|Title: Business Correspondence
HOW TO WRITE THE BUSINESS LETTER: _24 chapters on preparing to write
the letter and finding the proper viewpoint; how to open the letter,
present the proposition convincingly, make an effective close; how
to acquire a forceful style and inject originality; how to adapt
selling appeal to different prospects and get orders by letter--
proved principles and practical schemes illustrated by extracts from
217 actual letters_
_Preparing to Write the Letter_
1: What You Can Do With a Postage Stamp
2: The Advantages of Doing Business by Letter
3: Gathering Material and Picking Out Talking Points
4: When You Sit Down to Write
_How to Write the Letter_
5: How to Begin a Business Letter
6: How to Present Your Proposition
7: How to Bring the Letter to a Close
_Style--Making the Letter Readable_
8: "Style" in Letter Writing--And How to Acquire It
9: Making the Letter Hang Together
10: How to Make Letters Original
11: Making the Form Letter Personal
_The Dress of a Business Letter_
12: Making Letterheads and Envelopes Distinctive
13: The Typographical Make-up of Business Letters
14: Getting a Uniform Policy and Quality in Letters
15: Making Letters Uniform in Appearance
_Writing the Sales Letter_
16: How to Write the Letter That Will "Land" the Order
17: The Letter That Will Bring An Inquiry
18: How to Close Sales by Letter
19: What to Enclose With Sales Letters
20: Bringing in New Business by Post Card
21: Making it Easy for the Prospect to Answer
_The Appeal to Different Classes_
22: How to Write Letters That Appeal to Women
23: How to Write Letters That Appeal to Men
24: How to Write Letters That Appeal to Farmers
What You Can _Do_ With a
PART I--PREPARING TO WRITE THE LETTER--CHAPTER 1
_Last year  fifteen billion letters were handled by the post
office--one hundred and fifty for every person. Just as a thousand
years ago practically all trade was cash, and now only seven per
cent involves currency, so nine-tenths of the business is done today
by letter while even a few decades ago it was by personal word. You
can get your prospect, turn him into a customer, sell him goods,
settle complaints, investigate credit standing, collect your
money_--ALL BY LETTER. _And often better than by word of mouth. For,
when talking, you speak to only one or two; by letter you can talk
to a hundred thousand in a sincere, personal way. So the letter is
the_ MOST IMPORTANT TOOL _in modern business--good letter writing is
the business man's_ FIRST REQUIREMENT.
* * * * *
There is a firm in Chicago, with a most interesting bit of inside
history. It is not a large firm. Ten years ago it consisted of one
man. Today there are some three hundred employees, but it is still a
one-man business. It has never employed a salesman on the road; the
head of the firm has never been out to call on any of his customers.
But here is a singular thing: you may drop in to see a business man
in Syracuse or San Francisco, in Jacksonville or Walla Walla, and
should you casually mention this man's name, the chances are the
other will reply: "Oh, yes. I know him very well. That is, I've had
several letters from him and I feel as though I know him."
Sitting alone in his little office, this man was one of the first to
foresee, ten years ago, the real possibilities of the letter. He saw
that if he could write a man a thousand miles away the right kind of
a letter he could do business with him as well as he could with the
man in the next block.
So he began _talking_ by mail to men whom he thought might buy his
goods--talking to them in sane, human, you-and-me English. Through
those letters he sold goods. Nor did he stop there. In the same
human way he collected the money for them. He adjusted any
complaints that arose. He did everything that any business man could
do with customers. In five years he was talking not to a thousand
men but to a million. And today, though not fifty men in the million
have ever met him, this man's personality has swept like a tidal
wave across the country and left its impression in office, store and
factory--through letters--letters _alone_.
This instance is not cited because it marks the employment of a new
medium, but because it shows how the letter has become a universal
implement of trade; how a commonplace tool has been developed into a
The letter is today the greatest potential creator and transactor of
business in the world. But wide as its use is, it still lies idle,
an undeveloped possibility, in many a business house where it might
be playing a powerful part.
The letter is a universal implement of business--that is what gives
it such great possibilities. It is the servant of every business,
regardless of its size or of its character. It matters not what
department may command its use--wherever there is a business in
which men must communicate with each other, the letter is found to
be the first and most efficient medium.
Analyze for a moment the departments of your own business. See how
many points there are at which you could use _right_ letters to
good advantage. See if you have not been overlooking some
opportunities that the letter, at a small cost, will help develop.
Do you sell goods? The letter is the greatest salesman known to
modern business. It will carry the story you have to tell wherever
the mail goes. It will create business and bring back orders a
thousand miles to the very hand it left. If you are a retailer, the
letter will enable you to talk your goods, your store, your service,
to every family in your town, or it will go further and build a
counter across the continent for you.
If you are a manufacturer or wholesaler selling to the trade, the
letter will find prospects and win customers for you in remote towns
that salesmen cannot profitably reach.
But the letter is not only a direct salesman, it is a supporter of
every personal sales force. Judiciously centered upon a given
territory, letters pave the way for the salesman's coming; they
serve as his introduction. After his call, they keep reminding the
prospect or customer of the house and its goods.
Or, trained by the sales manager upon his men, letters keep them in
touch with the house and key up their loyalty. With regular and
special letters, the sales manager is able to extend his own
enthusiasm to the farthest limits of his territory.
So in every phase of selling, the letter makes it possible for you
to keep your finger constantly upon the pulse of trade.
If you are a wholesaler or manufacturer, letters enable you to keep
your dealers in line. If you are a retailer, they offer you a medium
through which to keep your customers in the proper mental attitude
toward your store, the subtle factor upon which retail credit so
largely depends. If you sell on instalments, letters automatically
follow up the accounts and maintain the inward flow of payments at a
fraction of what any other system of collecting entails.
Do you have occasion to investigate the credit of your customers?
The letter will quietly and quickly secure the information. Knowing
the possible sources of the data you desire you can send forth half
a dozen letters and a few days later have upon your desk a
comprehensive report upon the worth and reliability of almost any
concern or individual asking credit favors. And the letter will get
this information where a representative would often fail because it
comes full-fledged in the frankness and dignity of your house.
Does your business involve in any way the collecting of money?
Letters today bring in ten dollars for every one that collectors
receive on their monotonous round of homes and cashiers' cages.
Without the collection letter the whole credit system would be
toppling about our ears.
* * * * *
BUILDS UP LISTS
ELIMINATES DEAD WOOD
CLASSIFIES LIVE PROSPECTS
OPENS UP NEW TERRITORY
SHOWS POSSIBLE PROFIT
INTRODUCES NEW LINES
AID TO SALESMEN
KEEPS LINED UP
AID TO DEALERS
DRUMS UP TRADE
DEVELOPS NEW BUSINESS
HOW TO SYSTEMIZE WORK
MERCANTILE ACTS - RETAIL ACTS - INSTALLMENT ACTS - PETTY ACTS
EMPHASIZE HOUSE POLICY
EMPHASIZE ADVANTTAGAE OF GOODS
ESTABLISHMENT OF FORCED COLLECTIONS
COST OF FORCED COLLECTIONS
EXTENSION OF ACCOMMODATION
OF SHUTTING OFF CREDIT
OF WRITING TO REFERENCES
THROUGH LEGAL AVENUES
THROUGH LEGAL AGENCIES
HOUSE COLLECTION BUREAUS
REGULAR COLLECTION BUREAUS
HANDLES LONG RANGE CUSTOMERS
SUPPLIES PERSONAL CONTACT
SHOWS INTEREST IN CUSTOMER
DEVELOPS RE-ORDER SCHEMES
BUILDS UP STEADY TRADE
MAKES CAPITAL OUT OF COMPLAINTS
WINS BACK CUSTOMERS
GIVES PERSONALITY TO BUSINESS
BUILDS UP GOOD WILL
PAVES WAY FOR NEW CUSTOMERS
_The practical uses of the business letter are almost infinite:
selling goods, with distant customers, developing the prestige of
the house--there is handling men, adjusting complaints, collecting
money, keeping in touch scarcely an activity of modern business that
cannot be carried on by letter_
* * * * *
Do you find it necessary to adjust the complaint of a client or a
customer? A diplomatic letter at the first intimation of
dissatisfaction will save many an order from cancellation. It will
soothe ruffled feelings, wipe out imagined grievances and even lay
the basis for firmer relations in the future.
So you may run the gamut of your own business or any other. At every
point that marks a transaction between concerns or individuals, you
will find some way in which the letter rightly used, can play a
There is a romance about the postage stamp as fascinating as any
story--not the romance contained in sweet scented notes, but the
romance of big things accomplished; organizations developed,
businesses built, great commercial houses founded.
In 1902 a couple of men secured the agency for a firm manufacturing
extracts and toilet preparations. They organized an agency force
through letters and within a year the manufacturers were swamped
with business, unable to fill the orders.
Then the men added one or two other lines, still operating from one
small office. Soon a storage room was added; then a packing and
shipping room was necessary and additional warehouse facilities were
needed. Space was rented in the next building; a couple of rooms
were secured across the street, and one department was located over
the river--wherever rooms could be found.
Next the management decided to issue a regular mail-order catalogue
and move to larger quarters where the business could be centered
under one roof. A floor in a new building was rented--a whole floor.
The employees thought it was extravagance; the managers were
dubious, for when the business was gathered in from seven different
parts of the city, there was still much vacant floor space.
One year later it was again necessary to rent outside space. The
management then decided to erect a permanent home and today the
business occupies two large buildings and the firm is known all over
the country as one of the big factors of mail-order merchandising.
It has all been done by postage stamps.
When the financial world suddenly tightened up in 1907 a wholesale
dry goods house found itself hard pressed for ready money. The
credit manager wrote to the customers and begged them to pay up at
once. But the retailers were scared and doggedly held onto their
cash. Even the merchants who were well rated and whose bills were
due, played for time.
The house could not borrow the money it needed and almost in despair
the president sat down and wrote a letter to his customers; it was
no routine collection letter, but a heart-to-heart talk, telling
them that if they did not come to his rescue the business that he
had spent thirty years in building would be wiped out and he would
be left penniless because he could not collect _his_ money. He had
the bookkeepers go through every important account and they found
that there was hardly a customer who had not, for one reason or
another, at some time asked for an extension of credit. And to each
customer the president dictated a personal paragraph, reminding him
of the time accommodation had been asked and granted. Then the
appeal was made straight from the heart: "Now, when I need help, not
merely to tide me over a few weeks but to save me from ruin, will
you not strain a point, put forth some special effort to help me
out, just as I helped you at such and such a time?"
"If we can collect $20,000," he had assured his associates, "I know
we can borrow $20,000, and that will probably pull us through."
The third day after his letters went out several checks came in; the
fourth day the cashier banked over $22,000; within ten days $68,000
had come in, several merchants paying up accounts that were not yet
due; a few even offered to "help out the firm."
The business was saved--by postage stamps.
Formality to the winds; stereotyped phrases were forgotten;
traditional appeals were discarded and a plain talk, man-to-man,
just as if the two were closeted together in an office brought
hundreds of customers rushing to the assistance of the house with
which they had been dealing.
Sixty-eight thousand dollars collected within two weeks when money
was almost invisible--and by letter. Truly there is romance in the
Twenty-five years ago a station agent wrote to other agents along
the line about a watch that he could sell them at a low price. When
an order came in he bought a watch, sent it to the customer and used
his profit to buy stamps for more letters. After a while he put in
each letter a folder advertising charms, fobs and chains; then
rings, cuff buttons and a general line of jewelry was added. It soon
became necessary to give up his position on the railroad and devote
all his time to the business and one line after another was added to
the stock he carried.
Today the house that started in this way has customers in the
farthermost parts of civilization; it sells every conceivable
product from toothpicks to automobiles and knockdown houses. Two
thousand people do nothing but handle mail; over 22,000 orders are
received and filled every day; 36,000 men and women are on the
It has all been done by mail. Postage stamps bring to the house
every year business in excess of $65,000,000.
One day the head correspondent in an old established wholesale house
in the east had occasion to go through some files of ten and twelve
years before. He was at once struck with the number of names with
which he was not familiar--former customers who were no longer
buying from the house. He put a couple of girls at work making a
list of these old customers and checking them up in the mercantile
directories to see how many were still in business.
Then he sat down and wrote to them, asking as a personal favor that
they write and tell him why they no longer bought of the house;
whether its goods or service had not been satisfactory, whether some
complaint had not been adjusted. There must be a reason, would they
not tell him personally just what it was?
Eighty per cent of the men addressed replied to this personal
appeal; many had complaints that were straightened out; others had
drifted to other houses for no special reason. The majority were
worked back into the "customer" files. Three years later the
accounting department checked up the orders received from these
re-found customers. The gross was over a million dollars. The
business all sprung from one letter.
Yes, there is romance in the postage stamp; there is a latent power
in it that few men realize--a power that will remove commercial
mountains and erect industrial pyramids.
The ADVANTAGES Of Doing
_Business_ By Letter
PART I--PREPARING TO WRITE THE LETTER--CHAPTER 2
_Letters have their limitations and their advantages. The
correspondent who is anxious to secure the best results should
recognize the inherent weakness of a letter due to its lack of
personality in order to reinforce these places. Equally essential is
an understanding of the letter's great_ NATURAL ADVANTAGES _so that
the writer can turn them to account--make the most of them. It
possesses qualities the personal representative lacks and this
chapter tells how to take advantage of them_
* * * * *
While it is necessary to know how to write a strong letter, it is
likewise essential to understand both the limitations of letters and
their advantages. It is necessary, on the one hand, to take into
account the handicaps that a letter has in competition with a
personal solicitor. Offsetting this are many distinct advantages the
letter has over the salesman. To write a really effective letter, a
correspondent must thoroughly understand its carrying capacity.
A salesman often wins an audience and secures an order by the force
of a dominating personality. The letter can minimize this handicap
by an attractive dress and force attention through the impression of
quality. The letter lacks the animation of a person but there can be
an individuality about its appearance that will assure a respectful
hearing for its message.
The personal representative can time his call, knowing that under
certain circumstances he may find his man in a favorable frame of
mind, or even at the door he may decide it is the part of diplomacy
to withdraw and wait a more propitious hour. The letter cannot back
out of the prospect's office; it cannot shape its canvass to meet
the needs of the occasion or make capital out of the mood or the
comments of the prospect.
The correspondent cannot afford to ignore these handicaps under
which his letter enters the prospect's office. Rather, he should
keep these things constantly in mind in order to overcome the
obstacles just as far as possible, reinforcing the letter so it will
be prepared for any situation it may encounter at its destination.
Explanations must be so clear that questions are unnecessary;
objections must be anticipated and answered in advance; the fact
that the recipient is busy must be taken into account and the
message made just as brief as possible; the reader must be treated
with respect and diplomatically brought around to see the
relationship between _his_ needs and _your_ product.
But while the letter has these disadvantages, it possesses qualities
that the salesman lacks. The letter, once it lies open before the
man to whom you wish to talk, is your counterpart, speaking in your
words just as you would talk to him if you were in his office or in
his home. That is, the _right_ letter. It reflects your personality
and not that of some third person who may be working for a
competitor next year.
The letter, if clearly written, will not misrepresent your
proposition; its desire for a commission or for increased sales will
not lead it to make exaggerated statements or unauthorized promises.
The letter will reach the prospect just as it left your desk, with
the same amount of enthusiasm and freshness. It will not be tired
and sleepy because it had to catch a midnight train; it will not be
out of sorts because of the poor coffee and the cold potatoes served
at the Grand hotel for breakfast; it will not be peeved because it
lost a big sale across the street; it will not be in a hurry to make
the 11:30 local; it will not be discouraged because a competitor is
making inroads into the territory.
You have the satisfaction of knowing that the letter is immune from
these ills and weaknesses to which flesh is heir and will deliver
your message faithfully, promptly, loyally. It will not have to
resort to clever devices to get past the glass door, nor will it be
told in frigid tones by the guard on watch to call some other day.
The courtesy of the mail will take your letter to the proper
authority. If it goes out in a dignified dress and presents its
proposition concisely it is assured of a considerate hearing.
It will deliver its message just as readily to some Garcia in the
mountains of Cuba as to the man in the next block. The salesman who
makes a dozen calls a day is doing good work; letters can present
your proposition to a hundred thousand prospects on the one
forenoon. They can cover the same territory a week later and call
again and again just as often as you desire. You cannot time the
letter's call to the hour but you can make sure it reaches the
prospect on the day of the week and the time of the month when he is
most likely to give it consideration. You know exactly the kind of
canvass every letter is making; you know that every call on the list
The salesman must look well to his laurels if he hopes to compete
successfully with the letter as a selling medium. Put the points of
advantage in parallel columns and the letter has the best of it;
consider, in addition, the item of expense and it is no wonder
letters are becoming a greater factor in business.
The country over, there are comparatively few houses that appreciate
the full possibilities of doing business by mail. Not many
appreciate that certain basic principles underlie letter writing,
applicable alike to the beginner who is just struggling to get a
foothold and to the great mail-order house with its tons of mail
daily. They are not mere theories; they are fundamental principles
that have been put to the test, proved out in thousands of letters
and on an infinite number of propositions.
The correspondent who is ambitious to do by mail what others do by
person, must understand these principles and how to apply them. He
must know the order and position of the essential elements; he must
take account of the letter's impersonal character and make the most
of its natural advantages.
Writing letters that pull is not intuition; it is an art that anyone
can acquire. But this is the point: _it must be acquired_. It will
not come to one without effort on his part. Fundamental principles
must be understood; ways of presenting a proposition must be
studied, various angles must be tried out; the effectiveness of
appeals must be tested; new schemes for getting attention and
arousing interest must be devised; clear, concise description and
explanation must come from continual practice; methods for getting
the prospect to order now must be developed. It is not a game of
chance; there is nothing mysterious about it--nothing impossible, it
is solely a matter of study, hard work and the intelligent
application of proved-up principles.
_Gathering_ MATERIAL And _Picking_
Out TALKING Points
PART I--PREPARING TO WRITE THE LETTER--CHAPTER 3
_Arguments--prices, styles, terms, quality or whatever they may
be--are effective only when used on the right "prospect" at the
right time. The correspondent who has some message of value to carry
gathers together a mass of "raw material"--facts, figures and
specifications on which to base his arguments--and then he selects
the particular talking points that will appeal to his prospect. By
systematic tests, the relative values of various arguments may be
determined almost to a scientific nicety. How to gather and classify
this material and how to determine what points are most effective is
the subject in this chapter_
* * * * *
An architect can sit down and design your house on paper, showing
its exact proportions, the finish of every room, the location of
every door and window. He can give specific instructions for
building your house but before you can begin operations you have got
to get together the brick and mortar and lumber--all the material
used in its construction.
And so the correspondent-architect can point out the way to write a
letter: how to begin, how to work up interest, how to present
argument, how to introduce salesmanship, how to work in a clincher
and how to close, but when you come to writing the letter that
applies to your particular business you have first to gather the
material. And just as you select cement or brick or lumber according
to the kind of house you want to build, so the correspondent must
gather the particular kind of material he wants for his letter,
classify it and arrange it so that the best can be quickly selected.
The old school of correspondents--and there are many graduates still
in business--write solely from their own viewpoint. Their letters
are focused on "our goods," "our interests" and "our profits." But
the new school of letter writers keep their own interests in the
background. Their sole aim is to focus on the viewpoint of the
reader; find the subjects in which he is interested, learn the
arguments that will appeal to him, bear down on the persuasion that
will induce him to act at once.
And so the successful correspondent should draw arguments and
talking points from many sources; from the house, from the customer,
from competitors, from the news of the day from his knowledge of
"What shall I do first?" asked a new salesman of the general
"Sell yourself," was the laconic reply, and every salesman and
correspondent in the country could well afford to take this advice
Sell yourself; answer every objection that you can think of, test
out the proposition from every conceivable angle; measure it by
other similar products; learn its points of weakness and of
superiority, know its possibilities and its limitations. Convince
yourself; sell yourself, and then you will be able to sell others.
