Improve Direct Mail Response Rates With
Focused Sales Letters

by Ernest W. Nicastro

An effective sales letter grabs the reader's attention.  How to make sure your direct mail campaign delivers your message most effectively.

You want to handle my next commercial real estate transaction? Then tell me, specifically, what's in it for me when I work with you and your company.

In his seminars and tapes world-renowned motivational speaker Zig Ziglar always talks about the importance of having meaningful, specific goals. And, he'll drive home his point with the rhetorical question, "What would you rather be in life, a meaningful specific or a wandering generality?"

As business owners and sales executives if we want our direct mail efforts to produce meaningful (i. e., profitable) results we would do well to heed this advice. But too many sales letters are filled with platitudes, puffery and vague blather about quality and service. And then, not surprisingly, when a direct mail marketing professional approaches the company about doing a project the typical response is, "Direct mail? Nah, we tried that once, it doesn't work for us."

Nothing will hold the attention of your reader and advance your selling proposition as well as very specific and very relevant features and benefits. This is true in a face-to-face sales presentation and even more true when you're selling on paper.

So, if you're a commercial real estate broker with a large, national organization don't expect me to fall all over myself rushing to the phone to respond to your letter because: a. You're with a big firm; b. Your company works with some prominent local companies.



Instead, give me specific, relevant and meaningful features and benefits. Because I couldn't care less about you and your large national organization and who you do business with. What I do care about is me and what you can do to benefit me and my company. So if you want me to respond, tell me what's in it for me to do business with you.

Now, let's take a look at, among other things, how well the writer of the following letter uses the pulling power of meaningful specifics.

KEY:
Standard text = Original letter
(Parentheses) = Ernest's critique and commentary
[Brackets] = Ernest's suggested text

NOTE: All personal and corporate names have been changed to preserve privacy.

Mr. Frank Farmer
SoftTools Inc.
1389 NE Fourth St., Ste. 1600
Bellevue, WA 98004

Dear Mr. Farmer,

Few decisions are as important to your company's future success as where you choose to locate your company and under what parameters.

(A low-gear, generalized opening. Make sure you open your letter in high gear and grab the attention of your reader. Make it intriguing. Make it interesting. And quickly get to a benefit. For example, if you or I had written that letter, our opening might have looked something like this:) [Ouch! Negotiating your property lease in today's market can be a painful and costly experience. Can be -- but it doesn't have to be.] (In defense of the original opening the writer did start off with an immediate focus on the prospect with 2 "yours" and a "you" in the opening line. Good move.)

Fewer decisions still are as difficult to make and feel secure that you made the right choice. And yet few (try another word) business decisions you will make can be made (passive voice, seldom a good choice in a sales letter) with as much confidence as relocation with the help of BKP Commercial Tenant Advisory Services. That is because with BKP as your exclusive representative, you can be assured you are not only seeing all your options, you are entering into the most economically favorable transaction.

(All puffery. NOTHING in this paragraph explains -- specifically -- what it is that's supposed to give me such confidence in BKP. How can I...why can I be assured that I'm seeing all my options? Does your firm maintain a national up-to-the-minute database of available space that you can query and search by 187 different parameters? Then tell me. The broker should tell the prospect, specifically, how he does what he does and how the prospect benefits. Also, economically favorable transaction sounds like the words of an economist. The writer should use more conversational language and replace the phrase with something like,) [best possible deal.]

After salaries and wages, rent typically is your second largest cost of doing business. That is one reason why last year TCI West, Inc., Microsoft Corporation, Puget Power and many other Eastside companies turned to BKP Commercial Tenant Advisory Services as their exclusive representatives. (I'm pretty sure I know the point the writer is trying to make with these two sentences but he doesn't succeed. He needs to insert the following sentence between them in order to make it a logical, cohesive thought sequence that also clearly communicates a benefit.) [So it's just makes good sense --- as well as dollars and cents --- to have savvy, experienced negotiators working on your behalf.] We not only negotiate to the bottom line, (Specifically what does negotiate to the bottom line mean?) we saved them time and helped them make good strategic decisions.

(What exactly does the writer mean by good strategic decisions. Give me an example, share a success story with me, insert a testimonial. Summary: This paragraph would benefit from tighter writing and a more logical flow and -- you guessed it -- specific details.)

We are proud of our track record as the Eastside's and the nation's number one commercial real estate brokerage firm.

(You are? Great. But what is the benefit -- to me -- of your pride and boasting? Tell me, what's in it for me? Remember, when your prospect is reading your letter he or she is tuned into WIIFM.)

Enclosed please find (Stilted formal language that reads like a legal document. I suggest) [I've enclosed an informative] a one page synopsis (instead of synopsis call it a) [report or special report.] of the Eastside Office Market. If you are in need of advice about your office facilities, please call us or file this information for the time when you are. (If you are going to send a sales letter always make some sort of meaningful offer. "Please call us" and "file this information" is not an offer. For more information on crafting response-producing offers see my article, How To Craft Stronger, More Compelling Offers That Will Boost Response Rates.)

(This letter limps to the finish line with a very weak, almost non-existent call to action. Suggestion: After the first sentence) [So, if you've got a lease coming due take a moment right now to look over this insightful report. Better yet, pick up the phone and give me a call at 425-453-6292. Let's set up a meeting to discuss what it is you want and need in your next property lease transaction and what BKP and I can do to help you get it. Why not give me a call right now? I promise you, you'll be glad you did.] (No, this isn't a great close, great offer or call to action either. But it's better than what the writer of this letter has.)

Sincerely,

Ed Smith BKP Commercial Real Estate Group, Inc.

© 2006 Ernest Nicastro

About the Author:
Ernest Nicastro, a direct marketing consultant, copywriter and lead-generation specialist, heads up Positive Response, an award-winning marketing firm specializing in B-to-B marketing and lead-generation. He also publishes a free monthly newsletter, AIM For Positive Response. For more information visit http://www.positiveresponse.com/. Contact Ernie directly at ENicastro@positiveresponse.com or by phone at 614.747.2256.
 
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