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Copywriting- Top 10 Tips on Sales Letter Writing


by Larry Chase



As publisher of Web Digest For Marketers, I see what works in ad copy and what doesn't. One thing that works very well are stand-alone email mailings using direct sales letter copy techniques. 


Hereunder are some observations and experiences, and effective practices I've noticed, along with time-honored practices that I've gleaned from DM Copy Masters, such as Mac Ross, Dan Kennedy, Robert Collier, Ted Nicholas, Eugene Schwartz, Jay Abraham and David Garfinkel:

1. Testimonials: This may be the most powerful tool in your copy toolkit. Why? Because other people can say things about you and your products/services that would sound bombastic if those words came from you directly. Give the full name, title and company of the person who says nice things about you. Also, let them be very specific as to why they think so much of you and your products. Truth lives in the details. For examples on how I've used testimonials and case histories from WDFM advertisers, visit http://wdfm.com/sponsor.html#test. 

2. Talk To Me, Not At Me: Your copy should be in dialog with the reader. Most copy I see out there talks at the reader and is insulting to read. Empathize with the reader.

3. Must-Read Headlines: The job of the headline is to get the reader so intrigued that he or she has no choice but to read the first line of copy. The job of the first line of copy is to get the reader to read the second line of copy, and so on. This isn't accomplished with clever word-plays or acrobatics, but rather a direct appeal to the hot buttons within the reader which you've previously identified. That reader, all readers, all people, operate out of their own self-interest. Appeal to that self-interest.

4. The Offer: Make your offer so good, so juicy, that your readers are going to feel awful if they don't pull the trigger and buy what you are offering.

5. Act Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Give believable incentives as to why the reader should act, right then and there. Make it so there isn't a second thought: your reader should stop what he or she is doing and go pell-mell to buy your product/service. If he or she puts it aside for later consideration, you've probably lost the sale.

6. Use Action Words: Make your copy exciting and sizzling with immediacy. By this I don't mean you should throw hyperbole at them -- quite the contrary. State of being- or passive verbs lose a sense of urgency.

7. Use a P.S.: After the salutation, the P.S. is typically the most read element of a sales letter. I notice the most amount of clicks from the Johnson box (see below) at the top of the sales letter, and the line in the P.S. at the bottom. The P.S. usually restates the entire offer and maybe throws in some added incentive to take action now.

8. Write For the Want, Not For the Need: Even in B2B marketing, people buy on emotion, and use the logical arguments to rationalize the purchase later.

9. The Shape of the Offer: Many DM'ers agree that the most important elements in order are the selection of the list (i.e. the choosing of your marketplace), then your offer, and then your copy. So, while many people spend all their time honing their copy, they spend little or no time fashioning the actual offer. It's a good idea to state crisply the value proposition: Exactly what your reader is getting for the money.

10. Johnson Box: This was an invention of the late Frank Johnson of Time Inc. It's a pithy paragraph or two in a box at the top of a sales letter that states what the offer is and the call-to-action. I sometimes call this the "Give-It-To-Me-Quick" box. In a solo email blast, the Johnson box should fit nicely into the confines of the reader's auto-preview box, so that if they scroll no further, they've got your offer.

11. Bonus Tip: People love the "fun stuff," that is, what they get for free. I've found they often read the free bonuses before opening and inspecting the core product they've bought. It helps if you make the perceived value of those bonuses equal to or more than the cost of the core product.

Good luck with your sales letter writing. I am spellbound by the possibilities and permutations. I started out as a branding writer 20 years ago. I've won awards for that work from all the major creative shows. But I find this type of writing much more rewarding, perhaps because there are immediate and measurable results. There is no room for hubris or ego in this type of copywriting. Good luck. LC

PS: Interested in having us send your stand-alone email message to WDFM Subscribers? Mailto:[email protected] for the latest data card. I promise I will offer you brutally frank and constructive input on your copy should you mail to this list.

Larry Chase is the author of "Essential Business Tactics For The Net", and publishes the highly-respected 'Web Digest For Marketers' Newsletter. You can subscribe for free at http://wdfm.com

Selling software on the Net? Infoproducts? A service? Million dollar cables for suspension bridges? If you want to sell more, use the right words. Because words sell, not graphics. MYWS! will fill you with a mission-critical skill, writing to sell on the Net.


Why not take the FREE Netwriting Masters Course?



If you're looking for a copywriting course, or a copywriting book, Make Your Words Sell! is for you.


Be sure to check out Joe Robson's article 'How To Write Invisible Sales Copy'.


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