Complete the Sales Process
How to Write Better Direct Mail Letters
By Lois K. Geller
A great direct mail letter can do wonders for your campaign. Last month, I discussed the prep work required to write a direct mail letter that generates response. This month, my Creative Director Mike McCormick and I will examine the writing, editing and approval processes.
You've already done most of the work. You know what to avoid. You've done all the research, so you have information. You have a road map for your structural flow, and you know who you want to be. Now the letter will write itself—if you let it. It's in your head. Just write.
Don't worry about getting a great lead right off the bat. You're writing your first draft. As you write, picture your prospect as one person. Get an image in your mind of what he or she looks like.
Write as if you were speaking directly to your prospect in a conversation. Keep writing until you can't think of anything more to say.
Now comes the hard part. Editing. Great copywriting is the result of great editing. Organize your draft logically by following the AIDA (attention, interest, direction, action) road map, then check for consistency of language, tone and personality throughout the letter. Put benefits in order of importance.
Eliminate 50 percent of the words. Once you've done this, reread your letter, and then cut it in half again. Somewhere in what's left is your lead sentence. Usually you'll find your best lead hiding in the third or fourth paragraph. Move it to the beginning. Now you have a draft letter you can work with.
Read it out loud. Better yet, have someone else read it to you. Clunkers, too many words, tedium—all that bad stuff will jump out at you when you hear it. Get rid of anything that doesn't move the letter along.