If you’re not clearly telling your customers that you understand their problem, that you have a plan to fix it, and what they need to do to get started, you’re leaving a metric buttload of money on the table. A sales letter, used right, can be an incredibly valuable tool to do all of this at the same time.
Whether you put your sales letter out as an email, as an “About Us” page on your site, or as a video script, there are a few components you need to make sure you include to really get the most impact. First, let’s take a look at why you’d even want to write one in the first place.
What’s a sales letter, and why does it matter?
A sales letter (wait for it) is a letter you use to drive sales in your business.
Who’d have thought?
It’s a fully distilled message that takes your customer through a story of what they want, what’s stopping them from getting it, why you’re the right person to help them, what the plan is, what they need to do now, and what life will look like once they succeed, or if they fail to fix their problems.
There’s no fluff, no wasted words, no wasted energy. Just the facts, please.
Once you’ve got your customer’s attention, a well-written sales message is all you need to close the deal. And when you’re smart about how you put it out, it will work for you even while you sleep.
So how do we write one of these things? Let’s break it down. I’ve also included an example with each step, for a marketing agency targeting local business owners looking to bring in more customers.
Write a Sales Letter, Step 1: Call out the Audience
When your customers land on your website or open your email, the first thing they’re wondering is whether or not they’re in the right place, so you’ve gotta let them know. If they don’t immediately sense that they’re in the right place, they’re out.
You can call them out directly:
Ex. “Attention Local Business Owners!”
Or indirectly, using pictures and words that they identify with. Another great way to do this is by asking questions that your audience would answer yes to, but no one else would:
Write a Sales Letter, Step 2: Write a How-To Headline
This is the most important piece of copy on the entire page, because it’s the first thing people will be reading. You need to spend time and energy getting this part right. This isn’t the time to be clever - it’s time to be simple, clear, and direct. Here are a few formulas for how you can structure your headline:
- How to get [desired result] in [time period]
- How to [desired result] like [world class example]
- How to turn [blank] into [desired result]
- How to [desired result] when you’re not/even if [blank]
- How to make people line up and beg to [blank]
- How to fast-track [desirable result]
- How to become [desired result], even when you [challenge]
- How to build a [blank] you can be proud of
“How to Get New Customers, Even With No Marketing Budget”
Write a Sales Letter, Step 3: Write a Sub-Headline
This is the next line below your headline - its purpose is to support the claim or promise you made in your headline. You can structure it something like these examples:
- Discover how quickly you can [desired result]
- Learn how easily you can [desired result]
- You too can have [desired result] in [short time period]
- How [impressive number] got [desired results] in [short time period]
- A simple way to [desired result] even if you [something challenging]
- What everybody ought to know about [blank]
- Little known ways to [desired result]
- Learn to [desired result] without losing [something desirable]
“What every local business owner needs to know about effective advertising”
Write a Sales Letter, Step 4: Write an Introductory Paragraph
The formula for your introductory paragraph is simple:
Goal + Problem + Agitate + Solution = Introduction
In this step, you’re going to want to pinpoint your customer’s desire - this is what they want. When you use the StoryBrand framework for your messaging, the first step is always to identify what the customer wants to achieve or get.
“As a local business owner, you’re always looking for ways to grow your business by bringing in new customers”
Identify and Agitate the Problem
Then, we’ll identify and agitate the problem that’s stopping our audience from getting what they want - this happens on a few different levels:
- What do they have that they wish they didn’t have? Or, what do they wish they had that they don’t? We call this the External Problem. It’s the physical, tangible thing that’s in the way of their goals.
- “But you don’t have a huge marketing budget or money to spend on ads and marketing that doesn’t work.”
- How does that problem they’re experiencing make them feel? How does it affect the way they go about their day-to-day life? We call this the Internal Problem. It reflects their reaction to and feeling about the thing that’s standing between them and their goals.
- “So you’re left feeling stuck and you don’t do anything at all. And that’s really frustrating, because you know that if you could get the word out about your business, you could really change people’s lives.”
- Why is it just plain wrong that your customer is having to deal with this problem - what do they deserve when it comes to the goal you help them reach? What isn’t fair about what’s happening to them now? How does it affect their status - the way they see themselves and the way others see them? This is called the Philosophical Problem.
- “And that isn’t fair. You’ve got a powerful message and a valuable service, and you deserve to have a clear, simple way to get that message to your customers. And your customers need you - they deserve to know you’re there for them. So you should have a marketing plan that works to connect you with the people who need you.”
Present a Solution
Now that you’ve made it clear you know what they want and why they’re having such a hard time getting it, presenting a solution has to hit two important key positions:
- Empathy: Show that you understand them and what they’re going through, and then let them off the hook for what they’re experiencing. It’s important that your customers know that they’re not alone and that their pain isn’t their fault.
