MGI Tipster – Volume 12, Issue 7

July 16, 2013   |   Vol. 12   |   Issue 7
Writing the Sales Letter

When membership marketing mail solicitations succeed, it’s because all of the package elements work together seamlessly: the carrier envelope entices prospects to open it, the letter convinces them to join, and the reply/order form pushes prospects to take action.

In each of these elements, copy is most important because it performs two tasks: it establishes the organization’s personality and creditability by its tone and presentation, and it sells.

Because well-written copy is fundamental to good marketing and successful selling, organizations should create and test a steady flow of new copy, always pushing the upper limits of response.

A department is born

To support this process, Marketing General Incorporated this year launched an in-house Editorial Department with two primary tasks: oversee draft copy for client letters and other written materials, and refine existing copy to ensure clarity and appropriate style.

MGI Editorial is now staffed by two full-time writers and a proofreader who work with account executives on reading matter and directly with clients who need professional writing and editing services.

A feature is born

MGI Editorial has launched an in-house information series called Copy Tips to support development of MGI account managers’ composition and style. From time to time, we will share copy tips with MGI Tipster readers that we believe are helpful and informative. Here is the first.

Copy Tip #1: Structure of the sales letter

The content sequence in a typical direct marketing sales letter is actually simpler than it may seem. There are four basic steps, which can be supplemented and recast, expanded and developed, but the four fundamental components remain the same. They are: Hook, Deal, Proof, and Close.

1. HOOK – A sales letter must have an arresting lead sentence or paragraph that grabs the reader’s attention. Unless the reader is hooked at the beginning, the remainder of the letter will probably go unread and the marketing process will come to an abrupt halt.

Hooks come in several varieties. The most effective is fear, which may seem predatory but it is a basic human instinct that marketers regularly tap into. Fear of losing something material, fear of losing respect or face, fear of the unknown, and fear of being left behind are but a few.

Copy sample: “Many prominent economists believe that the nation’s recovery will never return most Americans to the income levels they enjoyed a decade ago, and instead they should be prepared to settle for far less than once promised them by the American Dream.”

Comment: If experts say so, it must be true. Income really is down. My American Dream is at risk. OMG.

2. DEAL – After the Hook comes the offer or Deal, which is the solution that fixes the problem the Hook put in play, with a call to action to take immediate possession of the offered solution.

Copy sample: “That’s why membership in our association is so important: because we give you the tools and the knowledge to make the American Dream come true once again, now for just $199.”

Comment: There’s hope. Joining may solve my problem. I see how much it costs. Now convince me.

3. PROOF – This is the supporting argument that proves that the Deal solves the problem the reader learned from the Hook.

Copy sample: “More than 24,000 active and engaged members are living proof: becoming a member may be one of the best financial decisions you can make.”

Comment: That’s a lot of believers. Maybe membership really is a smart move. What should I do next?

4. CLOSE – The summary and restatement of the Hook, Deal, and Proof with another call to action.

Copy Sample: “Make your old dreams new again for just $199 when you join 24,000 like-minded members who find genuine value in belonging. Sign up today.”

Comment: Add the signature and the post script at the end and you are done.

Want to learn more?

Want to learn more? Can we help? Contact MGI Editorial Manager Bill Schaffner at 703.706.0306 or email him at

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