The first source of material for the correspondent is in the house
itself. His knowledge must run back to the source of raw materials:
the kinds of materials used, where they come from, the quality and
the quantity required, the difficulties in obtaining them, the
possibilities of a shortage, all the problems of mining or gathering
the raw material and getting it from its source to the plant--a vast
storehouse of talking points.
Then it is desirable to have a full knowledge of the processes of
manufacture; the method of handling work in the factory, the labor
saving appliances used, the new processes that have been perfected,
the time required in turning out goods, the delays that are liable
to occur--these are all pertinent and may furnish the strongest kind
of selling arguments. And it is equally desirable to have inside
knowledge of the methods in the sales department, in the receiving
room and the shipping room. It is necessary for the correspondent to
know the firm's facilities for handling orders; when deliveries can
be promised, what delays are liable to occur, how goods are packed,
the condition in which they are received by the customer, the
probable time required in reaching the customer.
Another nearby source of information is the status of the customer's
account; whether he is slow pay or a man who always discounts his
bills. It is a very important fact for the correspondent to know
whether the records show an increasing business or a business that
barely holds its own.
Then a most important source--by many considered the most valuable
material of all--is the customer himself. It may be laid down as a
general proposition that the more the correspondent knows about the
man to whom he is writing, the better appeal he can make.
In the first place, he wants to know the size and character of the
customer's business. He should know the customer's location, not
merely as a name that goes on the envelope, but some pertinent facts
regarding the state or section. If he can find out something
regarding a customer's standing and his competition, it will help
him to understand his problems.
Fortunate is the correspondent who knows something regarding the
personal peculiarities of the man to whom he is writing. If he
understands his hobbies, his cherished ambition, his home life, he
can shape his appeal in a more personal way. It is comparatively
easy to secure such information where salesmen are calling on the
trade, and many large houses insist upon their representatives'
making out very complete reports, giving a mass of detailed
information that will be valuable to the correspondent.
Then there is a third source of material, scarcely less important
than the study of the house and the customer, and that is a study of
the competitors--other firms who are in the same line of business
and going after the same trade. The broad-gauged correspondent never
misses an opportunity to learn more about the goods of competing
houses--the quality of their products, the extent of their lines,
their facilities for handling orders, the satisfaction that their
goods are giving, the terms on which they are sold and which
managers are hustling and up to the minute in their methods.
The correspondent can also find information, inspiration and
suggestion from the advertising methods of other concerns--not
competitors but firms in a similar line.
Then there are various miscellaneous sources of information. The
majority of correspondents study diligently the advertisements in
general periodicals; new methods and ideas are seized upon and filed
in the "morgue" for further reference.
Where a house travels a number of men, the sales department is an
excellent place from which to draw talking points. Interviewing
salesmen as they come in from trips and so getting direct
information, brings out talking points which are most helpful as are
those secured by shorthand reports of salesmen's conventions.
Many firms get convincing arguments by the use of detailed forms
asking for reports on the product. One follow-up writer gets
valuable pointers from complaints which he terms "reverse" or
"left-handed" talking points.
Some correspondents become adept in coupling up the news of the day
with their products. A thousand and one different events may be
given a twist to connect the reader's interest with the house
products and supply a reason for "buying now." The fluctuation in
prices of raw materials, drought, late seasons, railway rates,
fires, bumper crops, political discussions, new inventions,
scientific achievements--there is hardly a happening that the clever
correspondent, hard pressed for new talking points, cannot work into
a sales letter as a reason for interesting the reader in his goods.
* * * * *
SOURCES OF MATERIAL:
/ 1. SOURCES
/ 1. RAW MATERIALS --| 2. QUALITY
| | 3. SUPPLY
| \ 4. PRICE
| / 1. CAPACITY OF
PLANT | PLANT
| | 2. NEW EQUIPMENT
| 2. PROCESSES OF --| 3. TIME SAVING
| MANUFACTURE | DEVICES
| \ 4. IMPROVED METHODS
/- 1. THE HOUSE------|
| | / 1. METHODS OF
| | | SALESMEN
| | 3. KNOWLEDGE OF --| 2. POLICY OF
| | DEPARTMENTS | CREDIT DEPT.
| | | 3. CONDITIONS IN
| | | RECEIVING &
| | \ SHIPPING DEPTS.
| | 4. KNOWLEDGE OF
| | COSTS
| | 5. STATUS OF / 1. CREDIT
| | CUSTOMER'S --| STANDING
| | ACCOUNT | 2. GROWING
| | \ BUSINESS
| | / 1. OLD LETTERS
| | | 2. ADVERTISEMENTS
| | 6. DOCUMENTS --| 3. BOOKLETS,
| | | CIRCULARS, ETC.
| | \ 4. TESTIMONIALS
| | / 1. ACQUAINTANCES
| | | OF OFFICERS
| \ 7. PERSONNEL OF --| 2. INTERESTS &
| FIRM | RELATIONS
| \ OF OFFICERS
| / 1. CHARACTER OR
|- 2. THE CUSTOMERS--| KIND OF BUSINESS
| | 2. SIZE OF BUSINESS
| | 3. LENGTH OF TIME
| | IN BUSINESS
SOURCES | 4. LOCATION & LOCAL
OF | CONDITIONS
| | 5. COMPETITION
| | 6. STANDING WITH
| | CUSTOMERS
| | 7. METHODS & POLICIES
| | 8. HOBBIES & PERSONAL
| \ PECULIARITIES
| / 1. QUALITY
| / 1. GOODS --| 2. EXTENT OF LINES
| | \ 3. NEW LINES
| | / 1. TERMS
| | 2. POLICIES --| 2. TREATMENT OF
| | \ CUSTOMERS
|- 3. COMPETITORS----| / 1. SIZE OF PLANT
| | 3. CAPACITY --| 2. EQUIPMENT
| | | 3. FACILITIES FOR
| | \ HANDLING ORDER
| | / 1. NEW CAMPAIGNS
| \ 4. METHODS --| 2. ADVERTISING
| \ 3. AGGRESSIVENESS
| / 1. METHODS
|- 4. OTHER METHODS--| 2. ADVERTISING
| (NOT |
| COMPETITORS) \ 3. SALES CAMPAIGNS
| / 1. METHODS
| / 1. SUPPLY HOUSES --\ 2. CAPACITY
| | 2. GENERAL MARKET
\- 5. MISCELLANEOUS--| CONDITIONS
| 3. CURRENT EVENTS
| 4. ADVERTISING IN
\ GENERAL MAGAZINES
* * * * *
Gathering the information is apt to be wasted effort unless it is
classified and kept where it is instantly available. A notebook for
ideas should always be at hand and men who write important sales
letters should keep within reach scrapbooks, folders or envelopes
containing "inspirational" material to which they can readily refer.
The scrapbook, a card index or some such method for classifying and
filing material is indispensable. Two or three pages or cards may be
devoted to each general subject, such as raw material, processes of
manufacture, methods of shipping, uses, improvements, testimonials,
and so forth, and give specific information that is manna for the
correspondent. The data may consist of notes he has written, bits of
conversation he has heard, extracts from articles he has read,
advertisements of other concerns and circulars--material picked up
from a thousand sources.
One versatile writer uses heavy manila sheets about the size of a
letterhead and on these he pastes the catch-lines, the unique
phrases, the forceful arguments, the graphic descriptions and
statistical information that he may want to use. Several sheets are
filled with metaphors and figures of speech that he may want to use
some time in illuminating a point. These sheets are more bulky than
paper but are easier to handle than a scrapbook, and they can be set
up in front of the writer while he is working.
Another correspondent has an office that looks as if it had been
decorated with a crazy quilt. Whenever he finds a word, a sentence,
a paragraph or a page that he wants to keep he pins or pastes it on
"I don't want any systematic classification of this stuff," he
explains, "for in looking for the particular word or point that I
want, I go over so many other words and points that I keep all the
material fresh in my mind. No good points are buried in some
forgotten scrapbook; I keep reading these things until they are as
familiar to me as the alphabet."
It may be very desirable to keep booklets, pamphlets and bulky
matter that cannot be pasted into a book or onto separate sheets in
manila folders. This is the most convenient way for classifying and
filing heavy material. Or large envelopes may be used for this
Another favorite method of arrangement in filing talking points for
reference is that of filing them in the order of their pulling
power. This, in many propositions, is considered the best method. It
is not possible, out of a list of arguments to tell, until after the
try-out always, which will pull and which will not. Those pulling
best will be worked the most. Only as more extensive selling
literature is called for will the weaker points be pressed into
No matter what system is used, it must be a growing system; it must
be kept up to date by the addition of new material, picked up in the
course of the day's work. Much material is gathered and saved that
is never used, but the wise correspondent does not pass by an
anecdote, a good simile, a clever appeal or forcible argument simply
because he does not see at the moment how he can make use of it.
In all probability the time will come when that story or that figure
of speech will just fit in to illustrate some point he is trying to
make. Nor does the correspondent restrict his material to the
subject in which he is directly interested, for ideas spring from
many sources and the advertisement of some firm in an entirely
different line may give him a suggestion or an inspiration that will
enable him to work up an original talking point. And so it will be
found that the sources of material are almost unlimited--limited in
fact, only by the ability of the writer to see the significance of a
story, a figure of speech or an item of news, and connect it up with
his particular proposition.
But gathering and classifying material available for arguments is
only preliminary work. A wide knowledge of human nature is necessary
to select from these arguments those that will appeal to the
particular prospect or class of prospects you are trying to reach.
"When you sit down to write an important letter, how do you pick out
your talking points?"
This question was put to a man whose letters have been largely
responsible for an enormous mail-order business.
"The first thing I do," he replied, "is to wipe my pen and put the
cork in the ink bottle."
His answer summarizes everything that can be said about selecting
talking points: before you start to write, study the proposition,
picture in your mind the man to whom you are writing, get his
viewpoint, pick out the arguments that will appeal to him and then
write your letter to that individual.
The trouble with most letters is that they are not aimed carefully,
the writer does not try to find the range but blazes away in hopes
that some of the shots will take effect.
There are a hundred things that might be said about this commodity
that you want to market. It requires a knowledge of human nature,
and of salesmanship to single out the particular arguments and the
inducement that will carry most weight with the individual to whom
you are writing. For even if you are preparing a form letter it will
be most effective if it is written directly at some individual who
most nearly represents the conditions, the circumstances and the
needs of the class you are trying to reach.
Only the new correspondent selects the arguments that are nearest at
hand--the viewpoints that appeal to him. The high score letter
writers look to outside sources for their talking points. One of the
most fruitful sources of information is the men who have bought your
goods. The features that induced them to buy your product, the
things that they talk about are the very things that will induce
others to buy that same product. Find out what pleases the man who
is using your goods and you may be sure that this same feature will
appeal to the prospect.
It is equally desirable to get information from the man who did not
buy your machine--learn his reasons, find out what objections he has
against it; where, in his estimation, it fell short of his
requirements; for it is reasonably certain that other prospects will
raise the same objections and it is a test of good salesmanship to
anticipate criticisms and present arguments that will forestall such
In every office there should be valuable evidence in the files--
advertisements, letters, circulars, folders and other publicity
matter that has been used in past campaigns. In the most progressive
business houses, every campaign is thoroughly tested out; arguments,
schemes, and talking points are proved up on test lists, the law of
averages enabling the correspondent to tell with mathematical
accuracy the pulling power of every argument he has ever used. The
record of tests; the letters that have fallen down and the letters
that have pulled, afford information that is invaluable in planning
new campaigns. The arguments and appeals that have proved successful
in the past can be utilized over and over again on new lists or
given a new setting and used on old lists.
The time has passed when a full volley is fired before the
ammunition is tested and the range found. The capable letter writer
tests out his arguments and proves the strength of his talking
points without wasting a big appropriation. His letters are tested
as accurately as the chemist in his laboratory tests the strength or
purity of material that is submitted to him for analysis. How
letters are keyed and tested is the subject of another chapter.
No matter what kind of a letter you are writing, keep this fact in
mind: never use an argument on the reader that does not appeal to
you, the writer. Know your subject; know your goods from the source
of the raw material to the delivery of the finished product. And
then in selling them, pick out the arguments that will appeal to the
reader; look at the proposition through the eyes of the prospect;
sell yourself the order first and you will have found the talking
points that will sell the prospect.
When You _Sit Down_ To
PART I--PREPARING TO WRITE THE LETTER--CHAPTER 4
_The weakness of most letters is not due to ungrammatical sentences
or to a poor style, but to a wrong viewpoint: the writer presents a
proposition from his own viewpoint instead of that of the reader.
The correspondent has gone far towards success when he can_
VISUALIZE _his prospect, see his environments, his needs, his
ambitions, and_ APPROACH _the_ PROSPECT _from_ THIS ANGLE. _This
chapter tells how to get the class idea; how to see the man to whom
you are writing and that equally important qualification, how to get
into the mood for writing--actual methods used by effective
* * * * *
When you call on another person or meet him in a business
transaction you naturally have in mind a definite idea of what you
want to accomplish. That is, if you expect to carry your point. You
know that this end cannot be reached except by a presentation which
will put your proposition in such a favorable light, or offer such
an inducement, or so mould the minds of others to your way of
thinking that they will agree with you. And so before you meet the
other person you proceed to plan your campaign, your talk, your
attitude to fit his personality and the conditions under which you
expect to meet.
An advertising man in an eastern mining town was commissioned to
write a series of letters to miners, urging upon them the value of
training in a night school about to be opened. Now he knew all about
the courses the school would offer and he was strong on generalities
as to the value of education. But try as he would, the letters
refused to take shape. Then suddenly he asked himself, "What type of
man am I really trying to reach?"
And there lay the trouble. He had never met a miner face to face in
his life. As soon as he realized this he reached for his hat and
struck out for the nearest coal breaker. He put in two solid days
talking with miners, getting a line on the average of intelligence,
their needs--the point of contact. Then he came back and with a
vivid picture of his man in mind, he produced a series of letters
that glowed with enthusiasm and sold the course.
A number of years ago a printer owning a small shop in an Ohio city
set out to find a dryer that would enable him to handle his work
faster and without the costly process of "smut-sheeting." He
interested a local druggist who was something of a chemist and
together they perfected a dryer that was quite satisfactory and the
printer decided to market his product. He wrote fifteen letters to
acquaintances and sold eleven of them. Encouraged, he got out one
hundred letters and sold sixty-four orders. On the strength of this
showing, his banker backed him for the cost of a hundred thousand
letters and fifty-eight thousand orders were the result.
The banker was interested in a large land company and believing the
printer must be a veritable wizard in writing letters, made him an
attractive offer to take charge of the advertising for the company's
Minnesota and Canada lands.
The man sold his business, accepted the position--and made a signal
failure. He appealed to the printers because he knew their
problems--the things that lost them money, the troubles that caused
them sleepless nights--and in a letter that bristled with shop talk
he went straight to the point, told how he could help them out of at
least one difficulty--and sold his product.
But when it came to selling western land he was out of his element.
He had never been a hundred miles away from his home town; he had
never owned a foot of real estate; "land hunger" was to him nothing
but a phrase; the opportunities of a "new country" were to him
academic arguments--they were not realities.
He lost his job. Discouraged but determined, he moved to Kansas
where he started a small paper--and began to study the real estate
business. One question was forever on his lips: "Why did you move
out here?" And to prospective purchasers, "Why do you want to buy
Kansas land? What attracts you?"
Month after month he asked these questions of pioneers and
immigrants. He wanted their viewpoint, the real motive that drove
them westward. Then he took in a partner, turned the paper over to
him and devoted his time to the real estate business. Today he is at
the head of a great land company and through his letters and his
advertising matter he has sold hundreds of thousands of acres to
people who have never seen the land. But he tells them the things
they want to know; he uses the arguments that "get under the skin."
He spent years in preparing to write his letters and bought and sold
land with prospects "face to face" long before he attempted to deal
with them by letter. He talked and thought and studied for months
before he dipped his pen into ink.
Now before he starts a letter, he calls to mind someone to whom he
has sold a similar tract in the past; he remembers how each argument
was received; what appeals struck home and then, in his letter, he
talks to that man just as earnestly as if his future happiness
depended upon making the one sale.
The preparation to write the letter should be two-fold: knowing your
product or proposition and knowing the man you want to reach. You
have got to see the proposition through the eyes of your prospect.
The printer sold his ink dryer because he looked at it from the
angle of the buyer and later he sold real estate, but not until he
covered up his own interest and presented the proposition from the
viewpoint of the prospect.
Probably most successful letter writers, when they sit down to
write, consciously or unconsciously run back over faces and
characteristics of friends and acquaintances until they find someone
who typifies the class they desire to reach. When writing to women,
one man always directs his appeal to his mother or sister; if trying
to interest young men he turns his mind back to his own early
desires and ambitions.
Visualize your prospect. Fix firmly in your mind some one who
represents the class you are trying to reach; forget that there is
any other prospect in the whole world; concentrate your attention
and selling talk on this one individual.
"If you are going to write letters that pull," says one successful
correspondent, "you have got to be a regular spiritualist in order
to materialize the person to whom you are writing; bring him into
your office and talk to him face to face."
"The first firm I ever worked for," he relates, "was Andrew Campbell
& Son. The senior Campbell was a conservative old Scotchman who had
made a success in business by going cautiously and thoroughly into
everything he took up. The only thing that would appeal to him would
be a proposition that could be presented logically and with the
strongest kind of arguments to back it up. The son, on the other
hand, was thoroughly American; ready to take a chance, inclined to
plunge and try out a new proposition because it was new or unique;
the novelty of a thing appealed to him and he was interested because
it was out of the ordinary.
"Whenever I have an important letter to write, I keep these two men
in mind and I center all my efforts to convince them; using
practical, commonsense arguments to convince the father, and enough
snappy 'try-it-for-yourself' talk to win the young man."
According to this correspondent, every firm in a measure represents
these two forces, conservative and radical, and the strongest letter
is the one that makes an appeal to both elements.
A young man who had made a success in selling books by mail was
offered double the salary to take charge of the publicity department
of a mail-order clothing house. He agreed to accept--two months
later. Reluctantly the firm consented.
The firm saw or heard nothing from him until he reported for work.
He had been shrewd enough not to make the mistake of the printer who
tried to sell land and so he went to a small town in northern Iowa
where a relative owned a clothing store and started in as a clerk.
After a month he jumped to another store in southern Minnesota. At
each place--typical country towns--he studied the trade and when not
waiting on customers busied himself near some other clerk so he
could hear the conversation, find out the things the farmers and
small town men looked for in clothes and learn the talking points
that actually sell the goods.
This man who had a position paying $6,000 a year waiting for him
spent two months at $9 a week preparing to write. A more conceited
chap would have called it a waste of time, but this man thought that
he could well afford to spend eight weeks and sacrifice nearly a
thousand dollars learning to write letters and advertisements that
would sell clothes by mail.
At the end of the year he was given a raise that more than made up
his loss. Nor is he content, for every year he spends a few weeks
behind the counter in some small town, getting the viewpoint of the
people with whom he deals, finding a point of contact, getting local
color and becoming familiar with the manner of speech and the
arguments that will get orders.
When he sits down to write a letter or an advertisement he has a
vivid mental picture of the man he wants to interest; he knows that
man's process of thinking, the thing that appeals to him, the
arguments that will reach right down to his pocket-book.
A man who sells automatic scales to grocers keeps before him the
image of a small dealer in his home town. The merchant had fallen
into the rut, the dust was getting thicker on his dingy counters and
trade was slipping away to more modern stores.
