How to Start Your Sales Letter With a Bang

ready set go

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.


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Getting Raving Fans for Your Business

Inferno fans

Image via Wikipedia

I was listening to a webinar the other day with Peter Shankman of HARO (Help a Reporter Out).  Peter’s got 188,000 people on his email list, and mails three times a day.  He said he had an open rate of over 70% (pretty phenomenal for such a frequent mailer). His fans love his emails.

All creative types (and bloggers) want fans.  We want people to like us, to leave comments, and eagerly await what we write.  We want editors who never, ever kill our darling, favorite phrases. Clients who love our web designs, and never, ever spend an hour arguing over whether a design should be predominantly red or blue.

But, we know that may not happen.  Certainly not all the time.

What we can do

We can’t all be Peter (darn), but is there anything we can do? What makes readers (and potential clients) respond?

  • Random rewards?
  • Giveaways?
  • Personal stories about successes (or even failures)?
  • Shoutouts?
  • Something else?

What other techniques can you think of?  What have you tried? And which of them worked?

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A Simple Headline Writing Tip That Gets More Readers

numeral types

Image by threedots via Flickr

Want to hear a hot headline writing tip? This headline secret has been used since the days of Claude Hopkins to get readers to stop and take notice.

It’s really easy too. And, it doesn’t involve using words either.

Instead of words, you focus on numbers. I know, they’re annoying, but they do get people to stop and look.

Try these headlines on for size:

“8 Habits of Highly Effective Copywriters”

“How to Write a Blog Post in 15 Minutes”

“Increase Your Blog Subscription Rate by 153%”

“103 Ways to Get Top Bloggers to Link to You” or even,

15 Marketing Terms You Need to Know

What do these headlines all have in common? They have numbers in them.

Why numbers work

Numbers work because they force us to focus – and because they give us a finite, concrete sounding example of something; only 15 minutes to write a great post, or 103 ways to get noticed by blogging superstars.  The more specific the number, the better.  For example, if you increased your subscription rate by 153%, don’t round it down to 150%, the “odd’ number looks more realistic.

Lists and checklists

Lists (ultimate guide to facebook, 101 copywriting secrets) promise lots of information, in an easy-to-digest and follow format.  Just go through the list and you’ve accomplished something big.  You’re now a better writer, a twitter guru, or irresistible to reporters.
And, who can resist something that will make you irresistible?

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How to Write Copy That Fascinates Your Readers


Image by Nitibob via Flickr

There’s a little-known persuasive copywriting trick used by Eugene Schwartz, Boardroom, and Agora (companies and people that specialize(d) in direct mail).

Direct mail may be old-fashioned, but the writing techniques developed decades ago by top copywriters still work. And, they also work online.

One copywriting tip, which you may not have heard of, are “fascinations.”

They’re called “fascinations” because you just can’t resist reading them.

What’s so fascinating about fascinations?

Fascinations are simply little bullet points – but they’re bullet points that make you want to read more (much more).

The key to making this work is to state a fact and then add a benefit.  Sounds simple, right?

The important thing is not to give too much away. Just tell the reader enough to make them want to find out more.

Rules for Writing Fascinations

Keep them short and simple.  Just write a single line, two at most.  You don’t want to slow people down or confuse them.  No subheadings here!

Write little headlines… you want to state something, and then add a surprising twist the reader wasn’t expecting

You don’t have to write complete sentences, just be consistent. You want your copy to be easy to read and easy to scan.

Why Fascinations work

They arouse your curiosity.  They almost tell you something – but not quite.  The only way to find out what those bills are, or the secret weird tip is to click the link or open the envelope.

Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • bills it’s OK to pay late
  • the one thing you should never eat on an airplane
  • try this weird old (________) tip*
  • how to quit sending queries and have business come to you
  • the decades-old copywriting technique that still works today

*fill in the blank with the topic of your ad, such as retirement planning, IT management, etc.

Two great practitioners of this art were Mel Martin and Bill Jayme.  They’re both gone, but there are two places you can see examples of their work:

Mel Martin swipe file

Bill Jayme swipe file (this one asks you to buy a CD collection, but you don’t have to, just read the page).

What do you think about fascinations?  Have you ever tried them?

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7 Callls To Action You Should Be Using

Act Now

Image by Kevin Shorter via Flickr

Are your readers looking at your site but not clicking or buying? If not, you may need a “call to action.” What’s a call to action?  Read on to find out, get some call to action examples, and  learn how they work.

The best example of a call to action: have one

It may sound silly, or obvious, but if you really want people to do something you need to ask them first. It’s what copywriters call a “call to action.”

It’s simply a request to do something. It could be trying to get a reader to download a pdf, buy a product, or subscribe to your newsletter.


Because they ask someone do do something. And, oddly, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

It’s not necessary to be pushy, just clear and obvious. The goal is to encourage people to click (or call, or mail back a response).

You’ve gone through a lot of trouble to write an irresistible headline, outline the benefits of your service, and make an offer they can’t refuse. But, it will all be wasted without a call to action.


“Ask for a free quote today”

“Join Now”

“Start My Free Trial”

“Start Now”

“Download Demo”

“Sign Up Here”

or even the much maligned “Click here” (which, incidentally, works really well for people, even if search spiders don’t like it).

Be clear about the action you want

For example, tell them exactly what to do (click here), explain what will happen next (your download will start), and stress the importance of doing it right now (not two days from now).

Your readers are busy, possibly a little nervous (will this work? will downloading hurt my computer?), and easily distracted. Get them to act quickly – before Joe from accounting comes over with a question about last month’s timesheets.

Test your calls to action

Don’t just stick with one. Try different variations and test them against each other to see which works best. You can use Google’s Website Optimizer (free) to do this.

Test the colors, size, position on the page, or wording. See which gets more clicks.

Using more than one button? For example, you might have a subscribe button as well as a read more button. Make the subscribe button bigger (since that’s the most important action to take).

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