How to Start Your Sales Letter With a Bang

start sales letter
If you’re writing a marketing letter (or an email) the most important thing is to get the reader to open the envelope or the email.

But how do you start your sales letter? What do you do to make sure your headline grabs attention and your letter gets read, instead of being tossed in the trash?

Read on to find out.

Speak directly to your readers

Words like “you” and “your” send the message that you’re addressing the reader’s problems and concerns, rather than talking at them. It creates the feeling that you’re having a conversation, unlike “I” (which is more like a speech).

Keep the sentences and paragraphs short, so they’re easy to read and digest. Use that first sentence to introduce the conversation you’d like to have, and explain why the reader should keep reading.

Ignite curiosity

20 Ways to Market Your Business For Free

“Free” is a powerful attractor.  Nearly everyone likes to get something without paying for it, especially something valuable.  In this case, the only way to find out how to get the valuable information (free ways to market your business) is to keep reading.

Ask a question that you know your reader will agree with

Are you tired of spending money on IT support that leaves your wallet empty and your computer full of viruses?

Many people, and companies, have spent money on IT consultants who were unreliable, or left their systems in worse shape than they were when they started (I know this personally, since my brother is an IT consultant who frequently has to swoop in and clean up other IT guys’ messes).

Malfunctioning computers can make it nearly impossible for your business to run properly, so your readers will be eager to learn what they can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to them again.

Start with “because”

Because you’ve been a cardmember for 10 years, we’d like to reward you with a free gift.

“Free” is great, but sometimes people are skeptical.  They wonder why you are offering them something, out of the blue.  Using a word like “because” gives them a reason for your generosity.  You want to reward their loyalty and their business with a gift. They will keep reading because they want to find out what the gift is, and how to get one.

Address skepticism about your product

f  you’re selling something that people may have negative feelings about (such as email marketing), often the best approach is to address the issue head on.  Admit up front that there is a problem.  Then, agree with the problem (which your readers won’t expect).

Email marketing is just junk and a waste of time.  The truth is, I agree with you. The problem with most marketing is……What makes this different is…..

If most email marketing products are hard to use, explain why yours is easy. If other SEOs rely on underhanded “black hat” tricks to get links, show how your methods are completely above-board (and loved by Google).

Use memories and imagination

Conjure up a picture in the reader’s mind and tell a story:

It was 1945, the war was over and my dad, Ed Cushman, had just opened a small store and fruit packaging plant here in West Palm Beach. One night (a night never to be forgotten by anyone in our family), everyone was waiting for a truck load of grapefruit. When it finally arrived, my dad took one look and said, “What the devil is this?”

[They were Honeybell oranges; and when I tasted my first one, I said pretty much the same thing…what was that??!. It was sweet, juicy, and unlike any other orange I ever ate!].

To sum up:

Speak to your readers directly

Give reasons why you’re making the offer.

Address any bad feelings your readers may have about your service

Tell an interesting story.

Photo: mandj98

The One Rule Your Marketing Writing Must Follow

one marketing ruleYou hear it often.

Everyone seems to agree on it.

It’s the only way that you’ll get attention. If you don’t follow this rule, your sales letters won’t be read, your posts will be abandoned, and your emails will sit unopened and unloved.

It’s funny how everyone says the same thing, and repeats it knowingly.

It’s too long

They said the same thing in Claude Hopkins’ day, back in 1920. People won’t read it. You have to write shorter sales letters or posts. People have short attention spans.  If you write something too long, nobody will read it. Some bloggers go so far as to include word counts and estimated reading times on their posts (don’t worry, I’ll only take up 3:31 of your time!). There’s even an internet abbreviation: TL, DR (too long, didn’t read).

It’s a trap

Readers avidly devour each Game of Thrones installment, despite the fact that the books are  about 1,000 pages long. A friend told me she read Shantaram in a few days (even though it’s 944 pages), because she was so entranced by it.

It’s not the length

The length of your email or sales letter, or post, isn’t what stops people from reading all of it. People don’t turn away because something is long. They leave because it’s dull. If you keep your readers’ interest, they’ll read every word. Bore them, and they’re gone.

Format for the screen

If you’re used to print, you will need to make a few changes for the web.  Break up the paragraphs into smaller pieces.  Use more line breaks, and more subheads.  It’s easier to read on a screen that way.

Good enough to share

Memorable, interesting posts (even ads) get shared, read, or watched over and over.  The length isn’t relevant. Don’t worry if it’s long; just make it interesting.

Meanwhile, if you could get George R.R. Martin to write faster, I’d appreciate it!

Photo: walknboston on flickr

How to Write Ad Copy That Keeps Your Prospects Entranced

write entrancing ad copyMonday, I showed you two ads, one by Samsung and one by Apple.

Both are about electronics.  Both have multi-million dollar campaigns behind them, sponsored by large well-known companies.

What’s the difference?

The Samsung ad starts off, “Nobody aspires to be second best, or make an average entrance…”  Good, it’s telling me that I can be better than average! Unusual and remarkable.

Samsung loves themselves

But towards the end, it goes off the rails. It turns all of that into an ode to themselves, rather than about the people buying the phone.

“We have the best and brightest screen on our fastest phone ever.  Because we’re Samsung, and that’s just the way we’re wired.”

The phone spins. You see the logo over and over, while the announcer repeats the product name.

Lastly, the words “The Wonder of Samsung” appear on the screen, along with the logo, and those of retailers that sell the phone.

You’re not better, Samsung is better.

Apple loves their audience

In contrast, the Apple ad says,  “Are you curious about new ideas? Do you want to learn a new language? Or just a new word? ..Uncover a hidden talent?  There has never been a better time to learn.”

