When I first started working on the Internet, I had no idea what a sales letter was. I figured they were something “other people” wrote.
A sales letter is a piece of copy, on a single page, promoting a program, product or service. There’s no mystery about the mission. You know you’re being asked to buy, even though you might also be getting information and instruction.
Most copywriters agree that sales letters follow a structure. It’s not that hard to learn the structure, although you’ll find variations among copywriters and their recommendations. Today we’re seeing more video formats (sometimes with a video replacing the text completely) and shorter lengths, even on long-form copy.
But regardless of size or form, sales letters are beastly hard to write. Structure is just the beginning. You have to craft each component, often painfully, often with multiple revisions.
So why should you want to write one? If you’re a successful business owner, you can hire a copywriter. You can take a chance with a cheap-o copywriter from Craigslist or invest thoughtfully in an experienced professional who will dig into your strategy.
The truth is that writing a sales letter – even if you just create a draft and get a pro to polish it up – will save you from a disastrous, wasteful marketing campaign. I now write one before creating a product or program and encourage my clients to do the same.
(1) You’re saved from the “senseless activity trap:” you feel you’re being so productive because you’re doing a lot of marketing! You’re setting up joint ventures and teleseminars, creating content and more.
When you sit down to write, you’re forced to stop and consider benefits. You begin to ask the question, “Why do prospects need this product? What problem does it solve? What benefits does it offer?”
When you start to answer those questions, your entire marketing campaign becomes easier to execute. You might realize that…
… you need to revise the sections, chapter, or stages of your program
… you need to go back and redesign the program because the benefits aren’t visible
… you’ve got a winner and you’d better get busy and bring it to market.
I once created a program that sounded impressive. When I shared the idea, my colleagues were enthused and urged me to “Go for it!” But when I finally wrote the sales letter, I realized that my concept was indeed brilliant, but couldn’t relate to tangible benefits for my readers. I ended up scrapping the project and creating something completely different – and writing the sales letter first. I’m still frustrated with the amount of time I wasted.
(2) You identify holes in your strategy that must be filled before you can implement your marketing campaign.
Once Janie, a brand-new coach, asked me to write a promotion for a new 12-month program. But we needed to let people know what would be offered each month. We also needed to explain why she was qualified.
Janie hadn’t planned the monthly offers. She hadn’t thought about how her background might be presented to demonstrate her skills as a coach. It wouldn’t be difficult to address these gaps but Janie didn’t want to consider them. She thought a copywriter could wave a wand and fill these holes with the power of words and phrases. The program never took off and she’s no longer a coach.
(3) You’ll find it easier to market your program because you will identify the benefits, features, and outcomes of every component of your program or every chapter of your book.
You might start with a title like “Overview” but realize you need a benefit-driven title that makes people want to sign up. A chapter title like, “Vitamin-Rich Choices” can be changed to “Use Secrets of Pro Athletes To Get More Energy All Day, Every Day.”
Aside from these benefits, sales letters help you flex your marketing muscles and get ready to work with a professional copywriter. Write and write often.