Savvy sales letters for sticky times.

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Pitney-Bowes did a study some time ago that showed that 90% of small businesses who used direct mail found it to be their most financially rewarding marketing strategy.  Other studies show that at least 68% of customer attrition can be ascribed to vendor neglect, i.e. where the vendor simply neglects to communicate with customers on a regular basis.

Now that we have the facility of adapting many direct mail strategies to the internet, there’s no excuse for small businesses to lose up to 68% of their customers because they ‘can’t afford’ direct mail.

The old saying that ‘the squeeky wheel gets the grease’ is certainly true when it comes to customer relationship management.  And as customer relationship management is a strategy used to ultimately grow sales, this saying is also true when it comes to sales.

If you want customers and prospects to buy from you, you first have to get in front of them.  One of the most effective ways of doing so is with good sales letters.  Sales letters can take many forms.  They can use a low-key news or educational approach, or they can be hard-hitting powerful sales pitches.  There’s a place for both approaches and many others that fall between those extremes.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at one way to make sales letters effective and have readers look forward to them, rather than resenting them as ‘junk mail’.

This powerful approach is something I call the ‘by association’ technique.  It’s not the easiest technique to use, but when done properly can create an amazing response.  Here’s how it works:

  1. identify common ground as a foundation to establish an immediate rapport and credibility with your reader
  2. pinpoint issues which are of significant annoyance to your reader i.e. pet peeves common to the ‘group’ you’re addressing
  3. point out all the ways that these peeves are negatively impacting the reader
  4. offer them your product / service as the solution to their problem.

Obviously, this is a lot easier said than done, but it’s worth considering this technique because the response (and rewards) can higher and more rapid than with many other sales letter techniques.  Think about it:  if you’re riled up about something already and someone commiserates you who’s in the same boat, then shows you how they’ve gained a victory over the ‘enemy’ (problem), you’ll more than likely listen and consider their proposal seriously.

Here’s an example of how this works:

Dear fellow tax-payer,

It just isn’t fair that we have to work until July for the government before we can put a cent of our hard-earned cash – the fruits of our labor – into our own pockets while the fat-cat bankers are pocketing billions of our moneyeven throwing it away – without the slightest accountability or remorse….”

Before the reader has finished the first paragraph, they’re already irate!  They also know that you’re on their side – you’re one of them!  And you hate the inequity of the financial system that’s taxing them while it’s letting criminal bankers get away with murder.  You understand their pain, because you’re feeling it yourself.

The letter goes on to describe ways that you already have, and they can immediately, if they take your advice, gain victory over the system and invest so that they end up with more money in their pocket.

By setting the stage with you on the same ‘team’ as they are, you have a very high likelihood that they will consider your proposal seriously.

Now obviously, most businesses don’t have something as easy to dramatize as the example.  However, if you search carefully, you will no doubt be able to find some common ground.  Look for common associations, careers, hobbies etc.  Anything that will let you identify with the people you’re selling to.  Associations that allow you to ‘understand their pain’ and position your product or service as a solution.  If you simply don’t have any common ground at all, consider recruiting someone who does who can act as the ‘spokesperson’ on your behalf.

The point is that by creating common ground, a common ‘enemy’ (it’s us against them!) and a viable solution, you’re far ahead of the game than you would be if you tried to simply pitch your product or service.

This also works for the low-key news or educational approach. A great example I saw recently was Bob Bly’s article “Why clients rewrite copy“.  I don’t know any copywriter that could see that headline without an immediate response along the lines of “Huh! yeah, been there alright!” followed by incedulity that a client would actually rewrite Bob Bly’s copy!  Followed by the need to read that article to find out why and how (possibly) to solve that problem! (I nearly said ‘get revenge’ but I thought that might make me seem a bit scary!  Just kidding!)

Why not look for ways you can use this in your business? Post your comments or questions below.  I’d love to hear about your experiences with this.

Similar subjects:

Creating credible sales messages

Salesmanship in Print

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