Nine Ways to Write a Better Sales Letter

Technology Marketing Insights from Ivan Levison

Technology marketers often make a serious mistake. They think that the technical people they’re selling to are only interested in specs and facts. That’s why their marketing communications are often so deadly dull and dry.  What these marketers don’t get is that their prospects are flesh and blood human beings just like they are and should be talked to as such.

As an example, let’s focus on sales letters. The letter is the most important part of any direct mail package. Write a brilliant, compelling sales letter and your response rates can shoot up. Make a few thoughtless blunders and you’re in deep trouble.  Here are just nine ways you can make your sales letters more effective . . .

1. Should I use a headline above the salutation?
A headline (boxed or not) can grab the reader’s attention and pull them into your pitch with a terrific benefit. You can fill up to a third of the first page with your headline/subheadline intro. If the letter is personalized or more formal, consider dropping the headline.

2. Is it worth dating the letter?
If you’re going first class, date the letter. If you’re going out bulk rate, you don’t have to. The last thing you want is for your letter to arrive way past the date you’ve put at the top your letter. 

3. Should I try to make the letter look as though it were typed (with the Courier font) or should I give the letter a more professional, typeset look?
Years ago I would have said go for the typewriter look. Now, that’s not necessary. Make sure you use a serif font like Times Roman or a nice sans serif font like Verdana. Readability, not “style,” is what counts! IMPORTANT: When you’re writing for the web, don’t use a serif font!

4. Does it make sense to personalize the letter?
A tough question. Personalization does improve response rates but there are important cost issues to consider. If you’re writing to “C-level” executives, personalize for sure.

5. Should the tone of my letter be conversational or more formal?
It all depends, but generally a friendly, human, conversational tone of voice does work best. One of the biggest problems that technology marketers have when they start writing is that their tone is overly formal. Their work lacks personality and energy.

6. How should I start the letter?
Jump right in with enthusiasm and for goodness sakes, get to the point quickly. You should always talk about the offer on the first page and start hammering away at benefits.

7. What graphic tricks can I use to increase response rates?
A letter should be inviting and easy to read. Use short paragraphs and don’t be afraid to indent or use bullets. Underlining should be done sparingly. A second color can add punch, but don’t splash it everywhere. A little goes a long way!

8. What’s the right way to end the letter?
Go out in a blaze of glory. Feel free to invoke the deities or promise eternal life. But please . . . don’t leave them with a flat: “To find out more, call 1-800-123-1234 or fax us our Response Card.” That’s flat and lifeless.

9. Should I use a P.S.?
Absolutely! It gets high readership and is a good place to repeat the offer, punch up the guarantee, and urge immediate action. I never met a postscript I didn’t like.

About the Author
Ivan Levison is a freelance copywriter who works for tech companies like Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Citrix, and many others. Ivan writes sales letters, emails, web pages and more. For a free subscription to his monthly enewsletter for technology marketers, visit Ivan can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at