Copywriting – how to write a gripping letter

A well-crafted sales letter or marketing letter can have an extraordinary result. This is why copywriters are paid so much for their work – far more, for example, than famous fiction authors.

A top copywriter gets around £800 a day. So why are they paid so much?

Like most things in business, it’s about profit.

The well-crafted letter can achieve three times more revenue than a letter produced in-house. A first effort will look fine to the untrained eye. It’s only when the results come in that questions are raised. So why does one letter work so much better than the next — and go on working for years?

A professional copywriter can increase business significantly. He or she is trained to spot the trigger points that will catch the interest of your prospects – and increase response.

However, most businesses do not use a copywriter – they write their sales letters themselves. Some lucky businesses can do this – they simply explain what they offer and customers buy their product.

Most, however, especially those selling an intangible product such as advice or a business service, need an expert salesperson to bring in orders. And that is what a good letter is – an expert salesperson.

In this article we reveal the method used by one of the UK’s most successful copywriters to write effective sales letters.

The art of successful communication
The first principle of communication is:

‘It’s not what you say, but what the listener hears that’s important’.

These are very often two different things. You cannot assume the listener or reader is automatically tuned in to you and your message. With copywriting, it’s what the reader gets out of the letter that’s important.

Three vital components
Here are three vital components you must include:

1. The benefit: the reader immediately wants to know “What’s in it for me?” You must, therefore, make your proposition as clear and relevant as possible. Your Unique Selling Point (USP) or prime benefit needs to be instantly communicated, which is why it usually goes in the headline

2. Risk reversal: the reader will then want to know “what’s the risk?” How you handle the reader’s caution about spending money or making a commitment will directly affect response to your letter. It is also often necessary to explain what the reader will loose out on, or suffer from not responding

3. Handling objections and questions: the reader will have a number of objections and questions that need addressing. This is the bit that so many writers just don’t address at all

The better your reader is tuned in to the advantage of responding, and the better you minimise his risk in doing so, the more response your promotion will achieve.

What is your Unique Selling Proposition?
Most of us have heard the phrase ‘*USP*’. But there is often confusion over its nature.

Below, we show answers to the USP question, posted on the Marketing Profs website

The Marketing Professors site provides marketing advice to Internet and offline marketers. It has a useful free discussion forum and it’s always an education to visit it. Here are two extracts from answers to the question posed by a member:

Q: ‘What is Unique Selling Proposition and Unique Value Proposition?’

A: ‘Unique Selling Proposition is a theme developed to inject a personality into a brand. It could be the main benefit from the brand. It is a plan to create perception in the mind of consumer. A shampoo may have USP of cleaning the hair, or clearing the dandruff.’

A: ‘Another major aspect of a USP (unique selling proposition) is that it is something distinct that gives you a competitive advantage. You may sell a soft drink, which has the benefit of great taste, but if you competitors offer this as well, it’s not so unique.’

The second writer is a bit closer, but none of those examples could be USPs.

A USP must be unique or it isn’t a USP. Cleaning hair and clearing dandruff are both common features of shampoo, so they don’t qualify.

If it were a shampoo that made straight hair curly – now that would be a USP. A soft drink with a great taste doesn’t qualify either. A soft drink that contained all your daily vitamins or minerals — that would be a USP.

Drafting the perfect sales letter — 10 rules
The best letters follows certain rules. The first rule is to never ever break a rule unless you have successfully tested an alternative! Your letter should:

1. Read like a personal business letter. In the UK, it’s best not to include too much sales talk

2. Use a common typewriter face like Courier – not a typeset face like Times New Roman. There is often lots of argument about this one, but it’s pretty pointless.

3. Offer a specific and unique benefit in the headline

4. Swiftly get to the point in clear language

5. Show an understanding of what motivates the reader

6. Include endorsements and examples of how the product or service has helped others

7. Incorporate copywriting tricks to ensure all main benefits are communicated (these are often trade secrets!)

8. Demand attention and action

9. Make a strong offer, summarised in a coupon

10. Give a deadline

Writing your sales letter – some pitfalls
Here is some advice from more than twenty years of testing:

Tone: write on a one-to-one basis as though you are writing to a favourite client – be formal, but friendly and enthusiastic. Be yourself. Avoid American style ‘sales-speak’, which doesn’t go down well over here

Design: do not try to make the letter ‘interesting’ by using different typefaces, colours, and illustrations. The letter must look like a normal, personal business letter. Save your design efforts for your brochure

Concept: the aspect of copywriting that takes the most time is researching and creating the ‘concept’ – the main idea behind the promotion that captures the reader’s attention and interest

Humour: avoid humour. Selling may be fun, but it’s a serious business!

Length: contrary to popular opinion, long letters bring more response. A letter should be as long as it needs to be to explain all the benefits you offer

Testing: always test your letter on a representative number of prospects before ‘rolling out’ to large numbers

Finally, it is not necessary to be original, so don’t try to be. If you see a form of words in a letter or advertisement that appeals to you, borrow them!

If you go to the website, they have softeware that guides you to producing effective copy:

Sales and marketing letters