Here’s a link to a copy of the best sales letter ever written.
That’s not just my opinion either; its accolade is based on the fact that it made the Wall Street Journal more than $2 billion over the years that it ran.
The letter begins like this:
On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both—as young college graduates are—were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.
Recently, these men returned to their college for their 25th reunion.
They were still very much alike. Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company after graduation, and were still there.
But there was a difference. One of the men was a manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president.
Here, the ‘hook’ is the story. The opening paragraph paints a picture in the reader’s mind: I can see the golden sunshine, blossom on the trees, a slight haze in the air and the buzzing of insects. I can see the two young men and imagine what they were feeling, their hopes and dreams for the future.
The story has got my attention.
Then, it keeps me interested. The writer, legendary copywriter Martin Conroy, puts an intriguing fact forward: for all their similarities, one of the two young men went on to become much more successful than the other. I’m curious: what made the difference?
The letter goes on to tell us what made the difference.
Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes this kind of difference in people’s lives? It isn’t a native intelligence or talent or dedication. It isn’t that one person wants success and the other doesn’t.
The difference lies in what each person knows and how he or she makes use of that knowledge.
And that is why I am writing to you and to people like you about The Wall Street Journal. For that is the whole purpose of The Journal: to give its readers knowledge—knowledge that they can use in business.
Knowledge. Knowledge made the difference, and the Wall Street Journal is the means for readers to get that knowledge.
This is where the writer begins to lay down the benefits of reading the WSJ. He begins to awaken the reader’s desire. The reader thinks: I want to be like that successful young man in the tale!
The letter tells the full story, laying out all the reasons the reader should subscribe to the Journal. It overcomes all objections.
It convinces, with statistics and information about why the Journal is so important to people who want to be successful.
And it finishes with a strong call to action.
In fact, it uses the classic formula that all sales copy should use: AIDCA.
Attention. Interest. Desire. Conviction. Action. In that order.
If we want to convince someone to buy from us, we have to follow this process. We have to grab their attention and keep their interest. Awaken their desire, not in our product but in what our product does for them. Then we must convince – remove any uncertainty in the mind of the prospect. And finally, we need to ask for action. Because if we don’t ask, we don’t get.
When you do ask for action, do it strongly. In fact, the WSJ letter asks for action three times in a row:
Put our statements to the proof by subscribing for the next 13 weeks for just $34. This is the shortest subscription term we offer—and a perfect way to get acquainted with The Journal. Or you may prefer to take advantage of our better buy—one year for $129.
Simply fill out the enclosed order card and mail it in the postage-paid envelope provided. And here’s The Journal’s guarantee: should The Journal not measure up to your expectations, you may cancel this arrangement at any point and receive a refund for the undelivered portion of your subscription.
If you feel as we do that this is a fair and reasonable proposition, then you will want to find out without delay if The Wall Street Journal can do for you what it is doing for millions of readers. So please mail the enclosed order card now, and we will start serving you immediately.
Research shows that if you repeat something three times, in different terms, it’s more likely to make the reader act.
Incidentally, this sales letter/ad didn’t have a headline or a picture. I’m pointing this out because I want to press home the point that although everything I share with you is generally true and best practice, it isn’t necessarily the right way to do things in every situation.
The thing to do is, as always, test everything. See what works and what doesn’t. Break the rules sometimes, you might be surprised.
You might also have noticed that the story at the beginning of the WSJ letter didn’t actually have anything to do with the Journal at all. Nowhere did the writer say that one of the young men read the WSJ; it was implied. And that’s the beauty of storytelling. It hooks you in, then you can explain at your leisure.
Try it yourself.
Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.
PS Storytelling is just one of the techniques I teach in my book Business For Superheroes. You can – and should – get yourself a copy here.