"Mother used to send me on errands to that store when I was a boy,"
relates the correspondent, "and I had been in touch with it for
twenty years. I knew the local conditions; the growth of competition
that was grinding out the dealer's life.
"I determined to sell him and every week he received a letter from
the house--he did not know of my connection with it--and each letter
dealt with some particular problem that I knew he had to face. I
kept this up for six months without calling forth a response of any
kind; but after the twenty-sixth letter had gone out, the manager
came in one day with an order--and the cash accompanied it. The
dealer admitted that it was the first time he had ever bought
anything of the kind by mail. But I knew _his_ problems, and I
connected them up with our scales in such a way that he _had_ to
"Those twenty-six letters form the basis for all my selling
arguments, for in every town in the country there are merchants in
this same rut, facing the same competition, and they can be reached
only by connecting their problems with our scales."
No matter what your line may be, you have got to use some such
method if you are going to make your letters pull the orders.
Materialize your prospect; overcome every objection and connect
_their_ problems with _your_ products.
When you sit down to your desk to write a letter, how do you get
into the right mood? Some, like mediums, actually work themselves
into a sort of trance before starting to write. One man insists that
he writes good letters only when he gets mad--which is his way of
generating nervous energy.
Others go about it very methodically and chart out the letter, point
by point. They analyze the proposition and out of all the possible
arguments and appeals, carefully select those that their experience
and judgment indicate will appeal strongest to the individual whom
they are addressing. On a sheet of paper one man jots down the
arguments that may be used and by a process of elimination,
scratches off one after another until he has left only the ones most
likely to reach his prospect.
Many correspondents keep within easy reach a folder or scrapbook of
particularly inspiring letters, advertisements and other matter
gathered from many sources. One man declares that no matter how dull
he may feel when he reaches the office in the morning he can read
over a few pages in his scrapbook and gradually feel his mind clear;
his enthusiasm begins to rise and within a half hour he is keyed up
to the writing mood.
A correspondent in a large mail-order house keeps a scrapbook of
pictures--a portfolio of views of rural life and life in small
towns. He subscribes to the best farm papers and clips out pictures
that are typical of rural life, especially those that represent
types and show activities of the farm, the furnishings of the
average farm house--anything that will make clearer the environment
of the men and women who buy his goods. When he sits down to write a
letter he looks through this book until he finds some picture that
typifies the man who needs the particular article he wants to sell
and then he writes to that man, keeping the picture before him,
trying to shape every sentence to impress such a person. Other
correspondents are at a loss to understand the pulling power of his
A sales manager in a typewriter house keeps the managers of a score
of branch offices and several hundred salesmen gingered up by his
weekly letters. He prepares to write these letters by walking
through the factory, where he finds inspiration in the roar of
machinery, the activity of production, the atmosphere of actual
There are many sources of inspiration. Study your temperament, your
work and your customers to find out under what conditions your
production is the easiest and greatest. It is neither necessary nor
wise to write letters when energies and interest are at a low ebb,
when it is comparatively easy to stimulate the lagging enthusiasm
and increase your power to write letters that bring results.
How To _Begin_ A BUSINESS
PART II--HOW TO WRITE THE LETTER--CHAPTER 5
_From its saluation to its signature a business letter must hold the
interest of the reader or fail in its purpose. The most important
sentence in it is obviously the_ FIRST _one, for upon it depends
whether the reader will dip further into the letter or discard it
into the waste basket_. IN THAT FIRST SENTENCE THE WRITER HAS HIS
CHANCE. _If he is really capable, he will not only attract the
reader's interest in that first sentence, but put him into a
receptive mood for the message that follows. Here are some sample
ways of "opening" a business letter_
* * * * *
No matter how large your tomorrow morning's mail, it is probable
that you will glance through the first paragraph of every letter you
open. If it catches your attention by reference to something in
which you are interested, or by a clever allusion or a striking head
line or some original style, it is probable you will read at least
the next paragraph or two. But if these paragraphs do not keep up
your interest the letter will be passed by unfinished. If you fail
to give the letter a full reading the writer has only himself to
blame. He has not taken advantage of his opportunity to carry your
interest along and develop it until he has driven his message home,
point by point.
In opening the letter the importance of the salutation must not be
ignored. If a form letter from some one who does not know Mr. Brown,
personally, starts out "Dear Mr. Brown," he is annoyed. A man with
self-respect resents familiarity from a total stranger--someone who
has no interest in him except as a possible customer for his
If a clerk should address a customer in such a familiar manner it
would be looked upon as an insult. Yet it is no uncommon thing to
receive letters from strangers that start out with one of these
"My dear Mr. Benson:"
While it is desirable to get close to the reader; and you want to
talk to him in a very frank manner and find a point of personal
contact, this assumption of friendship with a total stranger
disgusts a man before he begins your letter. You start out with a
handicap that is hard to overcome, and an examination of a large
number of letters using such salutations are enough to create
suspicion for all; too often they introduce some questionable
investment proposition or scheme that would never appeal to the
hard-headed, conservative business man.
"Dear Sir" or "Gentlemen" is the accepted salutation, at least until
long correspondence and cordial relations justify a more intimate
greeting. The ideal opening, of course, strikes a happy medium
between too great formality on the one hand and a cringing servility
or undue familiarity on the other hand.
No one will dispute the statement that the reason so many selling
campaigns fail is not because of a lack of merit in the propositions
themselves but because they are not effectively presented.
For most business men read their letters in a receptive state of
mind. The letterhead may show that the message concerns a
duplicating machine and the one to whom it is addressed may feel
confident in his own mind that he does not want a duplicating
machine. At the same time he is willing to read the letter, for it
may give him some new idea, some practical suggestion as to how such
a device would be a good investment and make money for him. He is
anxious to learn how the machine may be related to his particular
problems. But it is not likely that he has time or sufficient
interest to wade through a long letter starting out:
"We take pleasure in sending you under separate cover catalogue of
our latest models of Print-Quicks, and we are sure it will prove of
interest to you."
* * * * *
The man who has been sufficiently interested in an advertisement to
send for a catalogue finds his interest cooling rapidly when he
picks up a letter that starts out like this:
"We have your valued inquiry of recent date, and we take pleasure in
acknowledging," and so forth.
* * * * *
Suppose the letter replying to his inquiry starts out in this style:
"The picture on page 5 of our catalogue is a pretty fair
one, but I wish you could see the desk itself."
* * * * *
The reader's attention is immediately gripped and he reaches for the
catalogue to look at the picture on page five.
To get attention and arouse interest, avoid long-spun introductions
and hackneyed expressions. Rambling sentences and loose paragraphs
have proved the graveyard for many excellent propositions. Time-worn
expressions and weather-beaten phrases are poor conductors, there,
is too much resistance-loss in the current of the reader's interest.
The best way to secure attention naturally depends upon the nature
of the proposition and the class of men to whom the letter is
One of the most familiar methods is that known to correspondents as
the "mental shock." The idea is to put at the top of the letter a
"Stop! Look! Listen!" sign. Examples of this style are plentiful:
THIS MEANS MONEY TO YOU--_BIG MONEY_
LET ME PAY YOUR NEXT MONTH'S RENT
READ IT--ON OUR WORD IT'S WORTH READING
STOP SHOVELING YOUR MONEY INTO THE FURNACE
NOW LISTEN! I WANT A PERSONAL WORD WITH YOU
CUT YOUR LIGHT BILL IN HALF
* * * * *
Such introductions have undoubtedly proved exceedingly effective at
times, but like many other good things, the idea has been
overworked. The catch-line of itself sells no goods and to be
effective it must be followed by trip-hammer arguments. Interest
created in this way is hard to keep up.
The correspondent may use a catch-line, just as the barker at a side
show uses a megaphone--the noise attracts a crowd but it does not
sell the tickets. It is the "spiel" the barker gives that packs the
tent. And so the average man is not influenced so much by a bold
catch-line in his letters as by the paragraphs that follow. Some
correspondents even run a catch-line in red ink at the top of the
page, but these yellow journal "scare-heads" fall short with the
average business proposition.
Then attention may be secured, not by a startling sentence but by
the graphic way in which a proposition is stated. Here is an opening
that starts out with a clear-cut swing:
"If we were to offer you a hundred-dollar bill as a gift we take it
for granted that you would be interested. If, then, our goods will
mean to you many times that sum every year isn't the proposition
still more interesting? Do you not want us to demonstrate what we
say? Are you not willing to invest a little of your time watching
* * * * *
This reference to a hundred-dollar bill creates a concrete image
in the mind of the reader. The letters that first used this
attention-getter proved so effective that the idea has been worked
over in many forms. Here is the effective way one correspondent
"If this letter were printed on ten-dollar bills it could scarcely
be more valuable to you than the offer it now contains. You want
money; we want your business. Let's go into partnership."
* * * * *
Here is a letter sent out by a manufacturer of printing presses:
"If your press feeders always showed up on Monday morning; if they
were never late, never got tired, never became careless, never
grumbled about working overtime, you would increase the output of
your plant, have less trouble, make more money--that is why you will
be interested in the Speedwell Automatic feeding attachment."
* * * * *
This paragraph summarizes many of the troubles of the employing
printer. It "gets under his skin," it is graphic, depicting one of
the greatest problems of his business and so he is certain to read
the letter and learn more about the solution that it offers.
This same paragraph might also be used as a good illustration of
that effective attention-getter, the quick appeal to the problems
that are of most concern to the reader. The one great trouble with
the majority of letters is that they start out with "we" and from
first to last have a selfish viewpoint:
"We have your valued inquiry of recent date and, as per your
request, we take pleasure in enclosing herewith a copy of our latest
catalogue," and so forth.
* * * * *
Don't begin by talking about yourself, your company, your business,
your growth, your progress, your improved machinery, your increased
circulation, your newly invested capital. The reader has not the
faintest interest in you or your business until he can see some
connection between it and his own welfare. By itself it makes no
play whatever to his attention; it must first be coupled up with his
problems and his needs.
Begin by talking about him, his company, his business, his progress,
his troubles, his disappointments, his needs, his ambition.
That is where he lives day and night. Knock at that door and you
will find him at home. Touch upon some vital need in his business--
some defect or tangle that is worrying him--some weak spot that he
wants to remedy--some cherished ambition that haunts him--and you
will have rung the bell of his interest. A few openings that are
designed to get the reader's attention and induce him to read
farther, are shown here:
"Your letter reached me at a very opportune time as I have been
looking for a representative in your territory."
* * * * *
"By using this code you can telegraph us for any special article you
want and it will be delivered at your store the following morning.
This will enable you to compete with the large mail-order houses. It
will give you a service that will mean more business and satisfied
* * * * *
"You can save the wages of one salesman in every department of your
store. Just as you save money by using a typewriter, addressograph,
adding machine, cash register and other modern equipments, so you
can save it by installing a Simplex."
* * * * *
"Don't you want to know how to add two thousand square feet of
display to some department of your store in exchange for twenty feet
* * * * *
"Yes, there is a mighty good opening in your territory for hustling
salesmen. You will receive a complete outfit by express so you can
start at once."
* * * * *
Keep the interest of the reader in mind. No matter how busy he is,
he will find time to read your letter if you talk about his problems
and his welfare.
Some correspondents, having taken only the first lesson in business
letter writing, over-shoot the mark with a lot of "hot air" that is
all too apparent. Here is the opening paragraph from one of these
"By the concise and business-like character of your letter of
inquiry we know that you would be very successful in the sale of our
typewriters. This personal and confidential circular letter is sent
only to a few of our selected correspondents whom we believe can be
placed as general agents."
* * * * *
As a matter of fact, the gentleman to whom this letter was sent had
written with a lead pencil on a post card asking for further
particulars regarding propositions to salesmen. It is a good
illustration of the form letter gone wrong. The inquirer had not
written a concise and business-like letter and there was not the
slightest reason why the firm should send him a personal and
confidential proposition and if the proposition were really
confidential, it would not be printed in a circular letter.
Here is the opening paragraph of a letter typical in its lack of
originality and attention-getting qualities:
"We are in receipt of yours of recent date and in reply wish to
state that you will find under separate cover a copy of our latest
catalogue, illustrating and describing our Wonder Lighting System.
We are sure the information contained in this catalogue will be of
interest to you."
* * * * *
Not only is the paragraph devoid of interest-getting features, but
it is written from the wrong standpoint--"we" instead of "you."
Re-write the paragraph and the reader is certain to have his
"The catalogue is too large to enclose with this letter and so you
will find it in another envelope. You will find on page 4 a complete
description of the Wonder System of Lighting, explaining just how it
will cut down your light bill. This system is adapted to use in
stores, factories, public halls and homes--no matter what you want
you will find it listed in this catalogue."
* * * * *
Then it is possible to secure attention by some familiar allusion,
some reference to facts with which the reader is familiar:
"In our fathers' day, you know, all fine tableware was hand
forged--that meant quality but high cost."
* * * * *
The opening statement secures the assent of the reader even before
he knows what the proposition is. Sometimes an allusion may be
introduced that does not come home so pointedly to the reader but
the originality of the idea appeals to him. By its very cleverness
he is led to read further. Here is the beginning of a letter sent
out by an advertising man and commercial letter writer:
"The Prodigal Son might have started home much sooner had he
received an interesting letter about the fatted calf that awaited
"The right sort of a letter would have attracted his attention,
aroused his interest, created a desire and stimulated him to
* * * * *
Then there is the opening that starts out with an appeal to human
interest. It is the one opening where the writer can talk about
himself and still get attention and work up interest:
"Let me tell you how I got into the mail order business and made so
much money out of it."
* * * * *
"I wish I could have had the opportunity thirty years ago that you
have today. Did I ever tell you how I started out?"
* * * * *
"I have been successful because I have confidence in other people."
* * * * *
"I was talking to Mr. Phillips, the president of our institution,
this morning, and he told me that you had written to us concerning
our correspondence course."
* * * * *
These personal touches bring the writer and reader close together
and pave the way for a man-to-man talk.
Then there is a way of getting attention by some novel idea,
something unusual in the typography of the letter, some unusual
idea. One mail-order man puts these two lines written with a
typewriter across the top of his letterheads:
"EVEN IF YOU HAD TO PAY TO SECURE A COPY OF THIS LETTER--OR HAD TO
TAKE A DAY OFF TO READ IT--YOU COULD NOT AFFORD TO FAIL TO CONSIDER
* * * * *
Few men would receive a letter like that without taking the time to
read it, at least hurriedly, and if the rest of the argument is
presented with equal force the message is almost sure to be carried
Another mail-order house sending out form letters under one-cent
postage, inserts this sentence directly under the date line, to the
right of the name and address:
"Leaving our letter unsealed for postal inspection is the best proof
that our goods are exactly as represented."
* * * * *
The originality of the idea impresses one. There is no danger that
the letter will be shunted into the waste basket without a reading.
There are times when it is necessary to disarm the resentment of the
reader in the very first paragraph, as, for instance, when there has
been a delay in replying to a letter. An opening that is all too
"I have been so extremely busy that your letter has not received my
* * * * *
Or the writer may be undiplomatic enough to say:
"Pardon delay. I have been so much engaged with other matters that I
have not found time to write you."
* * * * *
The considerate correspondent is always careful that his
opening does not rub the wrong way. One writer starts out
"You have certainly been very patient with me in the matter of your
order and I wish to thank you for this."
* * * * *
Here are the first five paragraphs of a two-page letter from
an investment firm. The length of the letter is greatly against
it and the only hope the writer could have, would be in getting
the attention firmly in the opening paragraph:
"My dear Mr. Wilson:
"I want to have a personal word with you to explain this matter.
"I don't like to rush things; I believe in taking my time. I always
try to do it. I want you to do the same thing, but there are
exceptions to all rules: sometimes we cannot do things just the way
we want to and at the same time reap all the benefits.
"Here is the situation. I went out to the OIL FIELDS OF CALIFORNIA
and while there I DID DEVOTE PLENTY AND AMPLE TIME TO PROPER
INVESTIGATION. I went into the thing thoroughly. I went there
intending to INVEST MY OWN MONEY if I found things right.
"My main object in leaving for California was to INVESTIGATE FOR MY
CLIENTS, but I would not advise my clients to invest THEIR money
unless the situation was such that I would invest MY OWN money.
That's where I stand--first, last and all the time.
"I don't go into the torrid deserts in the heat of the summer and
stay there for weeks just for fun. There is no fun or pleasure to
it, let me tell you. It's hard work when one investigates properly,
and I surely did it right. I guess you know that."
* * * * *
The letter is not lacking in style; the writer knows how to put
things forcibly, but he takes up half a page of valuable space
before he says anything vital to his subject. See how much stronger
his letter would have been had he started with the fifth paragraph,
following it with the fourth paragraph.
The great weakness in many letters is padding out the introduction
with non-essential material. It takes the writer too long to get
down to his proposition. Here is a letter from a concern seeking to
"We are in receipt of your valued inquiry and we enclose herewith
full information in regard to the E. Z. Washing Compound and our
terms to agents.
"We shall be pleased to mail you a washing sample post-paid on
receipt of four cents in two-cent stamps or a full size can for ten
cents, which amount you may subtract from your first order, thus
getting the sample free. We would like to send you a sample without
requiring any deposit but we have been so widely imposed upon by
'sample grafters' in the past that we can no longer afford to do
* * * * *
The first paragraph is hackneyed and written from the standpoint of
the writer rather than that of the reader. The second paragraph is a
joke. Seven lines, lines that ought to be charged with magnetic,
interest-getting statements, are devoted to explaining why ten
cents' worth of samples are not sent free, but that this
"investment" will be deducted from the first order. What is the use
of saving a ten-cent sample if you lose the interest of a possible
agent, whose smallest sales would amount to several times this sum?
It is useless to spend time and thought in presenting your
proposition and working in a clincher unless you get attention and
stimulate the reader's interest in the beginning. Practically
everyone will read your opening paragraph--whether he reads further
will depend upon those first sentences.
Do not deceive yourself by thinking that because your proposition is
interesting to you, it will naturally be interesting to others. Do
not put all your thought on argument and inducements--the man to
whom you are writing may never read that far.
Lead up to your proposition from the reader's point of view; couple
up your goods with his needs; show him where he will benefit and he
will read your letter through to the postscript. Get his attention
and arouse his interest--then you are ready to present your
How To _Present_ Your
PART II--HOW TO WRITE THE LETTER--CHAPTER 6
_After attention has been secured, you must lead quickly to your
description and explanation; visualize your product and introduce
your proof, following this up with arguments. The art of the letter
writer is found in his ability to lead the reader along, paragraph
by paragraph, without a break in the_ POINT _of_ CONTACT _that has
been established. Then the proposition must be presented so clearly
that there is no possibility of its being misunderstood, and the
product or the service must be coupled up with the_ READER'S NEEDS
_How this can be done is described in this chapter_
* * * * *
After you have attracted attention and stimulated the interest of
the reader, you have made a good beginning, but only a beginning;
you then have the hard task of holding that interest, explaining
your proposition, pointing out the superiority of the goods or the
service that you are trying to sell and making an inducement that
will bring in the orders. Your case is in court, the jury has been
drawn, the judge is attentive and the opposing counsel is alert--it
is up to you to prove your case.
Good business letter, consciously or unconsciously usually contains
four elements: description, explanation, argument and persuasion.
These factors may pass under different names, but they are present
and most correspondents will include two other elements--inducement
In this chapter we will consider description, explanation and
argument as the vehicles one may use in carrying his message to the
An essential part of all sales letters is a clear description of the
article or goods--give the prospect a graphic idea of how the thing
you are trying to sell him looks, and this description should follow
closely after the interest-getting introduction. To describe an
article graphically one has got to know it thoroughly: the material
of which it is made; the processes of manufacture; how it is sold
and shipped--every detail about it.
