“Cheat me in price, but not in the goods I purchase.”” – Spanish Proverb

Your sales letter is probably the most effective means you have to grow your business. (If you are in the direct-mail business, I don’t have to tell you this.) It’s so important, in fact, that you should regularly take the time to review and revise it, to make it fresh and powerful. Here are some things you can do today:

1. If your sales letter has a headline, is it a great headline? Eight out of 10 people read headline copy. Fewer than two in 10 read the letter itself. Good headlines can easily double response. (For tips on headline writing see Message #192.)

2. Every sales letter succeeds or fails on the basis of its primary promise – the one big benefit it offers. If you get that right, you are 80% home. To come up with a killer benefit as your primary promise, you need to spend a lot of time thinking about your prospect’s wants, thoughts, and feelings in relation to the product/service you are selling. What is the core emotion/idea that will get him really interested? 3. Make sure your letter looks like a letter – a single column in reasonably large typewriter type with a salutation and a signature. (Beware of artsy designers. They just don’t get it when it comes to sales letters.) 4. Write in the first and second person (“I” and “you”).

5. Your tone of voice should be sincere; your conversational style personal but polite.

6. Most of your letter should be about your reader. Stress user benefits over product benefits.

7. Make your first paragraph very strong and very short.

8. Show, don’t tell. Give an example. Tell a dramatic story. When you make your point three-dimensional, you involve all of your prospect’s sensations. That means better recognition and higher response.

9. Use a “false close.” When you’ve finished selling, begin to close the letter and then begin again by presenting another benefit. It reassures your prospect to think that he’s getting more than what he was prepared to pay for.

10. Keep it current. References to recent (relevant) events remind your prospect that your letter is current.

11. Use a strong postscript. Studies show that next to headlines, postscripts are most often read. Put plenty of time and thought into composing a very good one.

These are just some of the things you can do to improve your sales letter. You can learn more sophisticated techniques in the American Writer’s and Artist’s Institute (AWAI) master’s program for direct-mail copywriting, but chances are you will be able to upgrade your letter significantly simply by measuring it against this 11-point checklist. Try it today. It won’t take long, yet the results could be significant.