The Business Letter In Detail. Part 4
I am anxious to get a student started in your locality. To enable you to be that student, I am going to make you an exceptional offer. If you register with us within one week from this date, I will allow you twenty-five per cent discount from our regular tuition. This means $22.50 for the whole course - a saving to you of $7.50 It will not even be necessary for you to send a stipulated amount with the (enclosed) application blank. Sim-ply sign it, enclose what you caa spare, say two to five dollars, and sail today.
Very truly yours, Mr.Fisher Harrison.
4. Attention can be arrested legitimately or illegitimately. It is illegitimate to begin your sales-letter with a promise that you can't fulfil, or a scare that provokes a reaction of disgust. The very first words are the most important; the very last are the next most important. The first words should show that you know some genuine interest of the man addressed. That is all they need show, and if they do show it they do not need to be printed in capitals. If they don't, all the capitals in creation will not help.
Those first words, if good, will sound to the receiver like the words of a mind-reader: "You are paying rent"; "You are using gas"; "You are thinking of building"; "The salt in your cellars insists on caking"; "You are thinking of going abroad"; "You would like a motor-boat"; "We're discussing your case." There is a momentary revolt that this Sherlock Holmes should have pried so far into one's personal affairs, and then a quick hope that after all he may prove a find rather than a fraud.
5. Then comes the description of the goods. The mailorder houses describe them in great detail, rather than miss a point that the man may wish to know. Yet description by mere and sheer enumeration is not enough. The whole thing - as shown in Chapter XVIII (Business Description) - must be flashed before the reader imaginatively, with reference to the uses of the article and the needs of the buyer.
6. Then comes the argument, which is not argufying but an exposition of special advantages and values. You don't wrangle; you show him; you give reasons. Do not waste time in describing competing goods. Remember the unfortunate results of unintentional suggestion.
7. Lastly, draw the whole matter to a point. Show him that now is the accepted time. Don't threaten; show him. Very often the thing to do is to give him something to sign. It may be only a list to fill out. It may be a coupon worth so much on the price of the article. It may be only a request for more information. It may be a coin-holder to return in a printed envelope, or a paper to which a dollar bill may be pinned. But the inducement to immediate action should in most cases be there. Sometimes the time-element is to be considered, and you may not expect a sale for months. But meantime the man should be asking for your literature.
8. Suppose he doesn't ask. Then come the follow-up letters. They must be courteous. They must never forget that a man's attention is the most difficult thing in the world to buy, beg, or steal. The man of the world isn't going to abuse a stranger because that stranger owns a large waste-basket. He owes you absolutely nothing. He is not under the slightest ob-ligation to let you hear from him just because you are spending two-cent stamps on him.
A good follow-up letter does not tell it all over again in the first sentence, so as to save the reader the trouble of looking further. It varies the approach craftily, and uses a new point of view. But before the end the particular point - the same old point - will be hit on with new enthusiasm. A series of such letters, calm as a May morning, will not fail to produce an effect. But letters that are petulant or whining won't. "You will admit that we have held this special offer open to you a long while." "Will If Nothing of the sort," answers the nettled prospect, "and you may go hang." Last week I saw a man turn in disgust from one firm to another because a sales manager had signed himself, "Yours anxiously."
§118. It is interesting to note how different two sales letters on the same subject may be and yet both be good. A man living in Oak Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, wrote to two mail-order houses of Chicago asking for information about motor-boats. His form of request was exactly the same to both houses. He wanted to know something about a moderate priced motor-boat for family use. He addressed the envelopes both in the same way - "Chicago" - and dropped them together into the mail box.
The next day he received the following answer, which I will mark A. It was a very hot day and the man was anxious to get out of town. He went into Chicago, succeeded in meeting the man who wrote the letter, bought a boat, and left for the country.
A week later he received the answer marked B. For some reason his inquiry had failed to get to the second firm promptly, and hence the delay. Messrs. Sears, Roebuck, & Co. are prompt correspondents, and their letter, though different from that of Messrs. Montgomery Ward & Co., is an excellent selling-letter.
Chicago, June 30,1910.
We thank you for the inquiry about a gasoline launch and take pleasure in sending you copy of our latest "Boat Special", to think the 16. it family launch shorn on page 6 will meet your requirements, although we prefer to recommend the 20 ft. Torpedo on page 9, as the latter is more comfortable and is better engined.
We make this recommendation because the 20 ft. Torpedo is really our most popular boat, and although we have a large number in use, it seems to invariably giro satisfaction.
The 20 ft.Torpedo is regularly equipped with a 6 horse power, double-cylinder engine, and sells for $330.00. If you appreciate extra speed, we can install an eight horse power engine for $450.00.
We ask you to turn to page 19 and read full description of our motor. is the motor is the most important part of a boat, it is essential that the power plant be absolutely dependable. Oar designer has worked for simplicity and reliability and we believe that our motor is just a little bit better than any other.