Sales letter

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A sales letter is a piece of direct mail which is designed to persuade the reader to purchase a particular product or service in the absence of a salesman. It has been defined as "A form of direct mail in which an advertiser sends a letter to a potential customer."[1] It is distinct from other direct mail techniques, such as the distribution of leaflets and catalogues, as the sales letter typically sells a single product or product line, and further tends to be mainly textual as opposed to graphics-based. It is typically used for products or services which, due to their price, are a considered purchase at medium or high value (typically tens to thousands of dollars). A sales letter is often, bust not exclusively, the last stage of the sales process before the customer places an order, and is designed to ensure that the prospect is committed to becoming a customer.

Since the advent of the internet, the sales letter has become an integral part of internet marketing, and typically takes the form of an email or webpage. Unsolicited sales emails are known as spam, although spam typically consists of emails which are much shorter than a normal sales letter. Offline, unsolicited sales letters are known as junk mail.



The sales letter is split into several key sections. In addition, other sections may be used, such as sub-headlines.


The headline is the most prominent text on the sales letter, and is designed to be among the first item the reader attends to.

Body copy

This section is typically quite long, with 4, 8 and 16 page letters being common formats. This section will typically contain testimonials from the firm's customers as well as pictures and information about the product. On the internet, the body copy may include embedded video or audio.

Call to action

All sales letters include a call to action which is intended to get the customer to commit to purchasing the product or service, typically without any further intervention.

Graphic design

The graphic design of a sales letter is an important part of the branding. The font, layout, line spacing, paragraph formatting, images, etc. all have an effect on the efficacy of the letter.

Development of sales letters

Because of the direct response nature of sales letters, they can be carefully tested on an ongoing basis to determine which version performs best in terms of converting readers to customers. Sales letters are typically developed incrementally, with split testing of various elements. This allows the marketeer or copywriter to confirm which headline, body text or graphic design converts best. On the internet, it is possible to track additional variables, such as the open rate of emails, the bounce rate, clickthrough to the checkout, etc.

Classic letters

Some sales letters have become design classics in their own right, notably the letter by John Caples which sold a home study (also known as distance learning or correspondence course) in piano playing. This letter had the headline "They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano But When I Started to Play! --"[2]


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