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

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 more
than 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

Sincerely yours,

Ted Nicholas

Copyright 2003 Nicholas Direct, Inc.