What's the Right Length for Your Sales Letter?
A while ago I had a chance to visit Petticoat Lane in London's colorful East End. "The Lane," as it's called by the locals, is a working-class street market where vendors hawk their wares in loud, cockney accents.
Perhaps the most impressive vendor of all was a young man who was selling one of those kitchen gadgets that slice, dice, chop, etc. I stopped to hear his rap and let me tell you, this guy could sell!
When you think about it, his little product (which the comedian Gallagher parodies so beautifully) is literally a joke. No one could possibly need the damned thing, yet this guy would not be denied!
In a non-stop barrage of jokes, questions and promises, in a veritable harangue of features and benefits, he created needs his enthralled audience never knew it had. How could we live without little roses made from a tomato? How could we exist without a french fry, 15 inches long, extruded from a single potato?
Yes. He was fabulous, and his pitch ran for a good 15 minutes. While he was working no one walked away. No one even moved. Why did he have us in the palm of his hand? Because he always had something new to show us. He was always engaging.
That's the lesson you should remember the next time you have to write (or review) a sales letter: The letter isn't too long if it holds the reader's interest.
Don't be like some marketers who believe that no one wants to read their mail and therefore insist on using one-side-of-a-page letters only.
These are folks who have no confidence in their writing ability. They are scared to death that the reader instantly will crumple up their letter and throw it in the trash. That's why they want to blurt out their message quickly and then run away.
That's not the way to approach writing a sales letter!
Instead, you need to understand that readers WILL stay with you just as long as you're holding their interest, identifying with their "pain," and showing them how you can make that pain go away.
Maybe a one-side-of-a-page letter is all you need for a simple lead-generation project. Fine. Go short.
But if you've got a complex product to explain, or there's some heavy-duty skepticism you have to overcome, you may need two or even four pages to make your case. That's not a problem. That's simply the space you need to make the sale.
Just remember . . . stay lively, interesting, engaging and human, and you'll always keep your audience with you and on your side.
Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for companies like Bank of America, Fireman's Fund, Intel, Microsoft and many others. Levison writes direct mail sales letters, e-mail letters and ads. For a free subscription to his monthly e-mail newsletter for software marketers, visit his Web site at http://www.levison.com. He can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.