The Top Ten Mistakes in Preparing Sales Letters


Friday, September 19, 2003


1. Poor Headline. Or what’s even worse, no headline.The most important part of sales letters is the headline.  Unless the headline immediately attracts attention and generates interest, your prospect will stop reading right then and there. This means you have
no chance–zero–to fulfill the purpose of the sales letter, which is to make a sale. Your headline should communicate the strongest customer benefit of your product or service.

TIP: Spend hours, days, even weeks if necessary, creating headlines.  Create at least 15 to 25 and test the strongest ones. I write as many as 200 to 250 before choosing two to four to test against each other to find the most profitable.

2. Copy is full of “Me” messages. Some examples:My products are terrific.  My company is wonderful.We’ve been in business for 15 years. We have a long tradition of quality, etc., etc., etc.

So much advertising is full of this drivel.  This is all about you. No one in the world cares besides yourself.

Your prospects want to know exactly what benefits they will get from your products. In other words, if you sell grass seed, don’t dwell on what it’s composed of.  Instead describe how beautiful their lawn will be.

TIP: Here is the fastest way to improve your copy. Review the first draft of your copy. Eliminate all these words–I, our, we, my. Substitute you and your. I promise you’ll be amazed and truly gratified with the result.  It’s sure to blow your mind!

3. Copy fails to answer the question “What’s in it for me?” The process, of course, starts with the headline.  An excellent copywriting technique is to prepare bullet points. These should consist of all the benefits a buyer of your product will get.

Tip: Your benefits should be stated in headline format.  The secret of making benefits even more powerful is to describe the benefit of the benefit.

4. Exaggerated Claims.  Many copywriters and marketers think the more astonishing your claims are, the more persuasive.  This is a fallacy. If a claim is exaggerated, it seems and feels untrue. You thus lose that all-important credibility.

Tip: First you should dramatize your advertising claims with the help of short emotional words. Then prove each claim. Expert comments and testimonials can be a big help.

5. Confusing offer. So many sales letters do not make a clear, easily understandable offer. The result is few or no orders.  Reason? When consumers are confused, they don’t act–they do nothing.  Confusion always breeds inaction.

Tip: Think through your offer very carefully and write it down before you prepare a single word of your sales letter.

6. Copy is too short. As the old saying goes–the more you tell, the more you sell.  Tell the complete story of your product.  Include every
benefit you can. Copy can never be too long.  Some of my sales letters are as long as 56 pages.But you can be too boring. The biggest sin of any copy writer, even in a two-paragraph letter, is to bore the prospect.

Tip: The secret is to tell a complete story, but in the fewest words possible.  Eliminate every single unnecessary word.

7. Large blocks of copy and few subheads. Lengthy paragraphs without frequent subheads make copy intimidating to read.  This discourages reading and response.  Place at least two or three subheads on each page. Plus, keep paragraphs and sentences short. Paragraph length of no morethan five sentences or less should be your goal. Some paragraphs can be one to three words.

Tip: When you write subheads, strive to make them short and benefit driven.  If the subheads are well done, readers with short attention spans can simply read the headlines and subheads and make their buying decision on those alone.

8. No testimonials. Customers who rave about your product or service are extremely effective and should be included in every sales letter.  The words from the mind and heart of customers build your credibility.  However, most marketers waste the potential impact of testimonials.  Common mistakes include using initials rather than the full name, as well as omitting city and state or country.

Tip: When getting written permission to use a testimonial in advertising, also request a photo.  Most will happily agree. Photos help to add power to testimonials.

9. No money-back guarantee. Your response to any sales letter will be significantly higher if you include a money-back guarantee.

Tip: The longer the guarantee, the more sales and less returns or refunds requested. For example, 30 days works better than 10 days, 60 days works better than 30 days, etc.  A full year “no quibble”guarantee works very well.

10.  No P.S. The P.S. is the second most read part of any sales letter. Many people read the headline and then turn to the end of the letter to see who it’s from when they read the P.S. My strong recommendation is to never send out a letter of any kind without including a P.S. This includes personal letters.  Make it a habit from which you never vary. So when you are writing to your mother, father or friend,
end the letter with a P.S.

Tip: When preparing a P.S. for a sales letter, a good formula to follow is to simply restate the biggest benefit of the product, the guarantee and the offer.

Extra Bonus Tip–The signature in any sales letter is very important. When a prospect receives a letter, they look at the headline, who it’s from and then the P.S.

A few tips:

1. Make sure the signer is given a title.

2. The signature should be bold and done with a felt tip pen. Most signatures are shaky and weak.  They appear to come from someone who is not proud of their letter but apologetic.

3. The signatures should be printed in process blue.  No other color–not black or red or purple or green. I’ve tested other colors and none works as well as process blue.  Blue “feels” more natural to the reader. Remember this. When you prepare a sales letter you are asking the recipient to suspend belief while they read  your message.  Your signature plays a big part in that process.

Sincerely yours,

Ted Nicholas