Direct Response Marketing Techniques: Sales Letters 101


Well-crafted sales letters are one of the most effective direct response marketing techniques out there. 

While some marketers aren’t currently taking advantage of sales letters (or VSLs for that matter…), they definitely should!

With a sales letter, you can communicate the benefits of your product in a compelling way that grabs the interest of the customer and takes them down a journey that eventually ends with a direct response.

Let’s go over what sales letters are and how any marketer can add them to their repertoire of direct response marketing techniques.

What A Sales Letter Is And How To Write A Great One


Before moving forward, it’s imperative to understand what a sales letter is.

For those that aren't aware, a sales letter is a page filled with compelling copy that drives the reader to purchase a product or service.

Sales letters have been used by marketers all over the world for year and years. The reason why sales letters are still so popular is because they work.

With a well-written sales letter, a business owner can expect to see a massive surge in sales—all without having to do any additional selling. Instead, they simply need to lead the potential customer to the sales letter, and the sales letter does the rest!

With an understanding of how powerful sales letters are, there comes the question of how to write the perfect sales letter. There is quite a bit that goes into a well-written sales letter—which includes the ability to write great copy.

We're going to highlight some key elements here, and you can always find more great copywriting information (and other direct response marketing techniques) in our free Copywriting Bootcamp course.

Beyond the actual sales copy, a marketer needs to know what goes into writing an excellent sales letter.

Below are the 3 things that every marketer needs to do to drive sales through a sales letter…

1. Grab Their Attention


People have very short attention spans. Because of this, marketers need to not only keep their attention, but they need to find a way to grab it in the first place!

Before a sales letter even begins, the customer needs to be given a compelling reason to click.

There are a few different methods that you can use to drive a potential customer to click through to a sales page, but no matter which way is chosen, it needs to be compelling.

Once the customer lands on the sales letter page, they need a reason to stay. That reason needs to come immediately.

As soon as a customer lands on a sales page, they need to be greeted with copy that will get them to stop whatever they are doing and focus on the sales letter.

Great marketers are able to pluck customers from their daily routine and immerse them in a new world in which amazing things are possible. This is done with the initial, attention-grabbing copy.

Whatever the first thing is that the customer reads, it needs to be BIG. And no, I don’t mean the font…I mean the idea.

The customer needs to see something that hits them hard and sticks with them. It needs to be a question, a statement or a solution that gets down to the core of  the issue that they are having that the product solves.

Once a marketer has earned the attention of their potential customer, they then need to…

2. Build Interest


For those that have read a sales letter, they know that they can often be quite long. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it’s actually genius…

A longer sales letter gives the marketer time to build interest. This interest compels the customer forward and takes them on a journey to the marketer’s intended destination—a direct response.

To build interest, many marketers choose to tell a story.

Now, this story doesn’t have to be too over the top. Actually, the more relatable the story is, the more likely the potential customer will be to keep reading…

Consider a weight loss product.

The story may involve someone that has been overweight their entire lives, which has led to low self-confidence and eventually a major health scare! Then, they discovered the product that turned their life around…

Many people can relate to this story. This builds and maintains interest.

To keep the reader’s interest, it’s also important to keep the solution somewhat vague. The reader needs to believe that they will get value from reading the sales letter to keep reading it. Still, too much information devalues the product.

Throughout the initial copy and even the story, the solution should be kept just a little out of reach to keep the potential customer engaged.

Finally, a marketer needs to make sure their initial copy and their story hits certain pain points.

Pain points are areas in which a customer is insecure, annoyed or otherwise suffering. These are the real reasons why the customer purchases.

To customers, pain points are often solved by the benefits of the product and not the actual features. That’s why—in the sales letter—the pain points and benefits are focused on.

The customer will get the whole package once they buy the product or service…

Once the interest is built, the marketer can move on to the final, most important part of the sales letter…

3. Direct Response Action


All of the attention-grabbing and all of the interest-building means absolutely nothing if a marketer doesn’t get their customers to TAKE ACTION.

And I don’t mean asking the customer to circle back around once they’ve thought about it. I mean having the customer purchase immediately. Even if the ask isn’t that large, you want to make sure that—by the end of the letter—there’s a sale.

This means getting them to click NOW. You need to tell them where they can click, when they should click and why they should click.

Make sure that they understand that they are getting an amazing offer. You may even want to give them some extra incentive…

Some marketers will put countdown timers on their pages. While this may seem old-hat, it still works! People see that timer ticking down, and they know they need to make a decision.

However, the scarcity must be real. You can't say that the offer is limited time only if it isn't limited.

I would also suggest considering offering the product at a “discount.”

People love to see a red slash through an old price next to a smaller, more attractive number. This gives them the feeling that they’ve somehow won and that they’ve shown up at just the right time.

Another way marketers get a direct response is by offering something more.

This may mean a special bonus for purchasing that day, or other special deals. If the customer feels like they are getting more than what they originally would have, they will be much more likely to pull out their wallet and start typing in their credit card information….

Kevin Harrington does a great job at going more in-depth on some of these ideas in The Pitch Formula (a free Lurn course).

No matter which way it’s done, you need to attain a direct response by the end of the letter. Don’t give customers time to think!

Get them to take action!

Explore More Direct Response Marketing Techniques


To get customers to read through an entire sales letter, you need to know how to do everything that we’ve gone over above in addition to other powerful direct response marketing techniques.

Although it may sound a bit overwhelming for a complete beginner, all it takes is a little bit of studying and practicing to get the hang of it. 

If you're looking for a bit more direction in terms of refining your direct response marketing techniques, check out our free Copywriting Bootcamp for a structured exploration of selling through the written word.