10 Killer Sales Letter No-Nos that Suck Money from Your Business… (PART 1 OF 2)


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The sales letter…Ah, yes. It’s a very splendid thing — when done correctly. But when was the last time you read a letter that REALLY ‘talked’ to you…that pulled you in…that did its job?

Whether used as sales devices in their own right, or to entice lost customers back into the fold, or appeal to prospective customers, or act as reminders for an unpaid invoice, or to even undo the damage caused by bad publicity…letters are the oil that run the business engine. And every business worth its salt uses sales letters — aka direct response or marketing letters — to appeal to and stimulate a response from customers and prospects. Think of them as your personal sales-force in print.

Write a good sales letter, and you can win customer loyalty and even make a small fortune. For example, manager of specialist recruitment firm Jessica won three new jobs from three new clients within days of sending out her sales letter campaign.

However, if your sales letters are guilty of any of the following, beware: you could be losing out on sales and even lost custom. That’s what happened to sole trader George. He spent his entire marketing budget on a sales letter that was sent to 3,000 prospects. It sank: only two inquiries (from time-wasters) and absolutely no leads or sales.

Time to reveal what he and many others get wrong, then…

Mistake # 1: And you are?

Most people fall at the first hurdle, before any pen has been put to paper. They buy a few mailing lists, get out one of their generic letters (“Hey! It wasn’t too bad last time, right?”) and, zap, off it goes to the individuals on that list.

But who exactly is behind that list? Male or female? What are their fears, wants, hopes, desires..? How old are they? What is the common denominator of the people on the list? How can you start to even thing of appealing to their emotions if they have such wide and varying characteristics? Approximately 90% of all businesses don’t bother to find answers.

Before you are able to adequately address the specific concerns of your market, you should pinpoint exactly whom you are hoping to reach. Your list is your market, so get to know it inside out.

Mistake # 2: Enter the list

What if the list you have is not an ideal match for your product or service? Perhaps the most obvious yet common blunders with letter mailings is selecting a wrong or outdated list.

It’s worth bearing in mind that your campaign will only be as good as the mailing list used. And there’s absolutely no point in trying to send a beautifully crafted sales letter to the wrong people. You don’t have to be a genius to realise that a letter explaining the benefits of pensions will not be a hit with a group of teenagers.

So what makes for the best list? YOUR own list. Most businesses overlook this biggest source of never-ending profits. So if you’re not already, start collecting emails and other details of visitors to your website, telephone enquirers, and so on.

Mistake # 3: Heads up!

Around 99% of all businesses sending out sales letters omit one crucial element: the headline. Why is it so important? Because it will be the first thing your reader will look at. If there’s nothing immediate there to stir his or her interest, your letter will more than likely be ignored.

A good headline demands attention and compels the reader to read the rest of your letter.

Mistake # 4: Ego trip 

Believe it or not your prospect doesn’t want to know about you and how great you reckon your company/product/service is. They want to know what’s in it for them — why should they keep reading?

How do you know if there isn’t enough focus on the prospect? Grab one of your latest sales letters. How many times do you use the words Our, We, Us or your business/brand name? Now count the number of times you use the words You, Yours, and Your.

Which group scores higher? If it’s the former, you’ve committed one of the deadliest sins in the direct response world. Change it so that You, Yours and Your make more of an appearance, and YOU should see a difference in response rates.

TO BE CONTINUED … Catch Part 2 in a future blog post!

By Tracey Dooley, Copywriter Creative Consultant

Not sure where or how to start your letter in the first place? Then it’s time to take action and invest in an easy-peasy, follow-along proven system. As well as offering worksheets and home-study tools, I can show you STEP BY STEP how to develop successful sales letters that bring in BIG profits with my Successful Sales Letters home-study system.

(Why struggle needlessly when you can get expert affordable mentoring and have fun attracting clients easily?) 

(C) 2005-12 T Dooley, All Rights Reserved

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English Corner: Pity the Misunderstood Apostrophe


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The grammatical cousin of the bored teenager, the apostrophe can be found hanging out in all the wrong places. Or just being plain useless. Worrying or confusing everything that crosses its path.

Take, for example, the following as a case in point:

“Choose from 1000’s of DVD’s…”


“Visit Brighton, for refreshing sea view’s…”

Both are not as innocent as they seem on the surface.

Incorrect use of punctuation — and here, we are specifically referring to the humble apostrophe —can weaken your writing and your message, as well as trip up your reader.

So here are some dos and don’ts in the world of apostrophes:

• And it’s all right, now…

Ah, yes, the king of confusion — ”it’s” is a contraction of “it is”. However, it’s often presented as “its”. This is bad. And should be avoided. Unless, of course, you mean “its” in the possessive sense of the word. For example:

“It’s about time it showed its true colours.”

Here “it’s” means “it is” and “its” (without the apostrophe) indicates that something belongs to “it”.

• Ps and Qs, Dos and Don’ts…

You do NOT need an apostrophe to pluralise. OK, it’s tempting to slip in a quick apostrophe, but that would be mere folly. Apart from the obvious one — “don’ts” — which is correct in this instance.

There is neither a contraction nor a possessiveness connected with numbers, abbreviations or the “dos” in the world.

So the following are correct:

“There are 100s of them out there.”

“You only ever saw two PCs, but that was in the 1970s.”

“The MPs had 1,000s of complaints.”

So remember, only use an apostrophe for a missing letter or, in every other case apart for “its”, when something ‘owns’ something else. (“It’s amazing to think that the project’s deadline was met.”)

Please send me any ‘grammar gaffes’ via the ‘comments’ section here, and I’ll pop them in a future post on this blog.

By Tracey Dooley, Copywriter Creative Consultant


Save yourself embarrassment and costly reprints by getting your documents professionally proofread:  


(C) 2007-12 T Dooley, All Rights Reserved

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