Writing Sales Letters Customers Want to Read
By Cynthia Perun
The telephone is a great tool for communicating. Since it's used so often, it's easy to be more comfortable speaking on the phone than writing a letter. On the other hand, the written word can be a very powerful medium if used correctly. More specifically, self-storage operators should consider the merits of sales letters, which, if written with flair, are a wonderful way to follow up on sales leads, generate new leads, and keep in touch with current customers.
Following are seven tips to write sales letters more effectively for better results.
- Be the customer as you write.
This is the most important aspect of a good sales letter, but it is often overlooked. It's not hard to accomplish. Simply imagine yourself as the reader of your letter. Write what the customer wants to read--not what you want to say.
Keep in mind that you have a page to attract a customer. The opportunity will be lost if the only emphasis is on the greatness of your storage facility. Telling a customer that your service is wonderful and you've been in business for 20 years will not get them rushing to your door. A customer's main concern is with their belongings and how safe they will be at your storage facility.
In your letter, don't just state, "We've been in business for 20 years." Tell readers that you've gone the extra mile in securing your site. For example, if you've just installed a new gate-access system or closed-circuit TV to help protect their valuables, say it point blank. That way, although you're not promising that they'll never have a problem (which could lead to liability entanglements), you are addressing their need for extra security.
Organize your letter.
Remember when you were in high-school English class and your teacher explained that term papers needed a beginning, a body and then an ending? The same holds true for a sales letter.
The beginning is the introduction. This tells the reader why you're sending the letter. The body is your "sales pitch." This gives the reader the reasons why your offer is irresistible. The ending is a wrap-up stage, where you briefly bring your points together and ask them to take advantage of the offer.
- Write so it is easily read.
Sales letters are thrown away without one word being read simply because they looked too wordy. Today, more than ever, people are very busy. If a letter looks like it will take too long to read, it will be disregarded or set aside, which only means it will be thrown away later.
The first way to make it easy to read is to write in simple language or in a conversational tone. It's not necessary to write in formal language. Don't write, "We will proceed with the contract as previously specified in our meeting last week." Simply say, "We'll go ahead with the contract we talked about." This is much easier and quicker to read.
Second, use short sentences. Once you start writing less formally, you'll also notice your sentences becoming shorter. Continue to shorten sentences by deleting unnecessary words. Try to get your point across with the least amount of words as possible.
Third, write short paragraphs. Long paragraphs are boring. People like to have breaks in their reading. If someone picks up a letter and it has one long paragraph, they probably will not read it. Also, some people only read the beginning of paragraphs. If it's not interesting, they go to the next. Your whole sales pitch could be skipped over because of this.
Fourth, read the letter aloud. If it doesn't flow smoothly and sound natural, rewrite it. Follow your instincts; they're usually correct.
- Capture the reader's attention.
You only have a few seconds to catch the attention of the reader. If you don't succeed, your letter will be "carefully" placed in the circular file. Telling the reader something he wants to know usually works best.
For example, you are going to offer a promotion for a free-month rental with a year agreement. You could start your letter by stating, "We value you as a customer, and that's why we would like to offer you a special promotion. All you need to do is to rent a storage unit for 11 months and we'll give you the 12th month free!" That doesn't capture my attention and make me want to read further.
People want immediate gratification and do not want to wait 11 months for something. A better way to begin your letter might be: "Would you like an additional $100? Of course you would. That's why we're offering this special promotion!" This second example definitely gets the readers' attention. They'll want to read the rest of the letter to find out how to receive the $100.
- Get the reader interested.
This often begins with the opening sentences. We did it with the previous example of offering $100. This statement got the attention of the reader, and it also made the reader interested in how he could receive $100 from a self-storage facility.
Think about the last book you read or movie you saw that you really enjoyed. Chances are you thought it was good because it caught your attention in the beginning and held your interest until the end. This is the same for your sales letter. Build on your sentences and paragraphs so it urges the reader to continue with the letter.
- Have the reader desire your
This is best done when you tell the reader what he wants to hear. And that is, "What's in it for me?" People are bombarded daily with ads, billboards, commercials, direct mail and telemarketers all trying to sell them something. Your sales letter can stand out by not trying to sell them something, but by offering a benefit to them. People do not buy products or services; they buy the benefits they derive from them.
You are not selling a 10-by-10 storage unit. You are selling a safe haven for valuables. Express that in your letter by saying something such as, "Basements can be flooded, garages can receive unexpected visitors, and items can be misplaced at friends' homes. Why trust your precious belongings to any place other than ABC Self-Storage? We can offer you a dry, pest-free, secure location to store even your most prized possessions."
Follow this statement by listing your selling points, such as cost and location. List them in order of importance and then briefly describe the benefits that the reader will receive. This will tell the reader what you will do for him and how accommodating your service will be to his needs.
- Ask your readers to take action.
When you write a sales letter, you're not expecting someone to send a check with a note saying, "Sign me up!" Your sales letter is designed for a specific purpose--to get solid leads.
These leads will not know what you want unless you tell them. If you want them to call you, say that in your letter. Be sure to put your telephone number in large, bold print. If you want them to visit your facility, invite them to stop by. Don't forget to give directions and office hours.
It's also important to prompt your readers to take action right away. The longer it takes them to respond, the less likely they will respond at all. If you're running a promotion, offer the special for a limited time. If you only have five units available, state quantities are limited. This will generate an urgency to follow up on your letter.
Cynthia Perun is president of Creative Communications, a
copywriting and marketing firm specializing in
business-to-consumer and direct-response advertising. She writes
letters, ads, brochures, direct-mail packages and other
promotional material for clients nationwide.
Ms Perun may be reached at P.O. Box 32, Algonac, MI 48001; (810) 794-4070.