Great Letter 'Openers'
The opening paragraph and P.S. are the two "hot spots" of a letter that get read first and most often. That's why it's well worth investing both time and thought in what goes into your opener. Here are some hints for writing strong letter openers.
- Open your letter with the word "you" instead of "I" or "we" to create immediate reader involvement. For example:
You should have the latest life-saving "secret" information about the foods you eat.
- Keep your first sentence short as an indicator that the remainder of the letter is going to be easy to read. For example:
- Keep your opening paragraph short—three lines or less—for the same reason.
- When stumped for an opener, start your first sentence with "Because" or "If...then" or "When." For example:
Because of your excellent credit rating you have been pre-approved for a loan of up to $10,000.00.
- Open with a question, but make sure you know what your reader's answer will be. For example:
Are you tired of office politics, glass ceilings and demanding responsibilities
that go unrewarded?
- Use a rhetorical question to open the door to the sales argument that follows. For example:
How long can good times last?
- Promise your most important benefit in your lead. Don't save it for later; your reader may not get to it. For example:
- Steer clear of "ho-hum" openers. For example:
- Be positive and direct; it's refreshing. For example:
Thanks so much for your order.
- Avoid leading with platitudes. For example:
At Sears, providing better value is our top priority.
- When uncertain which will appeal to the most people, offer a series of
"hooks" with which your reader can identify. For example:
- Open with a headline or "Johnson Box" either above your salutation or between your salutation and the body copy. For example:
21 Ways to Increase Traffic into Your Store.
Introducing the world's only Limited Edition fruit.
- Lead with a snippet from a testimonial. For example:
Recently, I was talking with a co-op manager in Perry, Oklahoma. He told me something I thought might interest you. He said...
- Build immediate camaraderie. For example:
Did you know that as family physicians, you and I are preferred disability insurance risks compared to our colleagues in other medical specialities?
- Sound an alarm. For example:
It's frightening; during the time it takes you to read this letter, 15 robberies will be committed in our country...some may be near you.
- Tell a story. For example:
It was 1945, the war was over and my dad, Ed Cushman, had just opened a small store and fruit packaging plant here in West Palm Beach.
One night (a night never to be forgotten by anyone in our family), everyone was waiting for a truck load of grapefruit. When it finally arrived, my dad took one look and said, "What the devil is this?"
- Your best lead may be buried elsewhere in your letter. Once your letter is written, go back and re-read it with this thought in mind.
Remember, the opening of your sales letter is like a handshake: It can make or break you. And it's often the only part of your letter that gets read.