Pep up your sales letters

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008 at 6:33 PM

I got a great sales letter from catalogue and online clothes company, Boden last week.  “Hello Ms Swift” it opened.  “A few months ago you set our hearts racing by requesting a catalogue full of our lovely clothes.  Since that initial flicker of interest we haven’t heard a squeak.”

It carried on that chatty, light-hearted tone, and offered me £10 off my first purchase.  It was signed by Johnny Boden as are most of Boden’s communications.  If you ring the company and the line is busy, you get a message from Johnny himself.  (Well, I like to believe it’s Johnny).

But back to the letter.  It was informal, personal, friendly and, in the words of Jerry McGuire, it ‘had me at the hello’.  I promptly went online and ordered something.  I know you’re probably sitting there shaking your head thinking it was the discount that pulled me in.  It helped but it wasn’t just that. The letter made me smile and painted a picture of someone I’d like to know.  Importantly, they backed all this up with fabulous, fast service, and a good quality product.

I’m not for one minute suggesting that style will suit all businesses or all customers.  My point is that Boden really know their customer profile and how to engage them.  They’re also not afraid to relax a little.

And you can do that without becoming overly chummy.  Here are ten tips for better letters.

1) Think about the layout. Make it clear and easy to look at by using lots of white space.

2) Use a headline. Headlines grab attention and let your reader know what to expect.  But make it descriptive. Also use headings to break up text.  They help readers to scan copy to find what they want.

3) Think about your opening. How many times have you opened a letter that starts ‘As a valued customer I’m writing to you …’ Not only is it boring, it’s wrong. It means the writer is the valued customer.

Remember Boden’s letter and try something new and more informal.  Instead of ‘we are writing to tell you about our super, fabulous, fantastic, exciting new service for grammar enthusiasts’ how about: ‘We know how much you love grammar and correct use of English, so we know you’ll love our new service’. You can get away with this opening because of course you will have done lots of customer research.

4) Avoid overuse of adjectives such as super, fabulous, fantastic, exciting!

5) Get to the point in the first paragraph – don’t bury your message.

*6) Try using teasers at the end of each paragraph to keep people reading on such as:

But that’s not all …

And here’s why …

So why buy our new product …

Still not sure? How about this …

7) Use plain, everyday words. This doesn’t mean dumbing down: plain words are easier to read in a hurry so your message will come across loud and clear.

8) Don’t use jargon. You may know what you mean by ‘glide path’ or ‘end-to-end deep dives’ but don’t assume your customers will.

9) Keep sentences to a maximum of 20 words. Anything longer becomes too clumsy and long-winded. Keep paragraphs to three sentences. And there’s nothing wrong with a one sentence paragraph – it will stand out.

10) And there’s nothing wrong with starting a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but’.  Use it for impact and emphasis – just don’t over-do it.

* Thanks to Andy Maslen for tip number 6.  I borrowed it from his excellent book ‘Write to Sell’ published by Cyan Marshall Cavendish

Ten tips for a successful e-newsletter | One hundred million trillion ways to sum up your business

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

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