There are two extremes to which correspondents frequently go. One
makes the description too technical, using language and terms that
are only partially understood by the reader. He does not appreciate
that the man to whom he is writing may not understand the technical
or colloquial language that is so familiar to everyone in the house.
For instance, if a man wants to install an electric fan in his
office, it would be the height of folly to write him a letter filled
with technical descriptions about the quality of the fan, the
magnetic density of the iron that is used, the quality of the
insulation, the kilowatts consumed--"talking points" that
would be lost on the average business man. The letter that
would sell him would give specific, but not technical information,
about how the speed of the fan is easily regulated, that it needs
to be oiled but once a year, and costs so much a month to operate.
These are the things in which the prospective customer is
Then there is the correspondent whose descriptions are too vague;
too general--little more than bald assertions. A letter from a
vacuum cleaner manufacturing company trying to interest agents is
filled with such statements as: "This is the best hand power machine
ever manufactured," "It is the greatest seller ever produced," "It
sells instantly upon demonstration." No one believes such
exaggerations as these. Near the end of the letter--where the writer
should be putting in his clincher, there is a little specific
information stating that the device weighs only five pounds, is made
of good material and can be operated by a child. If this paragraph
had followed quickly after the introduction and had gone into
further details, the prospect might have been interested, but it is
probable that the majority of those who received the letter never
read as far as the bottom of the second page.
If a man is sufficiently interested in a product to write for
catalogue and information, or if you have succeeded in getting his
attention in the opening paragraph of a sales letter, he is certain
to read a description that is specific and definite.
The average man thinks of a work bench as a work bench and would be
at a loss to describe one, but he has a different conception after
reading these paragraphs from a manufacturer's letter:
"Just a word so you will understand the superiority of our goods.
"Our benches are built principally of maple, the very best Michigan
hard maple, and we carry this timber in our yards in upwards of a
million feet at a time. It is piled up and allowed to air dry for at
least two years before being used; then the stock is kiln dried to
make sure that the lumber is absolutely without moisture or sap, and
we know there can be no warping or opening of glue joints in the
"Our machinery is electrically driven, securing an even drive to the
belt, thus getting the best work from all equipment--absolutely
true cuts that give perfect joints to all work.
"Then, as to glue: Some manufacturers contend that any glue that
sticks will do. We insist there should be no question about glue
joints; no 'perhaps' in our argument. That's why we use only the
best by test; not merely sticking two pieces of wood together to try
the joint quality, but glue that is scientifically tested for
tenacity, viscosity, absorption, and for acid or coloring matter--in
short, every test that can be applied."
* * * * *
This description is neither too technical nor too general; it
carries conviction, it is specific enough to appeal to a master
carpenter, and it is clear enough to be understood by the layman who
never handled a saw or planer.
It may be laid down as a principle that long description should
ordinarily be made in circulars, folders or catalogues that are
enclosed with the letter or sent in a separate envelope, but
sometimes it is desirable to emphasize certain points in the letter.
Happy is the man who can eject enough originality into this
description to make it easy reading. The majority of correspondents,
in describing the parts of an automobile, would say:
"The celebrated Imperial Wheel Bearings are used, These do not need
to be oiled oftener than once in six months."
* * * * *
A correspondent who knew how to throw light into dark places said:
"Imperial Wheel Bearings: grease twice a year and forget."
* * * * *
This "and forget" is such a clever stroke that you are carried on
through the rest of the letter, and you are not bored with the
figures and detailed description.
In a similar way a sales manager, in writing the advertising matter
for a motor cycle, leads up to his description of the motor and its
capacity by the brief statement: "No limit to speed but the law."
This is a friction clutch on the imagination that carries the
reader's interest to the end.
One writer avoids bringing technical descriptions into his letters,
at the same time carrying conviction as to the quality of his goods:
"This metal has been subjected to severe accelerated corrosion tests
held in accordance with rigid specifications laid down by the
American Society for Testing Material, and has proven to corrode
much less than either charcoal iron, wrought iron, or steel sheet.
"A complete record of these tests and results will be found on the
* * * * *
Then there are times when description may be almost entirely
eliminated from the letter. For instance, if you are trying to sell
a man a house and lot and he has been out to look at the place and
has gone over it thoroughly, there is little more that you can say
in the way of description. Your letter must deal entirely with
arguments as to why he should buy now--persuasion, inducement. Or,
if you are trying to sell him the typewriter that he has been trying
out in his office for a month, description is unnecessary--the load
your letter must carry is lightened. And there are letters in which
explanation is unnecessary. If you are trying to get a man to order
a suit of clothes by mail, you will not explain the use of clothes
but you will bear down heavily on the description of the material
that you put into these particular garments and point out why it is
to his advantage to order direct of the manufacturers.
But if you are presenting a new proposition, it is necessary to
explain its nature, its workings, its principles and appliances. If
you are trying to sell a fountain pen you will not waste valuable
space in explaining to the reader what a fountain pen is good for
and why he should have one, but rather you will give the reasons for
buying your particular pen in preference to others. You will explain
the self-filling feature and the new patent which prevents its
leaking or clogging.
It is not always possible to separate description and explanation.
Here is an illustration taken from a letter sent out by a mail-order
"I hope your delay in ordering is not the result of any lack of
clear information about Wearwells. Let me briefly mention some of
the features of Wearwell shoes that I believe warrant you in
favoring us with your order:
(A) Genuine custom style;
(B) Highest grade material and workmanship;
(C) The best fit--thanks to our quarter-sized system--that it is
possible to obtain in shoes;
(D) Thorough foot comfort and long wear;
(E) Our perfect mail-order service; and
(F) The guaranteed PROOF OF QUALITY given in the specification
tag sent with every pair."
* * * * *
This is a concise summary of a longer description that had been
given in a previous letter and it explains why the shoes will give
Here is the paragraph by which the manufacturer of a time-recording
device, writing about the advantages of his system puts in
explanation plus argument:
"Every employee keeps his own time and cannot question his own
record. All mechanism is hidden and locked. Nothing can be tampered
with. The clock cannot be stopped. The record cannot be beaten.
"This device fits into any cost system and gives an accurate record
of what time every man puts on every job. It serves the double
purpose of furnishing you a correct time-on-job cost and prevents
loafing. It stops costly leaks and enables you to figure profit to
the last penny."
* * * * *
Explanation may run in one of many channels. It may point out how
the careful selection of raw material makes your product the best,
or how the unusual facilities of your factory or the skill of your
workmen, or the system of testing the parts assures the greatest
value. You might explain why the particular improvements and the
patents on your machines make it better or give it greater capacity.
The description and the explanation must of necessity depend upon
the character of the proposition, but it may be laid down as a
general principle that the prospect must be made to understand
thoroughly just what the article is for, how it is made, how it
looks, how it is used, and what its points of superiority are.
Whenever possible, the description and explanation in the letter
should be reinforced by samples or illustrations that will give a
more graphic idea of the product.
The prospect may be sufficiently familiar with the thing you are
selling to relieve you of the necessity of describing and
explaining, although usually these supports are necessary for a
selling campaign. But it must be remembered that description and
explanation alone do not make a strong appeal to the will. They may
arouse interest and excite desire but they do not carry conviction
as argument does. Some letters are full of explanation and
description but lack argument. The repair man from the factory may
give a good explanation of how a machine works, but the chances are
he would fall down in trying to sell the machine, unless he
understood how to reinforce his explanations with a salesman's
ability to use argument and persuasion.
And so you must look well to your arguments, and the arguments that
actually pull the most orders consist of proofs--cold, hard logic
and facts that cannot be questioned. As you hope for the verdict of
the jury you must prove your case. It is amazing how many
correspondents fail to appreciate the necessity for arguments. Pages
will be filled with assertions, superlative adjectives, boastful
claims of superiority, but not one sentence that offers proof of any
statement, not one logical reason why the reader should be
"We know you will make a mint of money if you put in our goods."
"This is the largest and most complete line in the country." "Our
factory has doubled its capacity during the last three years." "Our
terms are the most liberal that have ever been offered." "You are
missing the opportunity of your lifetime if you do not accept this
proposition." "We hope to receive your order by return mail, for you
will never have such a wonderful opportunity again." Such sentences
fill the pages of thousands of letters that are mailed every day.
"Our system of inspection with special micrometer gauges insures all
parts being perfect--within one-thousandth of an inch of absolute
accuracy. This means, too, any time you want an extra part of your
engine for replacement that you can get it and that it will fit. If
we charged you twice as much for the White engine, we could not give
you better material or workmanship."
* * * * *
Now this is an argument that is worth while: that the parts of the
engine are so accurately ground that repairs can be made quickly,
and new parts will fit without a moment's trouble. The last sentence
of the paragraph is of course nothing but assertion, but it is
stated in a way that carries conviction. Many correspondents would
have bluntly declared that this was the best engine ever
manufactured, or something of that kind, and made no impression at
all on the minds of the readers. But the statement that the company
could not make a better engine, even if it charged twice as much,
Proof of quality is always one of the strongest arguments that can
be used. A man wants to feel sure that he is given good value for
his money, it matters not whether he is buying a lead pencil or an
automobile. And next to argument of quality is the argument of
price. Here are some striking paragraphs taken from the letter sent
out by a firm manufacturing gummed labels and advertising stickers:
"We would rather talk quality than price because no other concern
prints better stickers than ours--but we can't help talking price
because no other concern charges as little for them as we do."
* * * * *
This is a strong statement but it is nothing more than a statement
The writer, however, hastens to come forward with argument and
"You know we make a specialty of gummed labels--do nothing else. We
have special machinery designed by ourselves--machinery that may be
used by no other concern. This enables us to produce better stickers
at a minimum expense.
"All of our stickers are printed on the best stock, and double
gummed, and, by the way, compare the gumming of our stickers with
those put up by other concerns. We have built up a business and
reputation on _stickers that stick and stay_."
* * * * *
If you were in the market for labels you would not hesitate to send
an order to that firm, for the writer gives you satisfying reasons
for the quality and the low price of his goods. The argument in
favor of its goods is presented clearly, concisely, convincingly.
The argument that will strike home to the merchant is one that
points out his opportunity for gain. Here is the way a wholesale
grocer presented his proposition on a new brand of coffee:
"You put in this brand of coffee and we stand back of you and push
sales. Our guarantee of quality goes with every pound we put out.
Ask the opinion of all your customers. If there is the least
dissatisfaction, refund them the price of their coffee and deduct it
from our next bill. So confident are we of the satisfaction that
this coffee will give that we agree to take back at the end of six
months all the remaining stock you have on hand--that is, if you do
not care to handle the brand longer.
"You have probably never sold guaranteed coffee before. You take no
chances. The profit is as large as on other brands, and your
customers will be impressed with the guarantee placed on every
* * * * *
The guarantee and the offer of the free trial are possibly the two
strongest arguments that can be used either with a dealer or in
straight mail-order selling.
Among the arguments that are most effective are testimonials and
references to satisfied users. If the writer can refer to some
well-known firm or individual as a satisfied customer he strengthens
"When we showed this fixture to John Wanamaker's man, it took just
about three minutes to close the deal for six of them. Since then
they have ordered seventy-four more."
* * * * *
Such references as this naturally inspire confidence in a
proposition and extracts from letters may be used with great effect,
provided the name and address of the writer is given, so that it
will have every appearance of being genuine.
A solicitor of patents at Washington works into his letters to
prospective clients quotations from manufacturers:
"'We wish to be put in communication with the inventor of some
useful novelty, instrument or device, who is looking for a way to
market his invention. We want to increase our business along new
lines and manufacture under contract, paying royalties to the
"'If your clients have any articles of merit that they want to
market, kindly communicate with us. Our business is the manufacture
of patented articles under contract and we can undoubtedly serve
many of your clients in a profitable manner.'"
* * * * *
Such extracts as these are intended to impress upon the inventor the
desirability of placing his business with someone who has such a
wide acquaintance and is in a position to put him in touch with
To send a list of references may also prove a most convincing
argument, especially if the writer can refer to some man or firm
located near the one to whom he is writing. A mutual acquaintance
forms a sort of connecting link that is a pulling force even though
the reference is never looked up. In fact, it is only on occasions
that references of this kind are investigated, for the mere naming
of banks and prominent business men is sufficient to inspire
confidence that the proposition is "on the square."
After you have explained your proposition, described your goods and
pointed out to the prospect how it is to his advantage to possess
these goods, the time has come to make him an offer.
One of the pathetic sins of business letter writers is to work in
the price too early in the letter--before the prospect is interested
in the proposition. The clever salesman always endeavors to work up
one's interest to the highest possible pitch before price is
mentioned at all. Many solicitors consider it so essential to keep
the price in the background until near the end of the canvass that
they artfully dodge the question, "What is the cost?", until they
think the prospect is sufficiently interested not to "shy" when the
figure is mentioned.
A letter from a company seeking to interest agents starts out
awkwardly with a long paragraph:
"We will be pleased to have you act as our salesman. We need a
representative in your city. We know you will make a success."
* * * * *
Then follows a second paragraph giving the selling price of a
"complete outfit" although there has not been a line in the letter
to warm up the reader, to interest him in the proposition, to point
out how he can make money and show him where he will benefit by
handling this particular line.
After this poor beginning the letter goes on with its explanation
and argument, but the message is lost--a message that might have
borne fruit had the writer repressed his own selfish motives and
pointed out how the reader would gain. There is then plenty of time
to refer to the cost of the outfit.
A letter from a manufacturing concern selling direct to the consumer
starts out in this kill-interest fashion:
"Did you get our circular describing the merits of our celebrated
Wonderdown Mattresses which cost, full size, $10 each?"
* * * * *
An experienced correspondent would never commit such a blunder for
he would not bring in the price until near the end of the letter;
or, more likely, the dollar mark would not appear in the letter at
all. It would be shown only in an enclosure--folder, circular,
catalogue or price list. So important is this point that many
schemes have been devised for keeping the cost in the back-ground
and this is one of the principal reasons why many concerns are
emphasizing more and more the free trial and selling on instalments.
One manufacturing company makes a talking point out of the fact that
the only condition on which it will sell a machine is to put it in a
plant for a sixty-day trial; then if it is found satisfactory the
purchaser has his option of different methods of payments: a
discount for all cash or monthly instalments.
There are many propositions successfully handled by gradually
working up interest to the point where price can be brought in, then
leading quickly to the inducement and the clincher. In such a letter
the price could not be ignored very well and the effect is lost
unless it is brought in at the proper place, directly following the
Like all rules, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes where the
reader is familiar with the proposition it may be a good policy to
catch his attention by a special price offer at the very beginning
of the letter. This is frequently done in follow-up letters where it
is reasonably certain that the preceding correspondence has
practically exhausted explanation, description and arguments. The
problem here is different and a special price may be the strongest
Then, of course, there are letters that are intended merely to
arouse the interest of the reader and induce him to write for prices
and further information. The purpose here is to stimulate the
interest and induce the recipient to send in particulars regarding
his needs and ask for terms. After a man's interest has been this
far stimulated it is comparatively easy to quote prices without
frightening him away.
But in the majority of sales letters an offer must be made, for
price, after all, is the one thing that is, to the reader, of first
importance. Most men want to know all about a proposition without
the bother of further correspondence and so a specific offer should
usually follow the arguments.
How To Bring The _Letter_ To
PART II--HOW TO WRITE THE LETTER--CHAPTER 7
GETTING ATTENTION, _explaining a proposition and presenting
arguments and proofs are essentials in every letter, but they merely
lead up to the vital part_--GETTING ACTION. _They must be closely
followed by_ PERSUASION, INDUCEMENT _and a_ CLINCHER. _The well
written letter works up to a climax and the order should be secured
while interest is at its height. Many correspondents stumble when
they come to the close. This chapter shows how to make a get-away--
how to hook the order, or if the order is not secured--how to leave
the way open to come back with a follow-up_
* * * * *
Nothing will take the place of arguments and logical reasons in
selling an article or a service. But most salesmen will bear out the
statement that few orders would be taken unless persuasion and
inducement are brought into play to get the prospect's name onto the
dotted line. Persuasion alone sells few goods outside of the church
fair but it helps out the arguments and proofs. The collector's
troubles come mainly from sales that are made by persuasion, for the
majority of men who are convinced by sound arguments and logical
reasons to purchase a machine or a line of goods carry out their
part of the bargain if they can.
There are a good many correspondents who are clever enough in
presenting their proposition, but display a most limited knowledge
of human nature in using persuasions that rubs the prospect the
"Why will you let a few dollars stand between you and success? Why
waste your time, wearing yourself out working for others? Why don't
you throw off the conditions which bind you down to a small income?
Why don't you shake off the shackles? Why don't you rise to the
opportunity that is now presented to you?"
* * * * *
Such a letter is an insult to anyone who receives it, for it really
tells him that he is a "mutt" and does not know it. Compare the
preceding paragraph with this forceful appeal:
"Remember, the men now in positions you covet did not tumble into
them by accident. At one time they had nothing more to guide them
than an opportunity exactly like this one. Someone pointed out to
them the possibilities and they took the chance and gradually
attained their present success. Have you the courage to make the
start, grasp an opportunity, work out your destiny in this same
* * * * *
This is persuasion by pointing out what others have done.
It is the persuasion of example; an appeal that is dignified and
And here, as in all other parts of the letter, there is the tendency
to make the appeal from the selfish standpoint--the profits
that will accrue to the writer:
"We strongly advise that you get a piece of this land at once. It is
bound to increase in value. You can't lose. Won't you cast your lot
with us now? It is your last opportunity to get a piece of this
valuable land at this extremely low price. Take our word for it and
make your decision now before it is too late."
* * * * *
A manufacturer of folding machines got away from this attitude and
cleverly combined persuasion and inducement in an offer made to
newspaper publishers during the month of October:
"You want to try this folder thoroughly before you buy it and no
better test can be given than during the holiday season when heavy
advertising necessitates large editions. Now, if you will put in one
of these folders right away and use it every week, we will extend
our usual sixty-day terms to January 15th. This will enable you to
test it out thoroughly and, furthermore, you will not have to make
the first payment until you have opportunity to make collections for
the December advertising. This proposition must be accepted before
* * * * *
Such an inducement is timely and doubly effective on this account.
The appeal reaches the newspaper man at the season of the year when
he is busiest; just the time when he most needs a folder, and the
manufacturer provides for the first payment at the time of year when
the average publisher has the largest bank account.
Occasionally the most effective persuasion is a ginger talk, a
regular "Come on, boys," letter that furnishes the dynamic force
necessary to get some men started:
"There is no better time to start in this business than right now.
People always spend money freely just before the holidays--get in
the game and get your share of this loose coin. Remember, we ship
the day the order comes in. Send us your order this afternoon and
the goods will be at your door day after tomorrow. You can have
several hundred dollars in the bank by this time next week. Why not?
All you need to do is to make the decision now.
"Unless you are blind or pretty well crippled up, you needn't expect
that people will come around and drop good money into your hat. But
they will loosen up if you go out after them with a good proposition
such as this--and provided you get to them before the other fellow.
The whole thing is to get started. Get in motion! Get busy! If you
don't want to take time to write, telegraph at our expense. It
doesn't make much difference how you start, the thing is to start.
Are you with us?"
* * * * *
Now, there really is nothing in these two paragraphs except a little
ginger, and a good deal of slang, but this may prove the most
effective stimulant to a man's energy, the kind of persuasion to get
him in motion.
