How to Write Direct Mail Sales Letter that Sells

Develop Your Sales Letter Copywriting Skills

When writing a direct mail sales copy, your job is to first capture your recipients’ attention, then maintain their interest and get results in the end.

How do you do that? Developing your sales copywriting is not only a useful skill, but it’s also one of the wisest investments you can make for your business. In fact, one famous Wall Street Journal sales letter ran continuously for 31 years with minor changes and generated $2 billion in sales revenue. What an accomplishment with a single letter!

Let’s get started, shall we?

A great direct mail letter offers products the customers actually want and have a need for, and that quickly pulls in lucrative new contracts.

A bad direct mail letter uses high-pressure sales tactics, pushes for the sale when it’s not in the best interest of the buyers, using fear or guilting them into buying. These sales copies are not very effective.

We’ve compiled a list of the essential elements of an effective direct mail letter:

Here are some aspects to consider before starting to write a sales letter or to walk through these points as a final checklist:

1) The Goal

What do you want to achieve with your letter? We recommend focusing on opening a dialogue with the reader first. Invite your recipients to learn about your company and product, then make it possible for them to respond.    

2) The Audience

Are they new customers or old ones? What are the common traits of this segment of buyers? The better you know your audience the more effectively you can write your message.  What do they know about your business? What’s their educational background, age, gender, and income? What information does your audience need to know?

3) The Tone

Good direct mail letters don’t follow the classic rules of composition taught in schools. In fact, all great sales letters are examples of what we call “the spoken language in written form.”  Write your copy in a casual and friendly tone, rather than making it sound like a business letter. Studies show that most of us read at an eighth-grade level keeping this in mind, refrain from using overly complicated words and phrases.

4) The Envelope

 Your letter won’t work unless your envelope gets opened. Most direct mail campaigns use a standard number 10 envelope, that is easy to get and supplies a better response.

Put effort into the design of the envelope and carefully choose your graphics and colors.  An Estimated 69% of recipients are more likely to open a mail piece with color text and graphics on the front, than an envelope with no headline or graphics.

Prompt your reader to open the envelope and see inside. Combine the request with a benefit or an incentive: “Free gift, see inside for details”

5) Addressing

 There are plenty of options when it comes to addressing your mail. You can use the more impersonal window envelope or a printed label. Or you can go the more personal route and use an envelope with the address printed in a handwritten font.  

While it is common to address your letter to a Sir, Ma’am, or Resident, it is much more effective to use a specific name.

If you bought your mailing list from a mailing house they can provide you with specific names and will be able to print personalized letters for an additional charge.

6) The Opening Line

The opening line is crucial. Your letter starter must grab your reader’s’ attention and pull them into reading more. Your goal is to turn your prospect from a scanner into a reader and then into a responder. To do that, cut to the chase in your first line and answer your reader’s question- what’s in it for me?  People sort their mail over the garbage pail. So you have seconds to pique their interest.

You can open your letter using other effective attention-getters such as

  • anecdotes,
  • dramatic quotations,
  • metaphors,
  • case stories,
  • an intriguing question,
  • mind-blowing facts or statistics,
  • or an impressive testimonial.


7) The Testimonial

Testimonials are great at increasing your conversion rate. When you are persuading, always consider how people see themselves taking the action you ask them to do. Anticipate how other people will react at their action as a mark of social proof.

Feature short, direct, and authentic testimonials that share gratitude and appreciation for great work. Include them in your letter as a way to introduce your solution. When establishing your credibility with a testimonial, make sure the person that offers it is someone your recipient can trust.

8) One Good Story

If your beginning line should grab your reader’s attention, the middle part should elaborate a story. Spell out your readers’ problem so they can say “yeah, that’s exactly how I feel…”

Because that’s what a good sales copy does: solves a problem and tells a story. Stories are the most fundamentally proven selling techniques. Unlike other restrictive formats that provide a limited space to carry out your message, a direct mail letter gives you the opportunity to tell the complete story.

9) The Length

Your letter should be as long as necessary to include all the necessary information. The ideal length is only one page, most people don’t have the time to read a long letter, especially if your readers are people who are new to your brand.  But if you need to tell a longer story, don’t be afraid of a six-page letter! Tell the whole story!

10)  A Central Statement

Develop a central statement, concise and easy to remember like “at our company, we value the best customer service, or … natural and fresh ingredients ….or creative minds”. Decide on your central statement and build your letter around that.

11) The Golden Words

Using the golden words “you” and “your” can dramatically improve your letter. Instead of writing “X provides the best veterinary services” you can say “When your beloved pet needs medical attention, X is here to help YOU”.

12) The Emotions

Inspire your readers with a positive message to try something new,  or something they’ve always wanted and to take the risk for a bigger chance. Use powerful words and trigger emotional hot buttons.

After stirring emotions, calm the mind, and provide an assuring solution, such as a new discovery, a promise, a reward, a new learning experience. Thus your solution to the problem.

13) The Benefits

It takes a while to get people to understand the value. So focus on the benefits and explain how they are achieved with your product. The benefits are the outcomes that your consumers can experience by using your product. They are the reasons why your product should be bought in the first place.

Make them visually distinctive in your direct mail letter: your headline should embrace the main benefit, and describe other benefits in your subheadings. Or place them at the beginning of the sentences/paragraphs.

Tell your customers how your product will improve their lives and you’ll have a high-converting sales letter.

Read more about Using a Feature-Benefit Matix

14) The Deal

“I’d like to send you two items of X product for the price of ONE!”  Be clear and specific about what your readers will get by responding. And state your guarantee firmly, by assuring them that there is no risk of losing money on something worthless. Enhance the response rate with a limited-time offer.

15) Your Call to Action

Write a letter that slowly and progressively builds up to our call to action.  Write down the specific call to action, like clear steps in what to do next to take advantage of the special offer. What response do you expect and what actions do you want the audience to take? Make responding easy, by giving them a toll-free number or other ways to get in touch with you.

16) Post Scriptum

Statistics have shown that 79%  of people who open a direct mail read the P.S. before reading anything else. The purpose of a P.S. is either to remind, suggest, and recommend, or strongly to tell the audience what to do, a CTA reinforcement. In a P.S. you can also highlight the key benefit of your offer, the most important takeaway, your contact number, or the address of your store if these are the key message of your letter.  

17) A Personal Message

It’s not a bad idea to finish the letter with a short one-paragraph message from the owner or manager that welcomes and thank your reader for joining, reading, expressing interest, or taking their time to learn more and so on.

Share your thoughts, hope, or enthusiasm and establish your core values in today’s rapidly changing environment when it’s more critical than ever to … you name it: build long-term relationships, have a secure financial foundation, or spend more time with your beloved ones.

“My Company’s goal is to ensure that all mentioned above happens. We look forward to working/hearing from you.  Best regards, CEO, founder, owner at My Company.”

It’s a nice feature to have in your letter!

There are only a few elements that can help you to write a successful sales letter. Further, continue to educate yourself in writing better sales letters.

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