Do looks matter to you? If you're like most people -- including your customers and prospects -- the answer is "Yes." Particularly in sales, appearance is important. For example, in a competitive situation, all else being equal, the appearance of the salesperson may very well be the deciding factor in who gets the business.
Appearance is also important to the success of your sales letter. Case in point: The marketer with a highly targeted mailing list, a compelling offer, effective copy -- and who pays careful attention to how his letter looks -- will enjoy better results than the person who focuses solely on content, with no regard to how it's presented. Because when your prospects glance down at your letter, if it "catches their eye," chances are they'll give it a longer look. And this longer look can mean a stronger response and more profitable results.
So today I offer you five tips for making your sales letters more attractive. Put them to work and you'll have a better looking letter. One that's more likely to catch the eye of your reader, get the once over, and get your marketing effort a positive response.
Tip Number 1: Always use a reader-friendly font. Almost all newspapers and news magazines such as Time and Newsweek use serifed fonts for the majority of their editorial content. (Serifs are the little knobs you see on the ascenders and descenders of individual letters.) That's because numerous studies have shown that for printed text, serifed fonts (Times Roman, Courier, Century) are more readable than sans-serif fonts (Arial, Helvetica).
Tip Number 2: Make your first sentence a short sentence and your first paragraph a short paragraph. If your letter doesn't have a headline your opening line is the first verbiage your reader is going to look at (after their name). So don't blow your chances for success by opening with a long 20 - 30 word sentence. For instance, here are a few openers from my own files: "I know you're busy so I'll get right to the point." "Has this ever happened to you?" "You hate it don't you?"
You'll also want to keep your opening paragraph to between one and three lines. By starting off with a short, bite-size chunk of copy you're much more likely to get your prospect to start reading.
Tip Number 3: Limit the length of all your paragraphs to between 5 and 7 lines. You want your letter to have an inviting, easy-to-read look. The last thing your prospect wants to see are fat, 9 - 11-sentence paragraphs. Because there are probably at least 12 things she has to do that are more important than reading your letter. And long paragraphs look time-consuming.
Even though your copy may be very well written and full of specific and relevant benefits the way it looks will be a turn-off. I usually never go over 6 lines in any paragraph and I try to keep most to between 1 and 5 lines.
Tip Number 4: Vary the length of your paragraphs. You don't want the layout of your letter to have a boring sameness about it. That's why I encourage you to often use the "print preview" mode on your word processor with an eye toward the overall look of your letter. Think in terms of visual variety. You don't want every paragraph to have 5 sentences. Neither do you want your sales letter to consist of predominantly 3-sentence paragraphs. Mix it up. Write a two-sentence paragraph followed by one with four sentences followed by a one sentence paragraph. This will make your letter more interesting to look at and your prospect more interested in reading it. (Assuming you have something interesting to say.)
Tip Number 5: Set the body copy of your letter in 11-12 point type and use sub-heads, bullets and other call-out devices. Keep in mind the audience you are writing to. If you're writing for the 20-something crowd you can probably even use 10-point type. On the other hand if you're targeting the "mature" market you may want to consider using a 14-point type. Remember also that many people will scan your letter. That's why centered, bold-faced sub-heads and other call-out devices can increase readership. Here are a couple of sub-head examples from a client letter I recently completed:
Customer service so good you'll have to pinch
yourself to be sure you're not dreaming.
A special no-risk, no-obligation offer.
On another note, if you have the budget for a second color, consider using one for your headline and sub-heads. The extra response from the added eye-appeal can more than compensate for the additional investment.
Sub-heads, bulleted lists, underlining and other devices will give your letter added eye appeal and increase response. But take care to use these devices sparingly. Overuse of them can negate their overall effectiveness.
Looks are important -- for the salesperson, and the salesperson on paper. Using these 5 tips will help you make your salesperson on paper more attractive. When you do, you'll turn more heads, get longer looks, generate more leads and, ultimately, close more sales.
Copyright 2006, Ernest Nicastro