One thing to be constantly guarded against is exaggeration--"laying
it on too thick." Concerns selling goods on the instalment basis
through agents who are paid on commission, find their hardest
problem is to collect money where the proposition was painted in too
glowing colors. The representative, thinking only of his commission
on the sale, puts the proposition too strong, makes the inducement
so alluring that the goods do not measure up to the salesman's
Then the correspondent should be careful not to put the inducement
so strong that it will attract out of curiosity rather than out of
actual intent. Many clever advertisements pull a large number of
inquiries but few sales are made. It is a waste of time and money to
use an inducement that does not stimulate an actual interest. Many a
mailing list is choked with deadwood--names that represent curiosity
seekers and the company loses on both hands, for it costs money to
get those names on the list and it costs more money to get them off
The correspondent should never attempt to persuade a man by assuming
an injured attitude. Because a man answers an advertisement or
writes for information, does not put him under the slightest
obligation to purchase the goods and he cannot be shamed into
parting with his money by such a paragraph as this:
"Do you think you have treated us fairly in not replying to our
letters? We have written to you time and again just as courteously
as we know how; we have asked you to let us know whether or not you
are interested; we have tried to be perfectly fair and square with
you; and yet you have not done us the common courtesy of replying.
Do you think this is treating us just right? Don't you think you
ought to write us, and if you are not intending to buy, to let us
know the reason?"
* * * * *
If the recipient reads that far down into his letter, it will only
serve to make him mad. No matter what inducement the company may
make him later, it is not probable that it can overcome the
prejudice that such an insulting paragraph will have created.
Some of the correspondence schools understand how to work in
persuasion cleverly and effectively. Here is a paragraph that is
dignified and persuasive:
"Remember also that this is the best time of the entire year to get
good positions, as wholesalers and manufacturers all over the
country will put on thousands of new men for the coming season. We
are receiving inquiries right along from the best firms in the
country who ask us to provide them with competent salesmen. We have
supplied them with so many good men that they always look to us when
additional help is required, and just now the demand is so great
that we can gurantee you a position if you start the course this
* * * * *
Persuasion plays a small part in selling general commodities, such
as machinery, equipment, supplies, and the articles of every-day
business, but correspondence courses, insurance, banking, building
and loan propositions and various investment schemes can be pushed
and developed by an intelligent use of this appeal.
Merged with the persuasion or closely following it should be some
inducement to move the reader to "buy now." Description,
explanation, argument and even persuasion are not enough to get the
order. A specific inducement is necessary. There are many things
that we intend to buy sometime, articles in which we have become
interested, but letters about them have been tucked away in a
pigeon-hole until we have more time. It is likely that everyone of
those letters would have been answered had they contained specific
inducements that convinced us it would be a mistake to delay.
In some form or another, gain is the essence of all inducements, for
gain is the dynamic force to all our business movements. The most
familiar form of inducement is the special price, or special terms
that are good if "accepted within ten days." The inducement of free
trial and free samples are becoming more widely used every day.
The most effective letters are those that work in the inducement so
artfully that the reader feels he is missing something if he does
not answer. The skillful correspondent does not tell him bluntly
that he will miss the opportunity of a life time if he does not
accept a proposition; he merely suggests it in a way that makes a
much more powerful impression. Here is the way a correspondence
school uses inducements in letters to prospective students in its
mechanical drawing course. After telling the prospect about the
purchase of a number of drawing outfits it follows with this
"It was necessary to place this large order in order to secure the
sets at the lowest possible figure. Knowing that this number will
exceed our weekly sales, we have decided to offer these extra sets
to some of the ambitious young men who have been writing to us. If
you will fill out the enclosed scholarship blank and mail at once we
will send you one of these handsome sets FREE, express prepaid. But
this offer must be accepted before the last of the month. At the
rate the scholarship blanks are now coming in, it is more than
likely that the available sets will be exhausted before November
1st. It is necessary therefore that you send us your application at
* * * * *
It is not necessary to offer something for nothing in your
inducement. In fact, a good reason is usually a better order getter
than a good premium. Make the man want your proposition--that is the
secret of the good sales letter. If a man really wants your product
he is going to get it sooner or later, and the selling letters that
score the biggest results are those that create desire; following
argument and reason with an inducement that persuades a man to part
with his hard-earned money and buy your goods.
It is a never-ending surprise--the number of correspondents who
cleverly attract the interest of a reader, present their proposition
forcibly and convincingly, following with arguments and inducements
that persuade him to buy, and then, just as he is ready to reach for
his check book, turn heel and leave him with the assurance that they
will be pleased to give him further information when they could have
had his order by laying the contract before him and saying, "Sign
There are plenty of good starters who are poor finishers. They get
attention but don't get the order. They are winded at the finish;
they stumble at the climax where they should be strongest, and the
interest which they worked so hard to stimulate oozes away. They
fail because they do not know how to close.
As you hope for results, do not overlook the summary and the climax.
Do not forget to insert a hook that will land the order.
Time, energy and money are alike wasted in creating desire if you
fail to crystallize it in action. Steer your letter away from the
hold-over file as dexterously as you steer it away from the waste
basket. It is not enough to make your prospect want to order, you
must make it easy for him to order by enclosing order blanks, return
envelopes, instructions and other "literature" that will strengthen
your arguments and whet his desire; and more than that, you must
reach a real climax in your letters--tell the prospect what to do
and how to do it.
The climax is not a part distinct from the parts that have gone
before. Persuasion and inducement are but elements of the climax,
working the prospect up to the point where you can insert a
paragraph telling him to "sign and mail today." How foolish to work
up the interest and then let the reader down with such a paragraph
"Thanking you for your inquiry and hoping to be favored with your
order, and assuring you it will be fully appreciated and receive our
careful attention, we are."
* * * * *
Such a paragraph pulls few orders. Compare the foregoing with the
one that fairly galvanizes the reader into immediate action:
"Send us a $2.00 bill now. If you are not convinced that this file
is the best $2.00 investment ever made, we will refund your money
for the mere asking. Send today, while you have it in mind."
* * * * *
Here is a paragraph not unlike the close of dozens of letters that
you read every week:
"Trusting that we may hear from you in the near future and hoping we
will have the pleasure of numbering you among our customers, we
* * * * *
Such a close invites delay in answering. It is an order killer; it
smothers interest, it delays action. But here is a close that is
likely to bring the order if the desire has been created.
"Simply wrap a $1.00 bill in this letter and send to us at our
* * * * *
A writer who does not understand the psychology of suggestion writes
this unfortunate closing paragraph:
"Will you not advise us at an early date whether or not you are
interested in our proposition? As you have not replied to our
previous letters, we begin to fear that you do not intend to avail
yourself of this wonderful opportunity, and we would be very glad to
have you write us if this is a fact."
* * * * *
How foolish to help along one's indifference by the suggestion that
he is not interested. Just as long as you spend postage on a
prospect treat him as a probable customer. Assume that he is
interested; take it for granted that there is some reason why he has
not replied and present new arguments, new persuasion, new
inducements for ordering now.
A firm handling a line very similar to that of the firm which sent
out the letter quoted above, always maintains the attitude that the
prospect is going to order some time and its close fairly bristles
with "do it now" hooks:
"Step right over to the telegraph office and send us your order by
telegraph at our expense. With this business, every day's delay
means loss of dollars to you. Stop the leak! Save the dollars! Order
* * * * *
Another unfortunate ending is a groveling servility in which the
writer comes on his knees, as it were, begging for the privilege of
presenting his proposition again at some future time. Here are the
two last paragraphs of a three-paragraph letter sent out by an
engraving company--an old established, substantial concern that has
no reason to apologize for soliciting business, no reason for
meeting other concerns on any basis except that of equality:
"Should you not be in the market at the present time for anything in
our line of work, we would esteem it a great favor to us if you
would file this letter and let us hear from you when needing
anything in the way of engraving. If you will let us know when you
are ready for something in this line we will deem it a privilege to
send a representative to call on you.
"Trusting we have not made ourselves forward in this matter and
hoping that we may hear from you, we are,"
* * * * *
It is a safe prediction that this letter was written by a new sales
manager who will soon be looking for another job. Such an apologetic
note, with such a lack of selling talk, such a street beggar
attitude could never escape the waste basket. The salesman who
starts out by saying, "You wouldn't be interested in this book,
would you?" takes no orders. The letter that comes apologizing and
excusing itself before it gets our attention, and, if it gets our
attention, then lets down just as we are ready to sign an order, is
headed straight for the car wheel plant.
Avoid in the closing paragraph, as far as possible, the participial
phrases such as "Thanking you," "Hoping to be favored," "Assuring
you of our desire," and so forth. Say instead, "We thank you," "It
is a pleasure to assure you," or "May I not hear from you by return
mail?" Such a paragraph is almost inevitably an anti-climax; it
affords too much of a let-down to the proposition.
One of the essentials to the clinching of an order is the enclosures
such as order blanks and return envelopes--subjects that are
sufficiently important to call for separate chapters.
The essential thing to remember in working up to the climax is to
make it a climax; to keep up the reader's interest, to insert a hook
that will get the man's order before his desire has time to cool
off. Your proposition is not a fireless cooker that will keep his
interest warm for a long time after the heat of your letter has been
removed--and it will be just that much harder to warm him up the
second time. Insert the hook that will get the order NOW, for there
will never be quite such a favorable time again.
"STYLE" In Letter Writing--
And How To _Acquire It_
PART III--STYLE--MAKING THE LETTER READABLE--CHAPTER 8
SPECIFIC STATEMENTS _and_ CONCRETE FACTS _are the substance of a
business letter. But whether that letter is read or not, or whether
those statements and facts are_ FORCEFUL _and_ EFFECTIVE, _is
dependent upon the manner in which they are presented to the
reader--upon the "style." What "style" is, and how it may be
acquired and put to practical use in business correspondence, is
described in this chapter_
* * * * *
Letter writing is a craft--selecting and arranging words in
sentences to convey a thought clearly and concisely. While letters
take the place of spoken language, they lack the animation and the
personal magnetism of the speaker--a handicap that must be overcome
by finding words and arranging them in sentences in such a way that
they will attract attention quickly, explain a proposition fully,
make a distinct impression upon the reader and move him to reply.
Out of the millions of messages that daily choke the mails, only a
small per cent rise above the dead level of colorless, anemic
The great majority of business letters are not forcible; they are
not productive. They have no style. The meat is served without a
dressing. The letters bulge with solid facts, stale statements and
indigestible arguments--the relishes are lacking. Either the writers
do not realize that effectiveness comes only with an attractive
style or they do not know how a crisp and invigorating style can be
cultivated. Style has nothing to do with the subject matter of a
letter. Its only concern is in the language used--in the words and
sentences which describe, explain and persuade, and there is no
subject so commonplace, no proposition so prosaic that the letter
cannot be made readable and interesting when a stylist takes up his
In choosing words the average writer looks at them instead of into
them, and just as there are messages between the lines of a letter,
just so are there half-revealed, half-suggested thoughts between the
letters of words--the suggestiveness to which Hawthorne referred as
"the unaccountable spell that lurks in a syllable." There is
character and personality in words, and Shakespeare left a message
to twentieth-century correspondents when he advised them to "find
the eager words--faint words--tired words--weak words--strong
words--sick words--successful words." The ten-talent business writer
is the man who knows these words, recognizes their possibilities and
their limitations and chooses them with the skill of an artist in
mixing the colors for his canvas.
To be clear, to be forceful, to be attractive--these are the
essentials of style. To secure these elements, the writer must make
use of carefully selected words and apt figures of speech. Neglect
them and a letter is lost in the mass; its identity is lacking, it
fails to grip attention or carry home the idea one wishes to convey.
An insipid style, is responsible for much of the ineffectiveness in
business letters. Few men will take the time to decipher a
proposition that is obscured by ambiguous words and involved
phrases. Unless it is obviously to a man's advantage to read such a
letter it is dropped into the waste basket, taking with it the
message that might have found an interested prospect if it had been
expressed clearly, logically, forcibly.
The first essential for style is clearness--make your meaning plain.
Look to the individual words; use them in the simplest way--
distinctive words to give exactness of meaning and familiar words to
give strength. Words are the private soldiers under the command of
the writer and for ease of management he wants small words--a long
word is out of place, unwieldy, awkward. The "high-sounding" words
that are dragged in by main force for the sake of effect weigh down
the letter, make it logy. The reader may be impressed by the
language but not by the thought. He reads the words and misses the
Avoid long, unfamiliar words. Clothe your thoughts in words that no
one can mistake--the kind of language that men use in the office and
on the street. Do not make the reader work to see your point; he is
busy, he has other things to do--it is your proposition and it is to
your interest to put in that extra work, those additional minutes
that will make the letter easily understood. It is too much to
expect the reader to exert himself to dig out _your_ meaning and
then enthuse himself over _your_ proposition.
The men who write pulling letters weigh carefully every sentence,
not only pruning away every unessential word but using words of
Anglo-Saxon origin wherever possible rather than words of Latin
derivation. "Indicate your selection" was written as the catch line
for a letter in an important selling campaign, but the head
correspondent with unerring decision re-wrote it--"Take your
choice"--a simpler, stronger statement. The meaning goes straight to
the reader's mind without an effort on his part. "We are unable to
discern" started out the new correspondent in answering a complaint.
"We cannot see" was the revision written in by the master
correspondent--short, concise, to the point. "With your kind
permission I should like to say in reply to your favor"--such
expressions are found in letters every day--thousands of them. The
reader is tired before the subject matter is reached.
The correspondent who is thinking about the one to whom he is
writing starts out briefly and to the point by saying, "This is in
reply to your letter," or, "Thank you for calling our attention to,
and so forth." The reader is impressed that the writer means
business. The attitude is not antagonistic; it commands attention.
Letters are unnaturally burdened with long words and stilted
phrases, while in conversation one's thoughts seek expression
through lines of least resistance--familiar words and short
sentences. But in writing, these same thoughts go stumbling over
long words and groping through involved phrases.
Proverbs are sentences that have lived because they express a
thought briefly in short, familiar words. Slang becomes popular
because of the wealth of meaning expressed in a few words, and many
of these sayings gradually work their way into respectability--
reluctantly admitted into the sanctuary of "literature" because of
their strength, clearness, adaptability.
While short words are necessary for force and vigor, it may be very
desirable at times to use longer and less familiar words to bring
out the finer shade of meaning. A subtle distinction cannot be
ignored simply because one word is shorter than another. "Donate"
and "give" are frequently used as synonyms, but "give" should not be
used because it is a short word when "donate" expresses the meaning
more accurately. As a usual thing, "home" is preferable to
"residence," but there are times when the longer word should be
used. "Declare" and "state," "thoroughfare" and "street"--there are
thousands of illustrations on this point, and while the short,
Anglo-Saxon word is always preferable, it should not be used when a
longer word expresses more accurately the thought which the writer
wishes to convey.
Many letter writers think that these rules are all right for college
professors, journalists and authors, but impractical for the
every-day business correspondent. Some of the most successful
companies in the country, however, have recognized the importance
of these very points and have adopted strict rules that give
strength and character to the letters that are sent out. For
example, here is a paragraph taken from the book of instructions
issued by a large manufacturing concern in the middle west:
"Don't use a long or big word where a short one will do as well or
better. For example: 'Begin' is better than 'commence'; 'home' or
'house' better than 'residence'; 'buy' better than 'purchase';
'live' better than 'reside'; 'at once' better than 'immediately';
'give' better than 'donate'; 'start' or 'begin' better than
The selection of words is not the only thing that the writer must
consider. The placing of words to secure emphasis is no less
important. The strength of a statement may depend upon the
adroitness with which the words are used. "Not only to do one thing
_well_ but to do that one thing _best_--this has been our aim and
our accomplishment." In this sentence, taken from a letter, emphasis
is laid upon the word "best" by its position. The manufacturer has
two strong arguments to use on the dealer; one is the quality of the
goods--so they will give satisfaction to the customer--and the other
is the appearance of the goods so they will attract the customer.
This is the sentence used by a clever writer: "We _charge_ you for
the service quality--we _give_ you the appearance quality." The
strength comes from the construction of the sentence throwing
emphasis on "charge" and "give."
"Durability--that is our talking point. Other machines are cheaper
if you consider only initial cost; no other machine is more
economical when its durability, its length of service is
considered." Here the unusual position of the word "durability,"
thrown at the beginning of the sentence, gives an emphasis that
could not be obtained in any other way. And so the stylist considers
not only the words he uses but he places them in the most strategic
position in the sentence--the beginning.
In the building of a climax this order of words is reversed since
the purpose is to work up from the weakest to the strongest word or
phrase. The description, "sweet, pure and sanitary," gives emphasis
to the sanitary feature because it comes last and lingers longest in
After the study of words, their meaning and position, the writer
must look to completed sentences, and the man who succeeds in
selling goods by mail recognizes first of all the force of concise
statements. "You can pay more but you can't buy more." This
statement strikes home with the force of a blow. "We couldn't
improve the powder so we improved the box." There is nothing but
assertion in this sentence, but it carries conviction. Not a word is
out of place. Every word does duty. The idea is expressed concisely,
forcibly. The simplicity of the sentence is more effective than
pages of prosaic argument.
Here is a sentence taken from a letter of a correspondence school:
"Assuming that you are in search of valuable information that may
increase your earning capacity by a more complete knowledge of any
subject in which you may be interested, we desire to state most
emphatically that your wages increase with your intelligence." This
is not only ungrammatical, it is uninteresting. Contrast it with the
sentence taken from a letter from another correspondence school:
"You earn more as you learn more." It is short, emphatic, thought
producing. The idea is clearly etched into your mind.
Short sentences are plain and forceful, but when used exclusively,
they become tiresome and monotonous. A short sentence is frequently
most striking when preceding or following a long sentence--it gives
variation of style. Following a long sentence it comes as a quick,
trip-hammer blow that is always effective. And there are times when
the proposition cannot be brought out clearly by short sentences.
Then the long sentence comes to the rescue for it permits of
comparisons and climaxes that short sentences cannot give.
[Illustration: _Unique enclosures catch the eye and insure a reading
of the letter. Here are shown two facsimile bonds--one, an
investment bond and the other a guarantee bond; a sample of the
diploma issued by a correspondence school and a $15.00 certificate
to apply on a course. The axe-blade booklet carries the message of a
wholesale hardware house, and the coupon, when filled out, calls for
a free sample of toilet preparation_.]
[Illustration: _Neither printed descriptions nor pictures are as
effective as actual samples of the product advertised. Here are
shown different methods of sending samples of dress goods, shirtings
and cloth for other purposes. At the right are some pieces of wood
showing different varnishes and wall decorations, and at the bottom
are veneers that show different furniture finishes; the various
colored pieces of leather are likewise used by furniture houses in
showing the styles of upholstering_.]
It is the long, rambling sentences that topple a letter over onto
the waste basket toboggan. But the sentence with a climax, working
up interest step by step, is indispensable. By eye test, by
mechanical test, by erasure test and by strength test, Orchard Hill
Bond makes good its reputation as the best bond on the market for
commercial use. There is nothing tiresome about such a sentence.
There is no difficulty in following the writer's thought.
* * * * *
_There are two elements in every letter: the thought and the
language in which that thought is expressed. The words, phrases,
sentences and paragraphs are the vehicle which carries the
load--explanations, arguments, appeal. Neither can be neglected if
the letter is to pull_
* * * * *
Here is another sentence showing the force to be attained through
the use of a long sentence: "Just as the physician may read
medicine, just as the lawyer may read law, just so may a man now
read business--the science of the game which enables some men to
succeed where hosts of others fail; it is no longer enveloped in
mystery and in darkness." There is no danger of the reader's
becoming confused in the meaning and he is more deeply impressed
because his interest has been gained by the gradual unfolding of the
idea back of the sentence, the leading up to the important thought.
And after the choice of words, the placing of words and the
construction of a sentence comes that other essential element of
style--the use of figures of speech, the illustrating of one's
thought by some apt allusion. Comparison adds force by giving the
reader a mental picture of the unknown, by suggestions of similarity
to familiar things. The language of the street, our conversational
language, secures its color and expressiveness through figures of
speech--the clever simile and the apt metaphor light up a sentence
and lift it out of the commonplace.
