David Ogilvy, founder of the legendary ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, called sales letters his “secret weapon.”

For those who want a proven method for getting new business, mailing a sales letter is the most sophisticated and precise marketing tool you can use. Direct response is effective, cost-efficient and accountable.

When compared to other marketing tactics, direct mail is a bargain. Consider that you can send one letter across the country for (at this time) 46 cents. But when you evaluate the response direct mail receives versus email, then you start to see the value.

Yory Wurmser, Director of Marketing and Media Insights at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), found that [themecolor]direct mail has an average 4.4% response rate compared to email’s average rate of only 0.12%.[/themecolor]

That’s huge.

But yet so few businesses take advantage of direct mail. Especially young start-ups. Why?

There is so much focus on digital channels that often, direct mail gets overlooked. It’s considered too “old school” or cost-prohibitive. But when you consider how much is spent on cost per lead (CPL), a direct mail campaign may be the most economical solution. If, for example, you spend $10,000 on advertising and received 100 leads, your cost per lead would be $100.

If you spent $230 to send a one-page letter to a list of 500 and received even a 1% response rate, you would have 5 leads, which would make the CPL $46. Since the average for direct response is between 1% – 3%, imagine getting that 3%, which would give you 15 leads. That would bring the CPL to $15.33.

Not bad.

There are three components to a sales letter. It’s called “The 40/40/20 Rule.”

40% of your success depends on your list, the other 40% depends on your offer, and then 20% of the success rests on everything else (copy, design elements, type of mailing device).

The list

This is where many businesses go off track. No matter how much you think your product or service could help “everyone,” that will not lead to a successful campaign. You must create a targeted list. The more specific, the better. It could be targeted to an industry, to a geographic location, or a demographic group, but you need to make the list targeted.

The offer

Even if you have a great list, if your sales letter does not have a compelling offer that speaks directly to your targeted list’s need, it will likely be ignored. This is why it is important to develop your list first. Get to know the most pressing needs for your targeted prospect and then create a compelling offer that will solve her problem.

The message

This is where creative gets involved and whips up a dynamite sales letter that looks good and sounds good. Larger organizations spend more on printing and will often create colorful mailers that are filled with specialized devices, such as PURLs (Personalized URLs) or promotional items. What is important is that you have persuasive copy that pulls in your prospect’s attention.

The design doesn’t have to be complex to be effective. You can send out a simple letter with a clear headline, persuasive bullets, and emphasize certain phrases by either using bold, italicized, or underline type. As long as the list is targeted and you have a compelling offer, it should work fine.

I’ll be diving deeper over the next few days and show you how to use sales letters to increase business. I’m hoping that by the end of this series, you’ll be convinced to try it. It just might be the best marketing decision you’ll make.

Meanwhile, I have a special offer for my readers. For a limited time, I’m accepting sales letter critique requests at a discounted price. But it only lasts until midnight March 18. So if you want to take advantage of me (in a good way), [themecolor]I’d suggest you hop to it and check it out.[/themecolor]

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