, say you won’t take payment until the product has been dispatched or that they won’t be charged for 60 days.
15. Use a PS
When you receive a letter do your eyes go straight to the PS? So do your reader’s. There should be a new ‘just remembered’ benefit here to seal the sale.
16. Make it a parcel
You don’t have to send a letter on its own. A creative package is likely to generate a higher response rate. You could include a sample of your product or a promotional item which will be a constant reminder of your company eg. a drink coaster or a pen.
17. Include a reply device
Pre-paid postcards with tick boxes make life easy for potential customers. If you can print their name and address for them, all the better. Reassure people that a salesman will not call and that they are under no obligation to buy.
18. Include an endorsement
Comments from satisfied customers go a long way as do market research statistics: ‘85% of our customers have used us for over 2 years’. Always be truthful. Never be tempted to lie – to do so cheats your customers and undermines your reputation.
19. Involve the reader
Ask rhetorical questions: ‘What would you do if… ? Write questions that potential customers might ask and answer them: ‘How much will it cost?’ Provide an example of a company or individual who reaped the benefits of your product: ‘When James & Son bought our product they halved their production costs in a week’.
20. Overcome objections
Make a list of all the possible reasons your customer might have not to buy. Decide how you would answer these objections and put them in your letter. For example: ‘I can’t afford it now’ could be solved with an easy payment plan. If you think people will want to compare deals with other providers then provide a comparison chart.