"Don't hold yourself down," "Don't be bottled up," "Don't keep your
nose on the grindstone"--these are the forceful figures used in the
letters of a correspondence school. The most ignorant boy knows that
the writer did not mean to be taken literally. Such figures are
great factors in business letters because they make the meaning
Here is the attention-getting first sentence of another letter:
"Don't lull yourself to sleep with the talk that well enough should
be let alone when practical salary-raising, profit-boosting help is
within your reach." The sentence is made up of figures; you do not
literally lull yourself to sleep with talk, you don't really boost
profits, you don't actually reach out and grasp the help the letter
offers. The figures merely suggest ideas, but they are vivid.
A sales manager writes to the boys on the road regarding a contest
or a spurt for records: "Come on, boys. This is the last turn round
the track. The track was heavy at the start but if none of you break
on the home stretch you are bound to come under the wire with a good
record." The salesman will read this sort of a letter and be
inspired by its enthusiasm, when the letter would be given no more
than a hurried glance if it said what it really means: "Get busy!
Keep on the job! Send in more orders." By framing your ideas in
artistic figures of speech you bring out their colors, their lines,
their fullest meanings--and more than that, you know your letters
will be read.
But in the attempt to add grace and attractiveness by some familiar
allusion, one must not overlook the importance of facts--cold,
plainly stated facts, which are often the shortest, most convincing
argument. In the letter of an advertising concern is this plain
statement: "Last year our business was $2,435,893 ahead of the year
before." No figure of speech, no touch of the stylist could make
such a profound impression as this brief, concise statement of fact.
The average correspondent will agree that these are all essential
elements of style--his problem is practical: how can he find the
right words; how can he learn to put his proposition more clearly;
how think up figures of speech that will light up the thought or
illustrate the proportion.
To some men an original style and the ability to write convincingly
is a birthright. Others have to depend less on inspiration and more
on hard work. One man carries a note book in which he jots down, for
future use, phrases, words and comparisons that he comes across
while reading his morning paper on the way down town, while
going through his correspondence, while listening to callers,
while talking with friends at lunch, while attending some social
affair--wherever he is, his eyes and ears are always alert to catch
a good phrase, an unusual expression or a new figure of speech.
At his first opportunity a notation is made in the ever-handy
Another man systematically reads articles by Elbert Hubbard, Alfred
Henry Lewis, Samuel Blythe and other writers whose trenchant pens
replenish his storage with similes, metaphors and crisp expressions.
The head of a mail-order sales department of a large publishing
house keeps a scrapbook in which he pastes words, phrases, striking
sentences and comparisons clipped from letters, advertisements,
booklets, circulars, and other printed matter. Each month he scans
the advertisements in a dozen magazines and with a blue pencil
checks every expression that he thinks may some time be available or
offer a suggestion. It is but a few minutes' work for a girl to clip
and paste in these passages and his scrapbooks are an inexhaustible
mine of ideas and suggestions.
Another man, after outlining his ideas, dictates a letter and then
goes over it sentence by sentence and word by word. With a
dictionary and book of synonyms he tries to strengthen each word; he
rearranges the words, writes and rewrites the sentences, eliminating
some, reinforcing others and devising new ones until he has
developed his idea with the precision of an artist at work on a
The average correspondent, handling a large number of letters daily,
has little time to develop ideas for each letter in this way, but by
keeping before him a list of new words and phrases and figures of
speech, they soon become a part of his stock in trade. Then there
are other letters to write--big selling letters that are to be sent
out by the thousands and letters that answer serious complaints,
letters that call for diplomacy, tact, and above all, clearness and
On these important letters the correspondent can well afford to
spend time and thought and labor. A day or several days may be
devoted to one letter, but the thoughts that are turned over--the
ideas that are considered, the sentences that are written and
discarded, the figures that are tried out--are not wasted, but are
available for future use; and by this process the writer's style is
strengthened. He acquires clearness, force, simplicity and
attractiveness--the elements that will insure the reading of his
And one thing that every correspondent can do is to send to the
scrap-heap all the shelf-worn words and hand-me-down expressions
such as, "We beg to acknowledge," "We beg to state;" "Replying to
your esteemed favor;" "the same;" "the aforesaid;" "We take great
pleasure in acknowledging," and so on. They are old, wind-broken,
incapable of carrying a big message. And the participial phrases
should be eliminated, such as: "Hoping to hear from you;" "Trusting
we will be favored;" "Awaiting your reply," and so on, at the close
of the letter. Say instead, "I hope to hear from you;" or, "I trust
we will receive your order;" or, "May we not hear from you?"
Interest the man quickly; put snap and sparkle in your letters. Give
him clear and concise statements or use similes and metaphors in
your sentences--figures of speech that will turn a spot-light on
your thoughts. Pick out your words and put them into their places
with the infinite care of a craftsman, but do not become artificial.
Use every-day, hard-working words and familiar illustrations that
have the strength to carry your message without stumbling before
they reach their goal.
Making The Letter HANG
PART III--STYLE--MAKING THE LETTER READABLE--CHAPTER 9
_The letter writer looks to words, phrases and sentences to make the
little impressions on the reader as he goes along. The letter as a
whole also has to make a_ SINGLE IMPRESSION--_clear-cut and
unmistakable. The correspondent must use this combination shot-gun
and rifle. To get this single rifle-shot effect a letter has to
contain those elements of style that_ HOLD IT TOGETHER; _there must
be a definite idea behind the letter; the message must have a unity
of thought; it must be logically presented; it must have a
continuity that carries the reader along without a break, and a
climax that works him up and closes at the height of his enthusiasm_
* * * * *
Thinking is not easy for anyone. And it is too much to expect the
average business man to analyze a proposition in which he is not
interested. His thoughts tend to move in the course of least
resistance. If you want him to buy your goods or pay your bill or
hire you, present your arguments in a way that will require no great
mental exertion on his part to follow you.
A single idea behind the letter is the first requisite for giving it
the hang-together quality and the punch that gets results. The idea
cannot be conveyed to the reader unless it is presented logically.
He won't get a single general impression from what you are saying to
him unless there is unity of thought in the composition. He cannot
follow the argument unless it has continuity; sequence of thought.
And, finally no logic or style will work him up to enthusiasm unless
it ends with a strong climax.
These five principles--the idea behind, logic, unity of thought,
continuity, climax--are the forces that holds the letter together
and that gives it momentum. Because these principles are laid down
in text books does not mean that they are arbitrary rules or
academic theories. They are based on the actual experiences of men
ever since they began to talk and write. Essay or sermon; oration or
treatise; advertisement or letter; all forms of communication most
easily accomplish their purpose of bringing the other man around to
your way of thinking, if these proved principles of writing are
followed. Merely observing them will not necessarily make a letter
pull, but violating them is certain to weaken it.
You cannot hit a target with a rifle unless you have one shot in
the barrel. The idea behind the letter is the bullet in the gun. To
hit your prospect you must have a message--a single, definite,
clearly-put message. That is the idea behind the letter.
Look at the letter on page 61. It gets nowhere. Because the writer
did not have this clear, definite idea of what he wanted to impress
upon his prospect. Not one reader in ten would have the shallowest
dent made in his attention by this letter, as he would have had if
the writer had started out, for instance, with one idea of
impressing upon the reader the facilities of his establishment and
the large number of satisfied customers for whom it does work.
With this dominant idea in mind, a correspondent has got to explain
it and argue it so logically that the reader is convinced. Here is a
letter from a manufacturer of gasoline engines:
I understand you are in the market for a gasoline engine and as ours
is the most reliable engine made we want to call your attention to
it. It has every modern improvement and we sell it on easy terms.
The inventor of this machine is in personal charge of our factory
and he is constantly making little improvements. He will tell you
just what kind of an engine you need and we will be glad to quote
you prices if you will call on us or write us, telling us what you
Hoping to hear from you, we are,
[Signature: THE MADEWELL ENGINE CO.]
* * * * *
The letter is illogical, disjointed and lacking in that dominant
idea that carries conviction. Yet the writer had material at hand
for a strong, logical selling letter. To have interested the
prospect he should have told something specific about his engine.
Here is the letter, rewritten with due regard to the demands of
unity, sequence, logic and climax:
A friend told me yesterday that you want a gas engine for
irrigating, so I am sending you bulletin "B."
Do you notice that all its parts are in plain view and easy to get
at? Mr. Wilbur, who invented this engine, had a good many years of
practical experience installing gasoline engines before he started
to manufacture his own, and he knows what it means to tighten up a
nut or some other part without having to send to the factory for a
special man with a special wrench to do the work.
Sparkers sometimes get gummed up. To take the Wilbur sparker out you
simply remove two nuts and out comes the sparker complete, and you
cannot get it back the wrong way. It isn't much of a job to wipe the
point off with a rag, is it?
And the governor! Just the same type of throttling governor that is
used on the highest grade of steam engine, allowing you to speed her
up or slow her down while the engine is running. That's mighty
handy. Few engines are built like this. It costs a good deal of
extra money but it does give a lot of extra satisfaction.
Nothing shoddy about the equipment described in the bulletin, is
there? No. We don't make these supplies ourselves, but we do watch
out and see that the other fellow gives us the best in the market
because WE GUARANTEE IT.
This sounds very nice on paper, you think. Well, we have over four
thousand customers in Kansas. Mr. W. O. Clifford, who lives not so
far from you, has used a Wilbur for three years. Ask him what he has
to say about it.
Then you will want to know just what such an engine will cost you,
and you will be tickled to death when you know how much money we can
really save you. I don't mean that we will furnish you with a cheap
machine at a high price, but a really high-grade machine at a low
I await with much interest your reply telling us what you want.
Very truly yours,
[Signature: L. W. Hamilton]
* * * * *
The commonest cause of a lack of punch in a letter is the temptation
to get away from the main idea--unity of thought. This is what a
mail-order house writes:
"This is the largest catalogue of the kind ever issued, it will pay
you to deal with our house. Every machine is put together by hand
and tested, and we will ship the day your order is received.
"An examination of the catalogue will prove our claim that we carry
the largest stock of goods in our line. Should our goods appeal to
you, we shall be glad to add you to our list of customers."
* * * * *
There is neither unity nor logic in a letter like this, although
there is the suggestion of several good ideas. The fact that the
house issues the largest catalogue of its kind might be so explained
to me that it would convince me that here is the place I ought to
buy. Or, the fact that every machine is tested and put together by
hand, if followed to a logical conclusion, would prove to me that I
could rely on the quality of these goods. But when the writer
doesn't stick to one subject for more than half a sentence, my
attention will not cling to it and my mind is not convinced by a
mere statement without proof.
Unity does not necessarily mean that the whole letter must be
devoted to one point. A paragraph and even a sentence must have this
quality of unity as much as the entire letter. And the paragraphs,
each unified in itself, may bring out one point after another that
will still allow the letter to retain its hang-together.
In the letter quoted, not even the individual sentence retained
unity. This writer might have presented all his points and
maintained the unity of his letter, had he brought out and
simplified one point in each paragraph:
First: The size of the catalogue as an indication of the large stock
carried by the house and the convenience afforded in buying.
Second: The quality of the machines; the care exercised in their
assembling; the guarantee of the test, and the assurance that this
gives the far-away purchaser.
Third: Promptness in filling orders; what this means to the buyer
and how the house is organized to give service.
Fourth: The desire to enroll new customers; not based solely on the
selfish desires of the house, but on the idea that the more
customers they can get, the bigger the business will grow, which
will result in better facilities for the house and better service
for each customer.
And now, giving a unified paragraph to each of the ideas, not
eliminating subordinate thoughts entirely, but keeping them
subordinate and making them illuminate the central thought--would
build up a unified, logical letter.
In the arrangement of these successive ideas and paragraphs, the
third element in the form is illustrated--continuity of thought. Put
a jog or a jar in the path of your letter and you take the chance of
breaking the reader's attention. That is fatal. So write a letter
that the reader will easily and, therefore, unconsciously and almost
perforce, follow from the first word to the last--then your message
How to secure this continuity depends on the subject and on the
prospect. Appealing to the average man, association of thoughts
furnishes the surest medium for continuity. If you lead a man from
one point to another point that he has been accustomed to
associating with the first point, then he will follow you without a
break in his thought. From this follows the well-known principle
that when you are presenting a new proposition, start your
prospect's thoughts on a point that he knows, which is related to
your proposition, for the transition is easiest from a known to a
An insurance company's letter furnishes a good example of continuity
of ideas and the gradual increasing strength in each paragraph:
"If you have had no sickness, and consequently, have never felt the
humiliation of calling on strangers for sick benefits--even though
it were only a temporary embarrassment--you are a fortunate man.
"Health is always an uncertain quantity--you have no assurance that
next week or next month you will not be flat on your back--down and
out as far as selling goods is concerned. And sickness not only
means a loss of time but an extra expense in the way of hospital and
* * * * *
In the next paragraph the idea is further strengthened; a new
thought is presented with additional force:
"If there is one man on earth who needs protection by insurance
against sickness it is you. There are two thousand one hundred and
fifty ailments covering just such diseases as you, as a traveling
man, expose yourself to every day."
* * * * *
These are specific facts, therefore decidedly forceful. Then, while
interest is at its height, another paragraph presents a specific
"We will protect you at an extremely low annual cost. We guarantee
that the rate will not exceed $9.00 a year--that's less than two and
a half cents a day. Think of it--by paying an amount so small that
you will never miss it, you will secure benefits on over two
thousand sicknesses--any one of which you may contract tomorrow."
* * * * *
Here is the logical presentation of subject matter by paragraphs,
leading up from an interest-getting general statement to a specific
proposition. Break this continuity of ideas by a space filler or an
inconsequential argument and the reader loses interest that it will
be hard to regain.
Make this the test of each paragraph: if it does not illuminate the
central thought, fit into the argument at that point, or add to the
interest of the reader, eliminate it or bring it into conformity
with the "idea behind the letter."
And there must be an actual continuity of thought from paragraph to
paragraph. Merely inserting a catch-word or a conjunctive does not
build a logical bridge.
The letter from another insurance agent might have been saved if
this test had been applied, for it was well written except where the
writer forgot himself long enough to insert an irrelevant paragraph
about his personal interest:
"We are desirous of adding your name to our roll of membership
because we believe that every man should be protected by insurance
and because we believe this is the best policy offered. We are
endeavoring to set a new record this month and are especially
anxious to get your application right away."
* * * * *
The continuity of thought is broken. The preceding paragraphs have
been working up the reader's interest in casualty insurance by
pointing out the dangers to which he is exposed, the humiliating
position in which it will place him and his family to be the
recipients of charity in case of sickness or accident, and so on.
Then the writer short-circuits the reader's interest by a paragraph
of generalities which call attention to his desire for profits--
things in which the prospect is not interested.
Most propositions can be developed in different ways, along
different angles. The problem of the correspondent is to determine
upon the way that will prove easiest for the reader to follow. He
may have his path smoothed for him if he understands how facts,
ideas and arguments will cohere in the reader's mind. It is much
easier to follow a proposition if it is developed along some
definite channel; if it follows the law of continuity, the law of
similarity; of association or contrast, or of cause and effect.
Some epigrammatic thinker once said, "When you get through, stop!"
This applies to letter writing as well as to speech. But don't stop
a letter on the down grade. Stop after you have given your hardest
punch. This is what rhetoricians call the climax.
A letter constructed along these principles of style will almost
inevitably have a climax. If there is an idea behind the letter, if
it is carried out logically, if the letter sticks to this one idea,
if the argument is carried along step by step, proceeding from the
general statement to the specific, from the attention-getting first
sentence to the inducement, then you are working up your reader's
interest to the point where with one final application of your
entire idea to his own individual case, you have accomplished your
climax, just as was done in the re-written letter about gasoline
A letter from a firm manufacturing a duplicating machine starts out
by calling attention to the difficulty the personal salesmen has in
getting an audience with the busy executive. The second paragraph
shows how his time and "your money" is wasted in call-backs and in
bench warming while the solicitor waits for an opportunity to be
heard. The third paragraph tells how over-anxious the salesman is to
close a sale when a few minutes is granted--and usually fails, at
least the first time. The fourth paragraph shows how this costly
process of selling can be reduced by using the mails; then follow a
couple of specific paragraphs telling about the advantage of the
company's machine. A paragraph on the saving on five thousand
circulars that would pay for the machine brings the proposition home
to the reader and then, with interest at the height, the last
paragraph--the climax--urges the reader to fill out a post card to
secure the additional information regarding capacity, quality of
work and cost. Logic, unity, sequence, climax--each does its part in
carrying the load.
The principles of style and form in letter writing do not reach
their highest pulling power as long as the correspondent handles
them like strange tools. The principles must, of course, first be
learned and consciously applied. But to give your letter the touch
of sincerity and of spontaneity; to give it the grip that holds and
the hook that pulls, these principles must become a part of
yourself. They must appear in your letters, not because you have
consciously put them in but because your thinking and your writing
How To Make Letters
PART III--STYLE--MAKING THE LETTER READABLE--CHAPTER 10
_The average business letter is machine-made. It is full of
time-worn phrases, hackneyed expressions and commonplace
observations that fail to jolt the reader out of the rut of the
conventional correspondence to which he is accustomed: consequently
it does not make an impression upon him. But occasionally a letter
comes along that "gets under the skin," that_ STANDS OUT _from the
rest because it has "human interest;" because it is original in its
statements; because it departs from the prescribed hum-drum routine;
because, in short, it reflects a live, breathing human being and not
a mere set of rules_
* * * * *
Study the letters the janitor carries out in your waste-basket--
they lack the red blood of originality. Except for one here and one
there they are stereotyped, conventional, long, uninteresting,
tiresome. They have no individuality; they are poor representatives
of an alert, magnetic personality.
Yet there is no legerdemain about writing a good letter; it is
neither a matter of luck nor of genius. Putting in the originality
that will make it pull is not a secret art locked up in the mental
storerooms of a few successful writers; it is purely a question of
study and the application of definite principles.
A lawyer is successful only in proportion to the understanding he
has of the law--the study he puts on his cases; a physician's
success depends upon his careful consideration of every symptom and
his knowledge of the effect of every drug or treatment that he may
prescribe. And it is no different with correspondents. They cannot
write letters that will pulsate with a vital message unless they
study their proposition in detail, visualize the individuals to whom
they are writing, consider the language they use, the method of
presenting their arguments, their inducements--there is no point
from the salutation to the signature that is beneath consideration.
You cannot write letters that pull without hard study any more than
the doctor can cure his patients or the lawyer win his cases without
So many letters are insipid because the correspondents do not have
time or do not appreciate the necessity for taking time to consider
the viewpoint of their readers or for studying out new methods of
presenting their proposition. Yet the same respect that would be
given to a salesman may be secured for a letter. Any one of four
attitudes will secure this attention. First of all, there may be a
personal touch and an originality of thought or expression that
commands immediate attention; in the second place, one can make use
of the man-to-man appeal; then there is the always-forceful,
never-to-be-forgotten "you" element; and finally, there are news
items which are nearly always interest-getters.
By any one of these appeals, or better, by a combination of appeals,
a letter can be given an individuality, a vitality, that will make
it rise above the underbrush of ordinary business correspondence.
To begin with, vapid words and stereotyped expressions should be
eliminated, for many a good message has become mired in stagnant
language. So many correspondents, looking for the easiest road to
travel, fall into the rut that has been worn wide and deep by the
multitudes passing that way. The trouble is not the inability of
writers to acquire a good style or express themselves forcibly; the
trouble is mental inertia--too little analytical thought is given
to the subject matter and too little serious effort is made to find
an original approach.
Most business letters are cold, impersonal, indifferent: "Our fall
catalogue which is sent to you under separate cover;" "We take
pleasure in advising you that;" "We are confident that our goods
will give you entire satisfaction," and so on--hackneyed expressions
without end--no personality--no originality--no vitality.
