Irish copywriter for websites, ezines, direct mail, charity appeals and more.

How you can write really great sales communications


Copyright to Robert Hayes-McCoy


When I was at school my teacher used to warn me against the dangers of putting a PS at the end of a letter.

'A PS', he would say, 'is the sign of an untidy mind. It's sure proof that you haven't structured your letter in advance'.

'Never start a sentence with the word 'And' ... and never sound too familiar in a business letter... never, eever write a business letter which is longer that a single succinct page, because people simply won't read it.'

All excellent advice but, then, my teacher never really had to sell anything.

Some of the best sales letters ever written were written by copywriters who paid little or no attention to rules like these. Here's a simple formula that you might like to use next time you have an important sales letter to write.

The First Step is to Write The Way You Talk

A really good sales letter represents the words that the salesperson speaks. Take time off sometime to listen to yourself speaking. Listen carefully to what you are saying and, more importantly, listen to how you say it.

I think that you'll be surprised to find how many of your sentences are short, very short, in fact so short that you often use only two or three words in a single sentence.

And note the amount of enthusiasm that creeps into your words when you really want to convince somebody to do something for you. It seems that the more you want, the more enthusiastic you get.

Count the number of times that you start sentences with words like ... And ... Yes ... But ... Why not ... etc. Note also how consistently you say ... it's ... you're ... haven't ... they'll, as opposed to 'it is' ... 'you are' etc.

The reason why you do all these things is because you're in a hurry and you're afraid that if you don't keep up a lively flow of words the person at the other end will get bored or distracted and stop listening to you.

People Can Get Very Tired Reading Bad Sales Letters

That's what happens in many sales letters too! Unless you are very careful your reader will get bored and stop listening to your vitally important message. The secret of success is to structure your letter so that it's interesting for them to read.

Of course you come from a reputable company. Of course you've been selling your product or services for years. Of course you know just about everything that there is to know about these products and services... but, interestingly enough, I don't want to know this until later.

First I want to know what can you do for me? That's why it's often so important for you to open your letter by promising me a benefit right up there in the first paragraph. And then, when you've captured my attention, you must quickly follow on by telling me more about that benefit which you are promising me.

The Classical AIDA Formula for Success

What we are talking about here is the classical 'AIDA' formula - a formula that is used by direct marketing copywriters all over the world.

A = ATTENTION

You open your letter by saying something that immediately captures the reader's attention. Something along the lines of ... 'I can save you money' ... 'Whoever said 'there's no such thing as a free meal' ... 'Have you noticed how often'... etc etc.

Sometimes, instead of promising a benefit up front a skilled copywriter will use what I call a 'storyline approach' to draw the reader's attention into the letter. Let me give you an example: 'At exactly 5pm on the 21st of June 1907, radio stations all over the world started buzzing...'

Here's another: 'It's happened to me, and I'm sure that, at some stage in your life, you've fallen for it too!'

I = INTEREST

Now that you've captured my attention you need to quickly generate my interest. One way to generate interest is to be specific, give facts, or give figures. Let's develop the first example above... "I can save you money".

I can save you money. Not a lot at any one time!

But the interesting thing about it is that, if you add up the amount of savings you'll make over the next three years, you'll be comfortably able to go on a luxury cruise in the Caribbean. Are you interested?

D = DESIRE

The secret here is to heap on the benefits. Tell me what I'm going to get. Show me how easy it is to get it. Give me examples of how other people have got it. And don't forget to tell me what I am going to lose if I don't make up my mind quickly.

Remember 'fear of loss can often be a far stronger sales tool than hope of gain'.

A = ACTION

The guiding rule here is to make it as easy as possible for me to take action now! Tell me exactly what you want me to do. If you want me to write a cheque, tell me the amount. Don't say something like '£25 plus VAT'. Tell me who to make the cheque out to. Tell me that if I don't send it back to you before next Wednesday (or whatever) I won't qualify for my free gift.

Do you get the idea? Take it easy! Slow down. And guide me - guide me carefully towards responding positively to you.

And Don't Forget The PS!

Despite what my teacher said, many really good direct marketing sales letters have a PS. The reason? Well ... the reason is that next to the opening paragraph, the PS is the second most important part of your letter.

Because once your reader finishes reading your 'attention-grabbing' first paragraph they will go immediately down to the bottom of your letter to see who is making this amazing offer.

And, at that stage, their eyes will continue to read on down into the PS before going back up to read the second paragraph of your letter. This, of course, means that you must use your PS effectively, otherwise it's a waste of a very powerful selling space. So, if possible, use your PS to tell your reader about another benefit, or remind them, yet again, about a special offer or free gift.

While you're here, why not click below have a quick look at some 'Real McCoy' Articles

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