The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy
Book Review - 4.5 Stars
Some months ago I promised a review of my much thumbed copy of "The Ultimate Sales Letter: Boost Your Sales With Powerful Sales Letters" by notoriously plain talking world class copywriter Dan Kennedy.
When I look at my copy it shows all the signs of use, spine cracked, various lines in the book underlined in different colours, sections asterisked and comments in the margin.
"The Ultimate Sales Letter" is a book I go back to when I am preparing to write a sales letter because it is a) very good and b) very well organised.
Dan Kennedy has identified 28 steps in the process of preparing the ultimate sales letter but he is preparing you to send mail which will be sent to tens of thousands of prospective customers rather than your top 100 to 200 local prospects.
That means that for most small businesses, you will be missing out some of the steps because you won't be worrying about sending the letter off to the printers.
To give you a feel for the Ultimate Sales Letter, let's have a quick look at some of the steps.
Step 1 - Get Into Your Customer
Your sales letter must talk directly to the reader so the more you understand what they want, what they want to avoid, how they think and feel, what language do they use... the more you will connect.
Remember all the time, the reader has to be enticed into reading more by the expectation of gaining more than they are losing.
You can't get away from the question "What's in it for me?"
Step 2 - Get Into The Offer
Next you have to understand the product or service you are promoting and the particular offer.
As Dan Kennedy says "People do not buy things for what they are, they buy things for what they can do."
This chapter also refers to the Ted Nicholas technique of finding the hidden benefit. It's not the obvious benefit that the prospects hear from your competitors but the underlying benefit which is of profound importance to your customer.
For example as a business coach, I talk about helping business owners earn more profit and work fewer hours but so do virtually every other business coach. If I targeted a particular demographic, say 30 to 40 year old male business owners, the hidden benefit may be "Spend more time with your kids while they are growing up and have memories that last a life time."
It personalises the service. It makes it meaningful and I'm sure that I can find quotes of famous people who have expressed regret at how much time their work took away from the family.
Step 3 - Create A Damaging Admission And Address Flaws Openly
It's a fact, people won't respond.
Email after email I get offering me free this and free that in what are probably very meaning and valuable offers.
But the emails have failed to motivate me - free of money yes, free of time no and we all know we can make more money.
So Dan Kennedy recommends that we identify why people won't respond and where practical address the objection. He also warns us that admissions of fallibility in the sales letter increase the credibility of the other claims and this is certainly a technique I use.
Step 6 - Get Your Sales Letter Read
Your sales letter goes through various stages after it has been posted but one of the most critical is when the envelope is opened. With a few seconds, it is in the bin or in the pile to have a little more attention.
The crucial decider is the headline as the reader asks "Does this letter look relevant, important or interesting to me?"
A "No" means your letter is trash.
But as Dan Kennedy puts it, a good headline will move the letter from an annoying pest to a welcome guest.
"The Ultimate Sales Letter" then provides a formula approach to headlines which I really like. If you have seen lists of "100 greatest headlines", the author uncovers the logic of why these headlines have been so successful.
Step 23 Mail A Mock Up
I have jumped ahead of the main letter writing steps to keep the Ultimate Sales Letter review short but this is another tip I really like.
You write your first draft.
You revise it, you polish it and as you do you fall in love with it. You've put so much of yourself into the letter that you can't help but think that it's going to be a great success.
So mail it to yourself.
That takes the letter away for a couple of days and you can then try to see your letter n the middle of all the other post you receive.
Does your envelope scream sales letter and if so, what did you do with similar letters?
Does your clever headline now look sarcastic.
Does the irresistible offer suddenly look very resistible?
How "The Ultimate Sales Letter"Could Be Better
The Ultimate Sales Letter does include some examples of sales letters but I would have liked to see more to help inspire the reader to take action.
The book seems to miss its target audience slightly.
The focus is on creating mass mailing letters but I don't believe that the readership will be mass mailing and people who mass mail will be advised to use a professional copywriter rather than a self written letter.
The 28 steps may put off some people who have a more simple process in mind
Step 1 - write the letter
Step 2 - post the letter
Step 3 - the phone rings
I wish it was copywriting was that simple.
Conclusion on The Ultimate Sales Letter
"The Ultimate Sales Letter" by Dan Kennedy is an excellent book and will help you write better sales letters. I rate it at 4.5 Stars.
This is a strong buy recommendation for anyone looking for a "how do I write a sales letter" guide but experienced copywriters won't learn much.
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