The correspondent who has learned how to sell goods by mail uses
none of these run-down-at-the-heel expressions. He interests the
reader by direct, personal statements: "Here is the catalogue in
which you are interested;" "Satisfaction? Absolute! We guarantee it.
We urge you not to keep one of our suits unless it is absolutely
perfect;" "How did you find that sample of tobacco?" No great mental
exertion is required for such introductions, yet they have a
personal touch, and while they might be used over and over again
they strike the reader as being original, addressed to him
Everyone is familiar with the conventional letter sent out by
investment concerns: "In response to your inquiry, we take pleasure
in sending you herewith a booklet descriptive of the White Cloud
Investment Company." Cut and dried--there is nothing that jars us
out of our indifference; nothing to tempt us to read the proposition
that follows. Here is a letter that is certain to interest the
reader because it approaches him with an original idea:
"You will receive a copy of the Pacific Coast Gold Book under
separate cover. Don't look for a literary product because that's not
its purpose. Its object is to give you the actual facts and specific
figures in reference to the gold-mining industry."
* * * * *
A correspondence school that has got past the stage where it writes,
"We beg to call attention to our catalogue which is mailed under
separate cover," injects originality into its letter in this way:
"Take the booklet we have mailed you and examine the side notes on
Drawing for Profit and Art Training that apply to you individually
and then go back over them carefully."
* * * * *
The reader, even though he may have had nothing more than the most
casual interest is certain to finish that letter.
Here is the way a paper manufacturer puts convincing argument into
his letter, making it original and personal:
"Take the sheet of paper on which this letter is written and apply
to it every test you have ever heard of for proving quality. You
will find it contains not a single trace of wood pulp or fillers but
is strong, tough, long-fiber linen. Take your pen and write a few
words on it. You will find the point glides so smoothly that writing
is a pleasure. Then erase a word or two and write them again--do it
twice, three or four times--repeated erasures, and still you will
find the ink does not blot or spread in the least. This proves the
hard body and carefully prepared finish."
* * * * *
Even if a person felt sure that this same letter went to
ten-thousand other men, there would be an individuality about
it, a vividness that makes the strongest kind of appeal.
In a town in central Indiana two merchants suffered losses from
fire. A few days later, one sent out this announcement to his
"We beg to announce that temporary quarters have been secured at 411
Main Street, where we will be glad to see you and will endeavor to
handle your orders promptly."
* * * * *
The second firm wrote to its customers:
Dear Mr. Brown:
Yes, it was a bad fire but it will not cripple the business. Our
biggest asset is not the merchandise in the store but the good-will
of our customers--something that fires cannot damage.
Our store does not look attractive. It won't until repairs are made
and new decorations are in, but the bargains are certainly
attractive--low prices to move the stock and make room for the new
goods that have been ordered. Everything has gone on the bargain
tables; some of the goods slightly damaged by water, but many of the
suits have nothing the matter with them except a little odor of
smoke that will disappear in a couple of days. Come in and look at
these goods. See the original prioe mark--you can have them at just
one-half the amount.
Very truly yours,
[Signature: Smith and Deene] 82
* * * * *
Here is originality; emphasis is laid on "good will" in a way that
will strengthen this "asset." The merchant put a personal element
into the letter; gave it an original appeal that made it not only a
clever bit of advertising, but proclaimed him a live-wire business
Here is the letter sent out by a store fixture manufacturer:
"If one of your salesmen should double his sales slips tomorrow you
would watch to see how he did it. If he kept up this pace you would
be willing to double his wages, wouldn't you? He would double his
sales if he could display all his goods to every customer. That's
the very thing which the Derwin Display Fixture does--it shows all
the goods for your salesman, yet you don't have to pay him a higher
* * * * *
A merchant cannot read this letter without stopping to think about
it. The appeal strikes home. He may have read a hundred
advertisements of the Derwin fixture, but this reaches him because
of the originality of expression, the different twist that is given
to the argument. There are no hackneyed expressions, no involved
phrases, no unfamiliar words, no selfish motives.
And then comes the man-to-man attitude, the letter in which the
writer wins the reader's confidence by talking about "you and me." A
western firm handling building materials of all kinds entered the
mail-order field. One cannot conceive a harder line of goods to sell
by mail, but this firm has succeeded by putting this man-to-man
attitude into its letters:
"If you could sit at my desk for an hour--if you might listen a few
minutes to the little intimate things that men and women tell me--
their hopes, their plans for the home that will protect their
families--their little secret schemes to make saved-up money stretch
out over the building cost; if you could hear and see these sides of
our business you would understand why we give our customers more
than mere quality merchandise. We plan for you and give expert
advice along with the material."
* * * * *
There is nothing cold or distant in this letter; it does not flavor
of a soulless corporation. It is intimate, it is so personal that we
feel we are acquainted with the writer. We would not need an
introduction--and what is more, we trust him, believe in him. Make
the man feel that you and he are friends.
Write to the average college or university for a catalogue and it
will be sent promptly with a stereotyped letter: "We are pleased to
comply with your request," and so forth. But a little school in
central Iowa makes the prospective student feel a personal interest
in the school and in its officers by this letter:
My dear Sir:
The catalogue was mailed to you this morning. We have tried to make
it complete and I believe it covers every important point. But I
wish you could talk with me personally for half an hour--I wish you
might go over our institution with me that I might point out to you
the splendid equipment, the convenient arrangement, the attractive
rooms, the ideal surroundings and the homelike places for room and
Won't you drop me a line and let me know what you think about our
school? Tell me what courses you are interested in and let me know
if I cannot be of some personal assistance to you in making your
I hope to see you about the middle of September when our fall term
Very cordially yours,
[Signature: Wallace E. Lee]
* * * * *
This letter, signed by the president of the institution, is a
heart-to-heart talk that induces many students to attend that school
in preference to larger, better-equipped colleges.
A large suit house manufacturing women's garments uses this
paragraph in a letter in response to a request for a catalogue:
"And now as you look through this book we wish we could be
privileged to sit there with you as you turn its pages. We would
like to read aloud to you every word printed on pages 4, 5 and 6.
Will you turn to those pages, please? Sometimes we think the story
told there of the making of a suit is the most interesting thing
ever written about clothes--but then, we think Columbia suits are
the most wonderful garments in the world."
* * * * *
The letter creates a feeling of intimacy, of confidence in the
writer, that no formal arguments, logical reasons or special
inducements could ever secure.
Important as these two attitudes are--the personal appeal and the
man-to-man appeal--they can be strengthened manifold by making use
of that other essential, the "you" element in letters. The mistake
of so many writers is that they think of their interests in the
transaction rather than the interests of the men to whom they are
writing. It is "we" this and "we" that. Yet this "we" habit is a
violation of the first rule of business correspondence. "We are very
desirous of receiving an order from you." Of course; the reader
knows that. Why call his attention to so evident a fact and give
emphasis to the profit that you are going to make on the deal? To
get his interest, show him where _he_ will gain through this
proposition--precious little he cares how anxious you are to make a
Mr. Station Agent--
As soon as you have told the fellow at the ticket window that the
noon train is due at twelve o'clock and satisfied the young lady
that her telegram will be sent at once and O.S.'d the way freight
and explained to the Grand Mogul at the other end of the wire what
delayed 'em, I'd like to chat with you just a minute.
It's about a book--to tell the truth, just between you and me, I
don't suppose it's a bit better book than you could write yourself
if you had time. I simply wrote it because I'm an old railroad man
and telegrapher myself and had time to write it.
The title of the book is "At Finnegan's Cigar Store," and the hero
of the fourteen little stories which the booklet contains is Mr
Station Agent. The first story in the book, "How Finnegan Bought
Himself a Diamond," is worth the price of that ten-cent cigar you're
smoking, and that's all the book will cost you.
I know you'll like it--I liked it myself. I'm so sure of it I am
enclosing a ten-cent coin card for you to use in ordering it. A dime
in the card and postage stamp on the letter will bring you the book
by first mail. "Nuff said."
E. N. RICHARDSON.
P. S.--I am enclosing another card for your night operator, if you
have one--I'd hate to have him feel that I had slighted him.
* * * * *
_This letter, sent out under a one-cent stamp to 80,000 agents,
pulled 22,000 replies with the money. The writer did not address
them individually, but he knew how to flag the interest of a station
agent--by working in familiar allusions he at once found the point
of contact and made the letter so personal that it pulled enormous
* * * * *
No other appeal is so direct, so effective, as that which is summed
up in the words "you," "your business," "your profits," "your
welfare." "It costs you too much to sell crockery, but your selling
expense can be cut down by utilizing your space to better
advantage;" "Your easiest profits are those you make by saving
expense;" "Did you ever figure up the time that is wasted in your
mailing department by sealing and stamping one letter at a time?"--
these are the letters that will be read through. Keep before the
reader _his_ interest. Show him how your proposition would benefit
This letter was sent to lady customers by a mail-order house:
You want a dress that does not sag--that does not grow draggy and
dowdy? Then you want to make it of Linette--the new dress goods.
You have seen the beautiful new look and rich luster charm of a
high-priced fabric. You can find this same quality in Linette at
only thirty-nine cents a yard, and then--just think--it will stay in
your dress through wearing, washing and wetting, and you will be
surprised to see how easily dresses made of it may be washed and
ironed and what long service the material will give.
Very truly yours.
[Signature: Anderson & Anderson]
* * * * *
In this letter there is not the faintest suggestion of the profits
that the writer hopes to make by the sale. A man is going to listen
just as long as you talk about him; a woman will keep on reading
your letter as long as you talk about her. Shout "You" and whisper
"_me_" and your letter will carry home, straight to the heart of the
A capitalized "YOU" is often inserted in letters to give emphasis to
this attitude. Here is a letter from a clothing concern:
Remember this--when we make your suit we make it for YOU just as
much as if you were here in our work roomed and, furthermore, we
guarantee that it will fit YOU just a perfectly as if you bought it
of an individual tailor. We guarantee this perfection or we will
refund your money at once without question, and pay the express
charges both ways.
We have tried hard to make this style-book interesting and beautiful
to you and full of advantage for YOU.
Your friends will ask "Who made your suit?" and we want you to be
proud that it is YOUR suit and that WE made it.
Yours very truly,
[Signature: Adams & Adams ]
* * * * *
And there is yet another quality that is frequently most valuable to
the correspondent in making his letter personal. It is the element
of news value. News interests him especially when it is information
about his business, his customers, his territory, his goods, his
propositions. Not only does the news interest appeal to the dealer
because of its practical value to him, but it impresses him by your
"up-to-the-minuteness" and it gives a dynamic force to your letters.
Tell a man a bit of news that affects his pocket book and you have
his interest. Offer to save him money and he will listen to your
every word, and clever correspondents in manufacturing and wholesale
establishments are always on the alert to find some selling value in
the news of the day.
One correspondent finds in the opening of lake navigation an excuse
for writing a sales letter. If the season opens unusually early he
points out to the retailer just how it may affect his business, and
if the season opens late he gives this fact a news value that makes
it of prime interest to the dealer. A shortage of some crop, a
drought, a rainy season, a strike, a revolution or industrial
disturbances in some distant country--these factors may have a
far-reaching effect on certain commodities, and the shrewd sales
manager makes it a point to tip off the firm's customers, giving
them some practical advance information that may mean many dollars
to them and his letter makes the reader feel that the house has his
interests at heart.
Another news feature may be found in some event that can be
connected with the firm's product. Here is the way a manufacturer of
stock food hitches his argument onto a bit of news:
"No doubt you have read in your farm paper about the Poland China
that took first prize at the Iowa State Fair last week. You will be
interested to know that this hog was raised and fattened on
Johnson's stock food."
* * * * *
This is the way a manufacturer of window screens makes capital out
of a new product:
"Throw away that old, rusty, stationary fly screen that you used
last season. You won't need it any more because you can substitute
an adjustable one in its place.
"How many times when you twisted and jerked at the old stationary
screen did you wish for a really convenient one? The sort of screen
you wanted is one which works on rollers from top to bottom so that
it will open and close as easily and conveniently as the window
"That's just the way the Ideal screen is made. It offers those
advantages. It was placed on the market only a few months ago yet it
is so practical and convenient that already we have been compelled
to double the capacity of our factory to handle the growing
"All the wood work is made to harmonize with the finish of your
rooms. Send the measure of your window and the colors you want and
get a screen absolutely free for a week's trial. If you are not
perfectly satisfied at the end of that time that it's the most
convenient screen you ever used, you need send no money but merely
return the screen at our expense.
"The Ideal screen is new; it is improved; it is the screen of
tomorrow. Are you looking for that kind?"
* * * * *
The news element may have its origin in some new feature, some
attachment or patent that is of interest to the prospect. A
manufacturer of furniture uses this approach effectively:
"The head of my designing department. Mr. Conrad, has just laid on
my desk a wonderful design for something entirely new in a dining
room table. This proposed table is so unique, so new, so different
from anything ever seen before, I am having the printer strike off
some rough proofs of this designer's drawing, one of which I am
sending you under separate cover."
* * * * *
This letter is manifestly a "today" product. It wins attention
because it is so up to date, and a new article may possess the
interest-compelling feature that will lead to an order.
Then there are the letters that tell of the purchase of goods. A
retailer puts news value into his letter when he writes that he has
purchased the entire stock of the bankrupt Brown & Brown at
thirty-eight cents on the dollar and that the goods are to be placed
on sale the following Monday morning at prices that will make it a
rare sales event. This is putting into the letter news value that
interests the customer. It is original because it is something that
could not have been written a week before and cannot be written by
Then there are other elements of news of wide interest--the opening
of a new branch office, the increase of facilities by the
enlargement of a factory, the perfecting of goods by some new
process of manufacture or the putting on the market of some new
brand or line. These things may affect the dealer in a very material
way and the news value is played up in the most convincing style.
The correspondent can bear down heavily on the better service that
is provided or the larger line of commodities that is offered.
Search through the catalogue of possibilities, and there is no
other talking point that it seized upon more joyfully by the
correspondent, for a news item, an actual occurrence or some new
development that enables him to write forceful, interest-impelling
letters, for the item itself is sufficient to interest the dealer or
the consumer. All that is required of the correspondent is to make
the most of his opportunity, seize upon this news element and mount
it in a setting of arguments and persuasion that will result in new
business, more orders, greater prestige.
Making The _Form_ Letter
PART III--STYLE--MAKING THE LETTER READABLE--CHAPTER 11
_Over ONE-HALF of all the form letters sent out are thrown into the
waste basket unopened. A bare_ ONE-THIRD _are partly read and
discarded while only_ ONE-SIXTH _of them--approximately 15 per
cent--are read through. This wasteful ratio is principally due to
the carelessness or ignorance of the firms that send them out--
ignorance of the little touches that make all the difference between
a personal and a "form letter." Yet an increase of a mere one per
cent in the number of form letters that are_ READ _means a
difference of hundreds--perhaps thousands of dollars to the sender.
This article is based on the experiences of a house that sends out
over a million form letters annually_
* * * * *
There are three ways by which you can deliver a message to one of
your customers: you can see him personally, you can telegraph or
telephone him, or you can write him a letter. After you have
delivered the message you may decide you would like to deliver the
same message to 252 other customers.
To see each customer personally, to telegraph or telephone each one,
or to write each a personal letter, would prove slow and expensive.
So you send the same letter to _all_ your customers, since you wish
to tell them all the same story.
But you do not laboriously write all these letters on the
typewriter; instead, you print them on some kind of duplicating
But it is not enough to print the body of the letter and send it
out, for you know from your own point of view that the average man
does not give a proposition presented to him in a circular letter,
the same attention he gives to it when presented by a personal
appeal. And so little plans and schemes are devised to make the
letter look like a personally dictated message, not for the purpose
of deceiving the reader, but to make your proposition more intimate.
This form of presentation is merely a means to an end; just because
a letter is duplicated a thousand times does not make the
proposition any the less applicable to the reader. It may touch his
needs just as positively as if he were the sole recipient. The
reason the letter that one knows to be simply a circular fails to
grip his attention, is because it fails to get close to him--it does
not _look_ personal.
So, if form letters are to escape the waste basket--if they are to
win the prospect's attention and convince him--they must have all
the ear-marks of a personally dictated communication. If a
proposition is worth sending out it is worthy of a good dress and
All the principles of making the individual letter a personal
message hold good with the form letter, except that greater pains
must be taken to make each letter look personal. Nothing should be
put into the letter to a dozen or a thousand men that does not apply
to each one individually.
From the mechanical standpoint, there are five parts to a letter:
superscription, body of the letter, signature, enclosures and
envelope. In each of these five parts there are opportunities for
original touches that make letters more than mere circulars.
The superscription and the way it is inserted in a form letter is
the most important feature in making it personal. No semblance of a
regularly dictated letter can be given unless the date, name and
address are filled in, and if this is not done carefully it is far
better to open your letter with "Dear Sir," and thus acknowledge
that it is a circular.
To the left, and in exact alignment with the paragraphs in the body
of the letter, should appear the name and address of the reader. If
this superscription appears a fraction of an inch to either side of
the margin the fill-in is evident. The style of type and the shade
of the typewriter ribbons used in filling-in must match with
absolute accuracy. This is vital and yet the most common error in
form letters is imperfect alignment and conspicuously different
colors of ink.
To secure an exact match between the filled-in name and address and
the body of the letter, it is necessary to use ink on the
duplicating machine which matches your typewriter ribbon. The ink
used on the duplicating machine can be mixed to correspond with the
color of the ribbons. Long experience has shown that violet or
purple shades of ink are best for form letters, for these colors are
the easiest to duplicate. Black and blue are very difficult to
handle because of the great variety of undertones which are put into
Duplicating machines which print through a ribbon give variable
shades and the typist in filling in must watch carefully to see that
her typewriter ribbons match the impressions made in the body of the
letter, especially where the form letters are printed several months
in advance and exposed to changing conditions.
In departments where the stenographers fill in only a few letters a
day, a piece of a "fill-in" ribbon is attached to the end of the
regular ribbon and used for this purpose.
For speed and better work, typists who do nothing but fill in form
letters, overlay their work--that is, before one sheet is taken out
of the machine another is started in. A scheme which is slower but
gives accuracy, is to work backward on the name and address, writing
the "Gentlemen" or "Dear Madam" first, beginning flush with the
margin. The town or city is next written, beginning on the paragraph
or established margin line and then the name and the date are filled
in. Guides may be secured so that all sheets will be fed into the
machine at one place, thus assuring an exact margin.
Too much emphasis cannot be laid on the necessity of doing this
fill-in work carefully, or not at all. If letters are printed by
means of some duplicating machine which prints through a ribbon,
care must be taken that the first run from the fresh ribbon is
filled in on the typewriter with an equally fresh typewriter ribbon.
Later when the machine ribbon is worn, giving a lighter impression,
an older ribbon is used on the typewriters.
This fill-in work is difficult, and even when done properly many
firms adopt all kinds of little schemes to help out the personal
appearance. Separating the superscription from the body of the
letter so that the immediate contrast is not so great, accomplishes
One familiar scheme is to print the shipping or sales terms of the
company across the letterhead so that the first paragraph comes
beneath the printed matter and the filled-in superscription above.
Then if there is a slight difference in shades of ink it is not so
apparent. The same care must, however, be taken with the alignment.
Mr. L. B. Burtis,
1034 Elm Ave.,
In reply to your letter of July 3d I
take pleasure in enclosing the free book
All that I ask is that you read the book--
no longer letter is necessary.
Everything I could say to you in this
letter about my chest is in my book. I
wrote every word of it so when you read
it, I wish you would take it as a personal
message from me.
We deliver this chest to Ravenswood at the
price quoted in the book.
This is all I am going to say. When you
have selected the chest you wish, simply
check it on the enclosed post card, and
mail to me. Promptly upon its receipt
the chest will go to you subject to
I shall be looking for your post card.