- “We get it - you didn’t start your business to learn how to be a marketer. You’re great at what you do, the service you provide. This is by far the most common problem business owners experience - there’s just so much to do that working on the things that grow your business always get pushed to the back burner.
- Authority: Show that you’re capable of helping them fix their problems.
- Imagine you’re meeting with a personal trainer and tell her you’d like to lose about 30 pounds. She nods, thoughtfully, looks back at you, smiles gently, and says, “Me too.” She’s just demonstrated empathy but no authority. That’s not the trainer you’re going to hire.
- The ways you can demonstrate that authority are with testimonials, credentials, and specific proof of results.
- “We’ve been in business for more than 14 years and in that time have helped over 300 companies double their revenue, across more than 25 different industries.”
Write a Sales Letter, Step 5: Communicate How Easy or Fast It Will Be
Let your customers know that the process of working with you will be simple, effective, and will give them results quickly. If they feel like they’re going to have to go too far out of their way, change too many habits, or put forth too much effort or time, they’re not going to do anything.
You’ve got to give them quick results that don’t take a lot of work on their end.
“94% of our customers see a full return on their investment in the first two months, and after that, it’s all profit. The best part is that after our initial meeting, once you turn things over to us, we do all the heavy lifting and you get all the benefit. You don’t have to lift a finger.”
Write a Sales Letter, Step 6: Paint a Picture of the Future
You want to use sensory image - touch, smells, tastes, sights, and sounds - that allow them to imagine what life will be like when they’re successful.
“Imagine how it will feel to sit down to work on exactly what you want to be doing, free of worry about where the next customer is coming from. You’ll sleep better at night knowing that you’ve got marketing that works for you automatically.”
Write a Sales Letter, Step 7: Write Clear Bullet Points About The Benefits
Shoot for 3-5 really compelling bullet points that give your customer an idea of the benefits they’ll experience. Remember that your messaging is all about them, never about you. That means talking about the features of your product or service isn’t what they want. It’s not “here’s what our product can do.” It’s “here’s what you can do with our product.”
- People don’t buy day care for their kids - they buy relief from the guilt of having to work.
- People don’t buy gym memberships - they buy the confidence that comes from a body they’re proud of.
- People don’t buy gold watches - they buy the status that comes from wearing that watch.
When in doubt, ask yourself - “How does my customer transform by buying my product or service? Who do they become?”
“Free yourself from the to-do list that never ends - focus on what you do best and turn your marketing over to the experts.”
“Bring home more money than ever with less work”
“Don’t be held hostage by your business - get to work on your business and stop working in it.”
Write a Sales Letter, Step 8: Show Proof
You’ve made a lot of big promises - now it’s time to back up all that talk with real results and proof. Here’s how:
- Demo physical products through video or images doing the things you said it would do. Think knives cutting through nails or a cleanser removing a red wine stain.
- Social proof - Testimonials that fortify the claims you’ve made. Mention how many other people have benefited from your solution.
- Data/Research - Use data and research from reputable sources to substantiate your claims.
- Use borrowed credibility - use info from reputable sources - find info from the New York Times, CNN, or trade associations. This is a great solution if you’re newly in business and don’t have a lot of your own results or testimonials.
The higher the risk, the higher the cost to your customer, the more proof your buyer will need. There’s a lot more thought put into buying a car than a pack of gum.
“David’s Auto Body Shop was able to double their revenue after just 6 months working with us. Here’s what he had to say about the marketing plan we built for him:
‘Honestly, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. We sat down for a meeting and the next thing I knew, customers started rolling in. Two weeks in, I had made my money back, and I’m taking my family on a two week cruise next month, knowing full well that new customers will keep coming even while I’m gone.’
Write a Sales Letter, Step 9: Make an Offer
Now is the time where you show the customer EXACTLY what they’re going to get if they do business with you. What deliverables will they receive if they spend money? This needs to be very clear and compelling. It can be really helpful to have a name for your offering.
- Are you going to ship them something? How long will it take to get there? What will it be?
- Are you going to do some one-on-one training? How will it be delivered? How long are the trainings? How often?
- Are you going to provide a service? How long will it take?
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and imagine what questions they’ll have at this point. Answer those here.
“We’ll sit down for a 90-minute Strategy Session to get really clear on your goals and current marketing plan. At that meeting, we’ll decide what your business’ best first step is to get the best results the fastest, and we’ll get right to work on creating your business’ Success Roadmap, a plan we can execute for you in order to grow your business.
Within a week, your marketing will be live and you’ll be reaching new customers with effective messages that drive them to action. Each month, we’ll deliver a detailed report about exactly where your marketing dollars are being spent and how much they’re putting back into your pocket.”
