How *not* to write a sales letter

sales letter templateThis letter arrived in the post recently (details changed for anonymity):

“Dear Ms Barrie,

ABC is the key to business growth; XYZ can open the door to a wealth of opportunities

Here at XYZ we are committed to keeping you up to date with the methods we have available to help you to ABC. We are delighted to enclose our latest brochure. In it you will find details of all our exceptional ABCs. I would like to draw your attention to just a few of our specialities.


Details details


Details details


Details details

Continued on next page…

We would love to help you to ABC. Please read the enclosed brochure and give us a call on 123 4567 or email us at if you would like a complimentary ABC.

There is no obligation, just an opportunity to accelerate your sales growth.

Yours sincerely,



Job title

PS. We own a blah-di-blah meaning that we have blah-di-blah-di-blah-di. We can now blah-di-wotsit even faster and most cost effectively than before because blah-di-blah-di-blah-di.

Call us today to discover how we can help you to find more customers on 123 4567.”

So, what’s right and what’s wrong with this letter?

First, they’ve bothered to pay for paper, ink and postage. This is now so rare that direct mail is making a comeback in terms of effectiveness. That said, you’ll still be lucky to get 1-4% response when you try it (more if you bother to do a – skilled – follow-up phone call). Also, they’ve missed a trick by not including a ‘Johnson box’ – their main message highlighted in the top right hand corner, opposite the address area (the bit that doesn’t show through the window envelope). It’s a great place to repeat your offer in an eye-catching way.

Next, it uses my own name. This is good. Personalisation means there is more chance that your letter will be read.

Then it has a bold main heading. This is also good as it catches the eye even if you don’t read more. The words are OK. They are trying to answer ‘what’s in it for me’ from the customer’s point of view, and are having a little play on ‘key’ and ‘door’. The words are not brilliant though. Going with a key/door theme would work much more effectively with a matching image, or even an enclosed padlock or something (lumpy mail rather than junk mail). But far better than that would be something original and unique to their brand.

It’s the introduction where it all goes horribly wrong. I count many more ‘I’, ‘we’ and (more…)

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