Let’s start with what makes up a marketing letter, before discussing how to write one. It consists of a headline, a promise of a benefit, a call to action, and a postscript. Headlines should grab your reader’s attention and include a benefit. Following the headline’s promise of a benefit is an elaboration of how the prospect can benefit from your offer/solution. Next, comes a call to action that gently directs him or her to take the desired action. Last but not least, a good sales letter includes a postscript. Research reveals that this improves response rates.
That’s it in a nutshell. Now, let’s look at how to write a marketing letter that includes these elements.
Marketing Letters that Get Read Have Attention-Grabbing Headlines
Letters typically don’t have headlines, but many do have subject lines. Treat this as your headline. Your letter must have a headline that stands out. You’re competing with hundreds of direct mail letters flooding everyone’s inbox. So your sales letter has to arrest your reader’s attention. Otherwise, it’ll get lost in the sea of direct mail letters.
So how do you do that? I follow a simple formula that works time and time again, the 4 U’s.
· Useful: Your headline must be useful, otherwise why would your prospect read your letter.
· Urgent: Show the importance of acting now – not later – to improve response rates.
· Ultra-specific: You letter must be relevant. The more specificity, the better.
· Unique: Differentiate your offer from the competition, starting with the headline.
A solid headline includes at least three out of these four elements. You’ll find this may take some effort. But top copywriters spend more time crafting their headline that they do on the rest of the letter. After all, if your sales letter isn’t sorted and picked-up from the bulk mail, it won’t be read. That’s why you need to start with an “attention-grabber”.
Oh, if your letter has sub-heads, apply the 4U’s to them as well. They help keep your reader engaged.
Winning Marketing Letters Hold Your Reader’s Attention
Once you have your reader’s attention, you have to keep it. You have to keep her engaged. To do that your lead must tie your offer directly to your headline. It’s a logical link that runs from the headline to the offer.
What will hold your reader’s interest? You must address “What’s in it for me” or “WIIFM”. This ensures usefulness and specificity. That’s two of the 4 U’s.
Show your prospect (don’t tell him) how your offer benefits him. Show your reader using your solution to his benefit. Set a scene in which the prospect sees himself using your solution to make his job faster, easier, better. Doing that ensures you address urgency and uniqueness – the remaining 4 U’s.
With a solid lead, you can now write the rest of your letter as you would any other letter. One caveat: don’t forget to cover the emotional aspects of your offer. Besides writing to the rational brain, you also have to write to the “lizard” brain – the one that reacts and makes decisions based on instinct. It’s a fact that we make decisions emotionally and only then justify them rationally.
Effective Marketing Letters Have a Call to Action
You’d be surprised how many direct mail letters drop the ball here. They fail to have a clear, concise and relevant call to action. One way to avoid this is to start your letter with the call to action in mind. What do you want your prospect to do after reading your letter? Call you? Email you? Return a postcard requesting a white paper?
Focus only on the desired action you want your prospect to take. Keep the offer simple and focus on the essentials. Don’t clutter it with anything else. When you write a call to action, ensure it is clear, concise and engaging.
You also need to make it easy for your prospect to take action. First, keep it short. Aim for brevity to keep your prospect engaged without distraction. Additionally, give her a variety of ways to respond: mail, email, fax, telephone, website landing page. You get the picture.
Marketing Letters with a Postscript (P.S.) Generate Higher Responses
This one’s not tough to do. You should include a P.S. or even a P.S. and a P.P.S. Readers tend to want to get to the bottom line. Consequently, they’ll find themselves reading the P.S. because they expect a nutshell of valuable information here. So give it to them.
Your P.S. can do several things.
· Entice a response – Offer a free giveaway to entice a response.
· Reinforce urgency – Emphasize urgency with a limited time offer.
· Remove or reduce risk – Highlight a rock-solid guarantee associated with your product/service.
· Underscore uniqueness – Explain your key point of differentiation that separates you from the competition.
Successful Marketing Letters Focus on Your Prospect
You can write each one of these elements separately, at different times, but your letter must follow this sequence. It’s a logical flow, but it also emphasizes the potential customer rather than your company.
It begins with your headline, and the 4 U’s help keep you on track with that. Notice how the lead focuses on the prospect. You write about WIIFM. And the call to action is customer-focused as well, as you gently direct him to take a desired action. Then it wraps up with a P.S. that makes it easy for your prospect to take the desired action.
These techniques have developed and perfected over many years. You’ll see improved response rates when you follow these steps.