copywriting,  Direct Marketing,  Marketing

One of the main reasons why sales letters fail

This morning I received a prospecting letter from an insurance specialist. They want me to switch my home insurance to them, and they have a good proposition, but it’s poorly put.

On the first page there are 11 short paragraphs, no less than nine of which begin with either “I” or “We”. It’s a common failing in mail shots from SMEs, and may be the main reason why they fail.

Here are some of the most common openings in such sales letters:

  • We at XYZ Company believe …
  • At XYZ Company we …
  • We believe …
  • We are …
  • We offer …
  • I know …

Returning to this morning’s letter, its most powerful motivator is on the back page! Not only that, it offers an incentive to ask for a quote, but places it near the bottom of the front page! Easily missed. What’s worse, they spoilt it all by adding (Terms and conditions apply) immediately afterwards.

Ordinarily I would have discarded the letter within seconds of opening it, but it has provided a useful example for analysis.

These are the things I would recommend:

  1. Lead with the strongest benefit
  2. Focus on the reader, not yourselves
  3. Minimise the use of I and We at the start of paragraphs
  4. Make it easy on the eye. The back page is so cluttered, it’s hard to know where to look
  5. Link your incentive to the call for action
  6. Get your grammar right
  7. Line up the benefits in a sequence that grabs attention and builds up the excitement, instead of the current higgledy piggledy display
  8. Keep T & C and similar distractions away from the sales pitch

Most of these points would be addressed by a professional copywriter. Sadly, too many clients write their own sales letters, or they use a copywriter without a background in selling or direct marketing.

This is part of a short series of practical tips on Direct Marketing. Next time I’ll deal with the blight of ‘weasel words’ – those which appear to offer a benefit, but don’t.


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