Writing Effective Sales Letters - Part IV : Common Mistakes in Direct Mail Campaign

Sales letter is an important cornerstone in any campaign. This is also one of the most popular forms of advertising today, and have been for some time. The reason for this is simple - it works.
However, with no generalized guideline on format, content, style and length - writing a truly effective sales letter is a daunting challenge for even the most seasoned marketing professional.
After discussing tips on how to write an effective sales letter with examples - let us focus on common mistakes.

Mistake No 1 : Your Direct mail campaign is as (in)effective as your mailing list

What is the most important part of your direct mail campaign ? - Its not copy, not the artwork, not even the format. It is the mailing list.
A great mail campaign with superior content and format may attract double the response of a poorly conceived mailing for the same mailing list.
But a carefully designed mailing list can pull a response 10 times more than the worst list for the identical content and format.
Remember - in direct marketing, a mailing list is not just a way of reaching your market. It is the market.
In mushrooming mailing list market - how do you select the best package ? Do you go by price ? referral ? advice from friends ?
The best mailing list for your product or service is the one you are sitting on, buried in your mail folders and address directory. Yes, it is your house list - a list of customers and potential customers who previously bought from you or responded to your advertisement, mail, public relations campaign etc. Typically, your house list will pull double the response of an outside list. Yet, only about 50% of business marketers pay attention to house list.

Mistake No 2 : Sales Letter without offer is as effective as dinner invitation without address of dinner hall

Your direct mail MUST contain an offer - something the reader gets when he/she responds to your mail.
In fact, a key success factor of a direct mail campaign is to sell the offer - not the product or service.
Remember - the offer should be something perceived as beneficial to reader. It can not be features of your products or an invitation to visit your web-site.
It could be free brochure, free technical information, free analysis, free consultation, free demonstration, free trial use, free product sample, free catalog.
Your letter should state the offer in such a way as to increase the reader's desire to ask for the offering. For example, a catalog becomes a product guide. A collection of brochures becomes a free information kit. An article reprinted in pamphlet form becomes "our new, informative booklet--'How to Prevent Computer Failures.'"

Mistake No. 3 - Emphasizing features - ignoring benefits

Perhaps the oldest and most widely embraced rule for writing direct-mail copy is, "Stress benefits, not features." This still holds good except for highly technical products where readers look for features to differentiate between products (e.g. computer, semiconductor etc.).
Translate features into benefits and place them in bullet points towards beginning of the mail. This requires an understanding of readers' mind. In short, your challenge is to find out what the customer wants to know about your product--and then tell him in your mailing.
Obviously mass mail packages are of no use here - underlining the importance of your house list.

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Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 3, Issue 32 November 28' 2002

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at amit@infobanc.com )

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