Write a Sales Letter, Step 10: Add Bonuses
Additional services or items that have some element of scarcity attached to them will almost certainly increase your response. Let your customers know that these special offers won’t be available forever or that you only have a certain amount that you can offer.
“Just to sweeten the deal, the first 10 new clients will receive 6 months of messaging coaching from us to make sure that every piece of content you create, every email, Facebook post, blog post, is aligned with your audience and business’ goals.”
Write a Sales Letter, Step 11: Reveal the Price
Just let them know what they can expect to pay at this first step - you can do that outright or by comparing it to something they’d already be buying.
“All you’ll pay for your 90-minute Strategy Session and Success Roadmap is $499. You’ll walk away with a clear guide to your brand’s messaging and a plan for marketing success. At that point, you can decide to continue working together, implement it on your own, or even bring it to another marketing firm (not that we’d recommend that option…)”
Write a Sales Letter, Step 12: Inject Scarcity
Let them know that they need to take action now - if they wait, they’re probably gone. Let your customers know that you only have a certain number to sell, are only offering this service for a limited time, or are only accepting a certain number of new clients.
This is additional scarcity on top of the scarcity you attached to your special bonuses a few steps ago.
“We’re only able to accept 25 new clients right now, so you need to take action and schedule your Strategy Session today.”
Write a Sales Letter, Step 13: Remove the Risk
Your goal here is to completely remove any fear your customer has about doing business with you and give them a feeling of security about making a purchase. There are a few ways to do that:
- Offer a Free Trial
- Provide a Guarantee
- Provide a Return Policy
- Use Trust Seals (Trade associations, BBB, Secure checkout seals, etc.)
“If you’re not completely satisfied with our work together, let us know and we’ll get it right. And if we can’t get it right, we’ll give you all your money back.”
Write a Sales Letter, Step 14: Make a Call to Action
Tell them exactly what you want them to do. Don’t be timid. This should be a simple statement, phrased as a command.
“Click the Book Appointment button now and schedule your Strategy Session.”
Write a Sales Letter, Step 15: Add a P.S.
When you write long-form sales letters like this, a lot of people are just going to scroll straight to the bottom of the page where they can see the offer and the price. This P.S. is a great opportunity to wrap up everything you said above into a simple paragraph that explains your offer.
Summarize the high points - make sure to include:
- Major benefits
- Major proof points
- Risk Reversal
- Scarcity or Urgency
“P.S. Our Success Roadmaps have been implemented across dozens of industries to give local business owners their time and financial freedom back. We know it will be a great fit for your business too, but if it’s not, you’ll get all your money back. We’ve only got space for 25 new clients though, so schedule your Strategy Session now.
Write a Sales Letter, Step 15: Add Some FAQs
If there are any questions you find yourself answering over and over that you haven’t had a chance to address, or things that you feel like your customers may be asking right off the bat and you want to answer again, this is the space for that. Failing to address your audience’s concerns will ultimately mean they don’t take action.
Answer questions like:
- “What is this?"
- “Why [cost]?"
- “Is there a guarantee?"
- “How long will it take to get it?"
Final Steps in your Sales Letter - Refine your Writing
Once you’ve gone through every step, take a note from Hemingway, who advised us to “write drunk, edit sober.” Even if you didn’t get the memo and happened to write sober, edit carefully. Here are a few main points to consider:
- Rewrite your headline and subheadline – Generally, after writing the rest of your letter, the headline and subheadline need to be tinkered with.
- Clarify Your Introductory Paragraph – The first paragraph in your sales letter needs to be awesome. Make sure that you identify and agitate the problem. And, be sure you provide a clear solution that doesn’t reveal too much about your actual offer.
- Clean Up Your Credibility – Your customer knows they have a problem, but you’ll need to prove to them that you’re the one to solve it. Make sure you look and sound trustworthy.
- Do Your Bullets Talk About Benefits? – You have 3 to 5 bullet points. Make sure they’re clear about the benefits your customers get when they do business with you.
- Add proof – The more proof the better. Especially with higher cost, higher risk offers.
- Clarify the offer – The more detailed, the better. Your customers want to know exactly what they’re getting and when.
- Rework the P.S. – Make sure your P.S. hits the high points effectively and summarizes your offer in a clear, compelling paragraph. You’ll have people skip to this section A LOT. Make sure it can stand alone to convince people to at least scroll back up to the top and read the whole thing.
Once you’ve refined and edited your letter, you can send it out as part of an email series, put it on a landing page or thank you page once customers have opted into your lead magnet, or break it up and build different sections on your home page.
If you have questions about writing your sales letter or how to use it effectively in your marketing, there are a lot of good answers but no one size fits all solution. But if we sit down for a Strategy Session we can come up with a custom plan that’s right for growing your business.