The announcer never mentions the name of the product or who makes it.  He never says “we” or “our” only “you.”

The Apple logo and the words “Ipad2″ show up only briefly, at the end.

The entire experience is about the viewer.

And that’s why it works.

Focus on your audience

Run the one-minute marketing test on your ad or your email or your web page.  See who you’re really talking about.

Write ad copy and promote your products and services to fulfill your audience’s desires, what they want to achieve, or save, or earn. They’ll be entranced.

Photo: Broderick via Flickr

Have You Made This Common Web Writing Mistake?

writing web copyHave you done this?  It’s a common web writing mistake, and something that many companies, both large and small, often get wrong.

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but it can be a disaster.  Doing it can drive readers away from your site, reduce sales, and lower the time visitors spend looking at your site.

Luckily, it’s something that is fairly easy to fix, once you realize you’re doing it.

The gobbledygook trap

Can your readers understand your site? Do they find what they need easily? Or does it need a translator?

I don’t mean Google translate, or even copy that’s in two languages, such as English and Spanish.  I mean translation from “geek” to English, or “designer” to English, or even “web developer” to English.

Can your customers understand your web site?

Here’s some sample copy from Microsoft’s web site (for Word, under the heading “Work Together More Successfully”)

If you work for a company running SharePoint Foundation 2010 this functionality can be used within the firewall. With Microsoft Lync and Office Communicator now integrated throughout several Office 2010 programs, you can view presence information that shows the availability of other authors and initiate instant messaging or voice calls directly from Word.

That paragraph is written in English. I haven’t the foggiest idea what the heck it means.  And I speak conversational geek.  It may make sense to the head of IT, but surely there are other people who use Word and would like to be able to collaborate with their colleagues and clients.

Simple, clear copy

On the other hand, here’s a sample from Apple’s site for Pages  (under “Advanced Writing Tools”):

When it’s time for comments and feedback, change tracking makes collaboration with anyone easier, clearer, and more concise. And it’s always easy to find your place. Next to your document, you see thumbnails of all your pages and sections, including changes that have been made. Quickly copy or delete a section. Or drag and drop to move sections around. Scroll through thumbnails to preview your document or enlarge them for a better view.

That’s English.  I can understand that.  No translation or IT degree needed.

How does your site measure up?

Is it closer to Microsoft? Or more like Apple? Does it talk a lot about pixels and HTML5? Is there lots of discussion about rendering or APIs?

More importantly, will your intended (or current) clients and prospects be able to understand it?  It’s OK to use a bit of jargon if you’re certain your audience knows exactly what you mean.  Otherwise, take it out.

The more friction there is, the more likely readers will leave, bounce, or click somewhere else.

Go over your copy, or get a professional to go over it for you.  See what a difference clear language makes.

Image via Wikipedia.

10 Virtually Instant Ways to Improve E-Newsletters

High Speed - Lights

Image via Wikipedia

Your e-newsletter is your link to your prospects and your clients.  So, it’s important to make it useful, relevant, and helpful.

Here are 10 quick ways to improve your e-mail newsletter marketing and get better results.

1. Limit the number of steps to sign up

The more questions you ask, the lower the opt-in rate will be.  Make it as simple and easy as possible.  Name and email are best (or even just email).  Don’t ask anything else unless you have to (for example if you’re sending fashion tips, you’ll need to know gender.

2. Review your sign up process

Spell out what they’ll get when they sign up (a book, a video, an e-course), how often they’ll get it (monthly, weekly, daily), and the kind of information they’ll receive (graphic design tips, reviews of the latest camping gear,

3. Check your confirmation page

Does it spell out exactly what will happen next?  Are the instructions clear?  If yours is confusing, change it.  Sometimes, people see “subscribe” and think they need to pay, others see it as a reminder that they’ll be getting regular information and emails.  Experiment with the wording and see what performs best for your readers.  Make sure you ask them to whitelist you too (add your email to their address books), so the message doesn’t fall into the spam folder by mistake.

4. Include links back to your blog

This gets more clicks and traffic back to your site.  Add links to posts that expand or complement the topic of that particular issue. Or, highlight the best posts of the past month/week (depending on your frequency).  Include posts by other people too (as long as it’s useful and relevant to your audience – no sneaking in tips about hiking gear to a newsletter about decorating with stained glass.

5. Tweak the design

If you’re using HTML (graphics) for your newsletter, take a look at the design. Is it easy to follow?  Or, are you trying to cover 5 or 6 different topics at once? Add more white space, to make it easier to read.

6. Cut down the content

Sometimes too much information can be overwhelming.  Try three articles instead of six.  If there’s one primary article or topic, make it bigger than the other two (but not too big, or it will drown them out).  Edit ruthlessly.

7. Add more calls to action

If you want people to do something (like watch your how-to videos), ask more than once. Make it clear that’s what you want (“watch the how-to video”).  If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

8. Test your subject lines

Which gets more opens and clicks?  Subject lines with questions (Is HTML better than text?);  subject lines with numbers (4 Things Your Website Must Have)? Or a subject line that promises something (Turn Your Trash into Cash)? Remember, what works for me, or for your friend, or for a famous blogger may (or may not) work for you.  Each audience is different.

9. Be consistent

Send it around the same time, on the same day each week/month/day.  You can schedule this easily in AWeber.

10.  Ask for feedback and encourage replies

You can put up a survey in Google docs (or use survey monkey) if you like.  Or, just make it clear that your virtual door is open.  I include a note saying that if you have a question or comment you can just hit reply.  It goes straight to my personal inbox.