Writing a Successful Direct Mail Sales Letter

Useful advice on writing a powerful and successful direct mail sales letter

Your successful direct mail sales letter is your salesman (or saleswoman). Just as you would not send a scruffy and badly informed sales person to see a valuable prospect, make sure that your direct mail sales letter presents an image that you would be proud of. The following direct mail advice can help make your mailing a success.

Please remember that a successful direct mail sales letter is (or should appear to be) a very personal item. Although you may well be very aware that you are sending many thousands of letters, the recipient should feel that you have written just to them. Every mailer or letter should be personalised as much as possible, with their name and perhaps job title. Remember, a letter, or at least an envelope, that is not personalised is just a leaflet. Everything about your letter should make them feel that you are interested just in them. Ideally, you should appear to care about them, about their wishes, their likes and dislikes and their value to your company.

  1. Write a short and to the point letter. You have to gain your prospect’s attention immediately. Don’t waffle and ramble on about your company and how much you love it. Use a headline stating the facts that apply to your propect and what is in it for them. They really don’t care about you!
  2. Put your best offer first – in the headline.
  3. Use the word “You”. Try not to use “we”, “our” or “us”. Remember, they only care about themselves, not you or your wonderful company.
  4. Sell the benefits to them of buying your product or service, not its features.
  5. Use bullet points to make the benefits stand out.
  6. End your letter with a “call to action”. Try using “Return the order form today”, “ring me now”, “Fax your order today”. Tell your prospect exactly what they should do now and make it easy for them. A deadline is useful, so that your offer does not get put in a pile and forgotten.
  7. Use a P.S. People often read just the headline and the P.S.
  8. Read the letter aloud. If it sounds pompous or stilted, write it again – and then again if necessary.
  9. Do not be afraid to use incorrect grammer. You can start sentences with”And” if you wish. or Also. Use words like “Let’s”, “Don’t” “Can’t” “Shouldn’t”. They make your letter seem friendly. Aim to be a pal, who is doing them a favour. make your letter read as if you are speaking it to them.
  10. Use an established mailing house to handle your mailings. The savings that they can offer on postal discounts, data cleaning and efficient timing will far outweigh what you pay them. Devote your time to your business, not to licking envelopes.
  11. After you feel you have perfected your letter, read it again the next morning. You will have forgotten your enthusiasm by then and are more likely to read it as your prospect will. You will also pick up silly mistakes in grammer and spelling.
  12. Show the letter to as many people as possible before you send it. Ask your wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend and colleagues’ opinions. And listen to them! Start a collection of sales letters that have been sent to you and compare them with the above points. Yes, you can do better than them. Direct mail works and you can make it work for you.

The letterhead – make your direct mail sales letter stand out from the crowd

Sales letters should be sent on A4 paper (unless they are incorporated into a mailer or leaflet. The paper should be white or a light colour and should be well printed. Many successful direct mail companies now use full colour letterheads for mailings as it is then easy to incorporate an image of your product or service. Use a quality paper, ideally 100gsm, as this will accept laser personalising successfully and show that you value yourself and your offer highly. Never send a badly produced or photocopied mailing letter. You are just wasting your money if you do. Centreprint Print & Mail also supply Direct Mail printing as part of the service.

Starting your direct mail sales letter

The name and address

The recipients name and address should be printed in the correct position for a window envelope (if used). Your mailing house will take care of that. If you do not know your prospects name, use their job title instead.

The salutation

“Dear…..” The salutation is very important and needs a lot of thought. My own surname is “Porter” and I once had a letter addressed to “Mr Poofter”. Guess what? They didn’t get a sale! If you know the name and title of your prospect, start with “Dear Mr Johnson”. This is easy with men, but more difficult with ladies. They may be Miss, Mrs, Ms. An easy way around this if you know their first name is to address them by it. “Dear Susan”, for example. You can always excuse your familiarity in the first line of your letter. Dear Susan, Sorry to be so familier, but I was not sure of your title, Please let me know in your reply”. Whatever you do, try to ensure that it is totally correct. The problem with personalisation is that people get easily offended if you get it wrong. You can always address your prospect by both first name and surname. “Dear Susan Smith,”.

If you are sending a business letter and don’t know the recipients name, use their job title. “Dear Service Manager” is much better than “Dear Sir or Madam” which should be avoided if at all possible.

The body of the sales letter.

This should always always contain AIDA. Aida is very good at what she does and should always be included in every letter. Aida stands for:

1. Attract 2. Interest 3. Desire 4. Action


The best way to “Attract” is to start the headline with the word “YOU”. We are all most interested in ourselves and the word “You” will always attract. Compare the following headlines:

“You’ll love this!”
“Our products are very good value”

or even “Have we got news for YOU?”
“We have an announcement”

The word “You” is very powerful. Use it to attract. Try to understand what your prospect is looking for and offer it to them. An easier life?, more money?, prestige? Success with the opposite sex? Sell benefits NOT features.


Once you have their attention, you must then hold their interest. Remember, you sell them on the benefits of your product or service, not its features.

You don’t sell a non stick pan, you sell “Cook appetising meals with amazingly easy washing up”.

You don’t sell a burglar alarm, you sell “Sleep easy and feel secure – all night through”.

You don’t sell perfume, you sell “Sink into your loved ones arms, for a night to remember”.


This is when you grab them by the throat (and wallet). You have attracted them, interested them and now you have to make them want what you have to sell. Try to keep one of your unique selling points back for the end, as a closer.

“Order today and we’ll send you two for the price of one”.
“You’ll never get another offer like this”.
“I’ve reserved a free gift for you”


This is the critical bit. You have to ask them to do something. Ring a special number, post the reply card, send a cheque. Decide what you want your prospect to do and tell them how to do it.

“Ring our sales hotline now on 01234 87654”
“Post the reply card today for more details”
“E-mail me now at sales@costafortune.net.com
“Send your cheque today to ensure fast delivery and your free gift”

Always tell them what action they should take to get the benefits that you have outlined in your letter. If possible, put a time limit on their actions. “Reply today for a free gift” or “You must reply within seven days to get this offer”. If not, people will put it somewere safe and you’ll never hear from them again.

Attention getting

Do not be afraid to use underlining, bold type or larger font sizes. You are not taking an English examination.

Use bold type to get your message across. You can underline important points

The Postscript

By far the most effective end to the letter is a P.S. It is a powerful attention getter in its own right. People will often read the P.S. before the rest of the letter. Use it to emphasise your call to action. “Please return the order form TODAY- stocks are limited”. A handwritten (or apparently hand written) P.S. can look even better, especially in another colour such as blue.

P.S. Don’t forget to order before the seven-day deadline!

Thank you for reading this article, which, hopefully has proved useful to you. If you would like further advice on any specific aspect of leaflet production or direct mail, please feel free to contact us. Or fill in our secure enquiry form for help, advice or a quotation on your own project or requirements

Please feel free to reproduce this article elsewhere if you wish, as long as all links remain intact.

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