Very truly yours,
OLD ENGLISH CHEST COMPANY.
* * * * *
July 7, 1910,
Mr. L. B. Burtis,
1034 Elm Ave.,
I enclose with pleasure the free book you
asked for in your letter of July 3rd.
All that I ask is that you read the book--no
longer letter is necessary.
Everything I could say to you in this
letter about my chest is in my book. I
wrote every word of it so when you read
it, I wish you would take it as a personal
message from me.
Tho prices quoted you in this book include
freight prepaid to Ravenswood.
This is all I am going to say. When you
have selected the chest you wish, simply
check it on the enclosed post card, and
mail to me. Promptly upon its receipt
the chest will go to you subject to
I shall be looking for your post card.
Very truly yours,
OLD ENGLISH CHEST COMPANY
[Signature: Edward Brown, Pres.
* * * * *
_The wrong and right way of handling form letters. In the first
letter the type of the fill-in does not match and the lines are out
of alignment. Wide white space at both sides of the date "July 3d"
and the town, "Ravenswood," calls attention to the poor fill-in. The
second letter shows the same fill-ins coming at the end of
paragraphs. The second letter has a date line, personal signature
and initials of dictator and stenographer--little touches that add
to the personality of the letter_
* * * * *
A similar scheme is to write the first paragraph or sentence in red
ink. This is a somewhat expensive process, however, for the letter
must be run through the duplicating machine twice and skill is
required to secure an exact register.
Now that two-colored typewriter ribbons are in such general use the
name and address and date are printed in red, eliminating the
necessity of matching the ink of the body of the letter. This is an
effective attention-getter, but unless carefully printed the
impersonality is apparent.
In certain kinds of communications where the more formal customs of
social correspondence are sometimes employed, the letter is often
opened with the salutation, "My dear Sir." The full name and address
is then written in the lower left corner, in alignment with the
paragraphs of the body of the letter.
Some businesses, presenting a proposition to a limited number of
persons, write the entire first paragraph. It is usually short and
of course should be made pointedly personal. "Typing" the name and
address onto the form letter is another familiar scheme to make it
Use of a body fill-in is always effective. But the right way to do
this is to phrase the letter so that the name, or date, or word, to
be inserted, comes at the beginning or end of the paragraph,
preferably at the end. Otherwise the fill-in may be too short for
the space allowed and the result is farcical.
Here is an all too common mistake:
"You may be sure, Mr. Hall, that this machine is just as
* * * * *
The advantage of having the fill-in at the end of the paragraph is
because names vary so much in length that they seldom just fill the
space that is left and when there is a long blank space, as in the
sentence given above, the scheme is anything but effective.
A manufacturer of automobiles, writing old customers who might wish
to exchange their machines for newer models, added a real personal
touch by filling in the serial number of each machine at the end of
a line. Another individual touch was added in this way:
"You will be interested to know that we have recently sold one of
our machines to a near neighbor of yours, Mr. Henry C. Smith of Rock
* * * * *
This sentence was so phrased that the neighbor's name came at the
end of a line and could be easily filled in.
A furniture manufacturer works in a personal touch by closing a
paragraph of his letter with this sentence:
"You can find our liberal offer to ship freight pre-paid to Rogers
Park on page 3 of the catalogue."
* * * * *
The name of the town and page number of the catalogue came at the
end of the sentence. Another manufacturer opened his letter with
this sentence: "On April 2, we received your inquiry." In this case,
"On April 2," was filled in at the beginning of the sentence. Both
schemes give the "one-man" attitude. A personal touch in the body of
the letter indicates an individual communication--as it really is.
There are four ways for making the body of the letter look like a
regularly typewritten message: it may be typewritten, printed on a
printing press, printed through a ribbon or printed by means of a
stenciled waxed paper.
Firms sending out only a few form letters typewrite them so that no
effort is necessary to give an individual touch.
But the letter printed from typewriter type by means of an ordinary
printing press is obviously nothing more than an ordinary circular.
Filling in the name and address by a typewriter is absolutely
useless. It is usually advisable to print form letters by means of
some duplicating process which prints through a ribbon.
Where a stencil is used, the waxed paper is put in the typewriter
and the letter is written on it without a ribbon. Here the stenciled
letter replaces the usual type, and the impression secured can
seldom be detected from a typewritten letter. A stencil can be made
more quickly than type for the same letter can be set. Then the
exact touch of the typist is reproduced on the duplicated letters
through the stencil. No stenographer can write a letter without
making some words heavier than others, the distribution of the ink
is not the same throughout, so absolute uniformity in the printed
letter is not advisable.
In printing the body of the letter select some process which gives
the appearance of typewriting and then match the fill-in. One
merchant secured an effective matching of fill-in and body by
printing the form with a poorly-inked ribbon on the duplicating
machine and then filling in the name and address with a typewriter
ribbon that had been well used. While the general appearance of the
letter was marred by this scheme, the impression was that of a
letter written on a poor typewriter and it was effective.
The business man, the clerk and the farmer--everyone visited by the
postman--is becoming more and more familiar with letters. The day
has passed when anyone is deceived by a carelessly handled form
letter. Unless a firm feels justified in spending the time and money
to fill in the letter very carefully, it is much better to send it
out frankly as a circular.
Nor is this always a weakness, for a clever touch can be added that
introduces the personal elements. One mail-order house sent out a
large mailing with this typewritten notice in the upper left corner
of the letterhead:
"You must pardon me for not filling in your name and address at the
beginning of this letter, but the truth is I must get off fifty
thousand letters tonight, and I have not the necessary stenographic
force to fill in the name and address on each individual letter."
* * * * *
In spite of the fact that each man was frankly told that 49,999
other persons were receiving the same letter, the appeal was as
personal as an individual message. Another writer opened his
communication in this way:
"This letter is to YOU. and it is just as personal as If I had sat
down and pounded it off on the typewriter myself, and I am sure that
you, as a business man, appreciate that this is a personal message
to you, even if I am writing a hundred thousand others at the same
* * * * *
This letter struck a popular and responsive chord, for each reader
took it to himself as a frank, honest appeal, from a frank, honest
business man. It was a direct personal communication because each
reader felt that although it was duplicated a thousand times it
nevertheless contained a live message.
But the care that some writers take to make the form letter look
personal, is the very thing that kills it. They make the letter too
perfect. To avoid this result, leave an imperfect word, here and
there, throughout the body of the letter. Watch the setting up of
the type to be sure the lines are not spaced out like a printed
page. Many correspondents imitate the common mistakes of the
typewritten letter from the mechanical standpoint and in the
Time spent in correcting these errors with pen and ink is usually
considered a paying investment. The tympan of the duplicating
machine is sometimes made uneven so that the impression of a
typewriter is still further carried out. Some duplicating machines
advertise that their type print "loose" for this very purpose. A
favorite scheme with firms where letter presses are used is to blur
the letter slightly after it has been filled in and signed. A word
"XXX'd" out as by a typewriter lends an impression of the personal
message, as does also the wrong spelling of a word, corrected by pen
But fully as vital to the individuality of the letter is the manner
in which it is closed. The signature of the form letter is a subject
that deserves as careful consideration as the superscription and the
body of the letter. The actual typewritten letter to Henry Brown is
signed with pen and ink. Even where the name of the company also
appears at the end of the letter, the personal signature in ink is
desirable. And when you write all the Henry Browns on your mailing
list, you should apply the pen-and-ink signature to every letter.
That is the only effective way.
It is not so essential that the signature should be applied by the
writer personally. Often a girl writes the signature, saving the
time of a busy department head. Many firms use a rubber facsimile
stamp for applying the signature, but it is not as effective, for it
is seldom that the stamped name does not stand out as a mechanical
signature. One concern adds the name of the company at the bottom of
the letter and has a clerk mark initials underneath with pen and
The form letter has a heavy load which carries a row of
hieroglyphics at the bottom of the page--the "X-Y-Z," the "4, 8, 6,"
the "Dictated WML-OR" and the twenty and one other key numbers and
symbols common to the form letters of many houses. When a man
receives such a letter, he is impressed by the mass of tangled
mechanical operations the message has undergone; on its face he has
the story of its mechanical make-up and its virility is lost,
Then consider the various notes, stamped in a frankly mechanical
manner at the bottom of the letter, such as, "Dictated, but not
read," "Signed in the absence of Mr. So-and-So." To the average man
who finds one of these notes on the letter, there is the impression
of a slap in the face. He does not like to be reminded that he may
converse with the stenographer in the absence of the president. When
a letter says "Not read" he feels that the message was not of
sufficient importance to warrant the personal attention of the
writer. Eliminate all such notes from the form letter.
Sometimes a postscript may suggest a note of personality. For
instance, one firm writes underneath the signature: "I want you to
look especially at the new model on page 37 of the catalogue." This
is effective if done with pen and ink, but if printed or stamped, it
gives no additional tone of individuality to the letter. One
manufacturer had a postscript written on an extra slip of paper
which he pasted to the corner of the sheet.
Another concern writes out on a piece of white paper the
blue-penciled postscript: "I'll send you this three-tool garden kit
_free_ (express prepaid) if your order for the patent roller reaches
me before the 5th." This is made into a zinc etching and printed in
blue so perfectly that the postscript appears to have been applied
with a blue pencil.
Still another postscript scheme is to write the form letter so that
it just fills the first page, then to dictate and sign a paragraph
for a second page--a most effective plan.
Then you must consider the enclosure that often goes with the
letter. This frequently stamps it a circular. If you are offering a
special discount or introductory sale price, for instance, it would
be ridiculous to say in your letter, "This is a special price I am
quoting to you," when the reader finds the same price printed on the
circular. Print the regular price, and then blot out the figures
with a rubber stamp and insert the special price with pen and ink,
or with a stamp.
If you offer a special discount it is best to say so frankly:
"I am making this special discount to a selected list of a few of
our old friends. And in order that you may be sure of this discount
I am enclosing the discount card which will entitle you to the
* * * * *
[Illustration: _A series of letterheads that illustrate various uses
of the product and so not only vary the appearance of successive
letters but afford good advertising_.]
[Illustration: _For different departments, to handle different
classes of correspondence or simply to vary their follow-up, varying
letterheads are used_.]
* * * * *
The discount card should be filled-in with the name of the person
written and stamped with a serial numbering machine. The date the
special offer expires should also be stamped on the circular. In
making a special offer to a "limited number of persons," the
enclosure describing it and the return order blank should not be too
elaborate or carefully prepared. It is more effective to make them
inexpensive and give a careless appearance. Aim to carry the
impression that with a hundred or so you could not afford to do it
Do not let an opportunity pass to give the enclosure the same
personal touch that you aim at in the letter. Some houses even sign
the reader's name to the card. A pencil or pen mark over some
particular feature of the enclosure is another way to suggest
Refer to the enclosure in a way that indicates individual attention.
A correspondence school takes off the weight of the overload of
enclosures by inserting this paragraph:
"So in order that you may properly understand our proposition I am
enclosing these circulars and application blanks. It is impossible
to tell one whole story in a single letter, or even a series of
letters. To make them perfectly plain I have asked my stenographer
to number them with a pen, and I will refer to them in this letter
in that order."
* * * * *
A manufacturer who has succeeded in the mail-order business turns
down a page in his catalogue, and refers to it in this way:
"I have turned down the corner of a page--39--in my catalogue that I
particularly want you to read. On this page you will find pictured
and described the best value in a single-seated carriage ever
offered to the public. Turn to this page now and see if you can
afford not to investigate this proposition further."
* * * * *
A successful campaign prepared by a wholesale house consisted simply
of a letter and a cheap-looking yellow circular, across the top of
which had been printed with a typewriter duplicating machine this
"There is no time to prepare an elaborate circular--the time limit
set on this offer is too short."
* * * * *
This idea was further strengthened by additional typewritten notes
on the top and sides of the circular. The special offer and order
blank appeared in typewriter type on the back of the circular.
Another scheme which pulled results for a tailor was this
"The enclosed is a circular letter. If I sent it to you without this
personal note, I fear you would be too busy to give it the attention
it deserves. So I ask you now--in justice to your interests--to read
this circular as carefully as if I had put the whole thing in a
personal letter to you."
* * * * *
It is an easy matter to enclose a few typewritten names, so a paper
manufacturer says in his answer to an inquiry:
"I'm sending you a list of the printers in your immediate vicinity
from whom you can secure our bond papers."
* * * * *
A land concern refers to an enclosed list in this way:
"So you can investigate for yourself just what our proposition will
do for you, I am having my stenographer make up a list of a few
purchasers in your vicinity from whom you can secure first hand
* * * * *
Another concern typewrites the note "Personal Matter" on the
enclosed return envelope to give added individuality to it. Thus the
return envelope contributes to the general impression of the one-man
message. But whether it is the superscription, the body of the
letter, the closing or the enclosure, there is one general principle
that must be followed: first consider how you would handle the
individual letter, then make the form letter similar. Make the form
letter talk as though it were intended for one man. Keep this rule
in mind and your form letters will pull.
Making _Letterheads_ and _Envelopes_
PART IV--THE DRESS OF A BUSINESS LETTER--CHAPTER 12
_The dress of a business letter reflects the character and the
standing of a house no less than the dress of its personal
representative. The quality of the paper, the kind of printing or
engraving, the mechanical make-up--all these things contribute to
the_ IMPRESSION _a letter makes upon the recipient even_ BEFORE THE
MESSAGE IS READ. _Many letters come to nothing because their dress
is unattractive, cheap, slovenly; and so progressive business men
are learning to select their stationery with care to insure for it
both tone and dignity. The kind of paper to select--the size, the
tint and the quality--is described and explained in the following
* * * * *
The first impression created by a business letter is based upon its
outward appearance--upon its mechanical make-up, the quality of its
paper, the grade of its printing or engraving; upon the superficial
qualities that are apparent at a glance.
The externals do not necessarily reflect the quality of the message
within the letter. But the experienced business man, who is trained
to make his estimate quickly, gets an impression of some kind--good,
bad or indifferent--of every letter that comes before him, even
before a word of that letter is read.
In other words, the general appearance of the letter is the first
appeal that it makes to the average man. The nearer that appearance
conforms to the appearance of the letters from reputable concerns
with which he is familiar, the more favorably he is impressed with
it. The farther its appearance departs from the established and
approved standards, the more forcibly will that letter force itself
upon his attention. But whether the recipient is favorably or
unfavorably impressed by this prominence depends upon the skill and
ingenuity with which the letter is made up mechanically.
Generally speaking, business correspondence paper may be classified
First: The _conventional_ stationery, that conforms to the
established rules and the principal variation of which is in the
quality of its paper and printing.
Second: The _individualistic_ stationery, that departs from the
usual styles and is good to the extent that it meets the unusual
requirements for which it is designed.
Third: The _eccentric_ stationery, which is usually merely a
fanciful violation of the conventions for the purpose of being
Of these three types of business stationery, the first is
essentially practical and sane; the second is forceful if it does
not violate the fundamental rules of color and design, and if it has
a peculiarly apt application; while the third is almost invariably
in as poor taste as eccentricity in dress.
The first consideration in the preparation of business stationery is
the paper, or "stock."
The quality of this "stock," like the quality of material of a suit
of clothes, largely determines the taste, if not the resources of
the owner. Important messages may be written on cheap stationery;
big men with big plans are sometimes clad in shoddy garments. But
ninety-nine out of a hundred are not, and the hundredth man, who
does not conform to the accepted order of things, is taking an
unnecessary business risk of being wrongly classified. After a man
has delivered his message, the quality of his clothes is not an
important item. After a letter has been read, the quality of its
paper is insignificant. But as the man is seen before he is heard,
and the letter before it is read, it is good business to make both
dress and stationery conform to approved styles.
For instance, the average financial institution, such as a bank or
trust company, takes every precaution to create an impression of
strength and security. The heavy architecture of its building, the
massive steel bars, its uniformed attendants the richness of its
furnishings, all tend to insure a sense of reliability. Does it use
cheap stationery? On the contrary, it uses rich, heavy bond. The
quality of its paper conforms to the dignity and wealth of the
institution; indeed, so long has the public been trained to expect
good letter paper from such concerns that it would be apt to
mistrust, perhaps unconsciously, the house that resorted to cheap
grades of stationery which is almost invariably associated with
cheap concerns or with mere form letters issued in large quantities.
Stationery should be representative of the business from which it
comes. The impression created by a well-dressed man, as well as of a
well-dressed letter, is seldom analyzed; the first glance is
generally sufficient to establish that impression. A letter
soliciting an investment of money, if printed on cheap stock, may
create such a tawdry impression as to be discarded instantly by the
average business man, although the letter may come from an entirely
reliable house and contain an excellent business proposition on
good, substantial paper. For this reason, the letter that departs
from the usual standards must assume unnecessary risks of being
thrown away unread.
To discriminate at a glance between important and inconsequential
business letters, is what most men have been trained to do. It is
not exaggeration to claim that the success of many business letters
often depends upon the paper. The difference between the letter of
an obscure country merchant or lawyer, and that of his well-known
correspondent in the city, lies often in its mechanical appearance.
The one, who is not trained to observe what he considers trifling
items, uses paper that is cheap and easily available; the other,
experienced in the details that tend to increase the dignity of the
house, selects his stationery with care from a wider assortment.
Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the two letters may be identified
at a distance. The message of one letter may be just as important as
the other; but one is properly and the other is improperly
What the firm thinks about business stationery is not so important
as what the recipients think. Do not buy good stock because it
pleases the "house," but because it influences the man to whom the
house writes. First impressions are usually strongest and the first
impression produced by a letter comes from the paper upon which it
Some men seem to feel superior to creating a good impression. They
do not want to stoop so low as to go to the best hotel. They will
not buy a hat or an umbrella that can help them get business. Their
general idea is to bang their way into the market and succeed in
their shirt sleeves, as it were, and on the strength of the goods.
Of course, if a man has time to succeed in his shirt sleeves, there
is no objection to it. The idea of having as one's address the best
hotel, or in writing one's business on the best paper, is not that a
man could not succeed in his shirt sleeves, if he set out to, but
that he has not time. He gets little things out of the way and
proceeds to business.
The quality of the paper must be largely influenced by the purpose,
as well as by the quantity of the letters to be written. A firm that
sends out hundreds of thousands of form letters to sell a small
retail article in the rural districts, will not use an expensive
stock; it will use a cheaper quality of paper. If the form letter
goes to business or professional men in the city, the quality of the
paper will be determined accordingly. In every instance, stock
should be selected which will meet the expectations of the
The fact that the recipient knows a form letter as such, largely
nullifies its influence. A business man who sends out a large number
of form letters a year claims that when he gets a reply beginning,
"In response to your form letter," he knows that the effect of that
letter is absolutely lost on a large percentage of this list who
seldom or never bother to read such communications. And one of the
distinguishing marks of such a letter is the poor quality of its
Different grades of stationery may be used for the various
departments. For inter-house or inter-department correspondence,
an inexpensive paper is desirable. For many purposes, indeed, a
low-priced stock is entirely permissible. But the higher the quality
of paper, the more exclusive and personal that letter becomes,
until, in the cases of executive heads of corporations, the stock
used is of the best. One well-known corporation regularly uses six
different grades of paper for its letters; one grade is engraved
upon a thin bond of excellent quality and used by the president of
the company when writing in his official capacity; another grade
is engraved upon a good quality of linen paper and is used by the
other officers, sales managers and heads of office departments
when writing official letters to outside parties; when writing to
officers or employees of their own concern, the same letterhead,
lithographed on a less expensive grade of paper, is used; A fourth
grade of bond paper is used by officers and department heads for
their semi-official correspondence. The sixth grade is used only for
personal letters of a social nature; it is of a high quality of
linen stock, tinted. Thus, the size, shape and quality of the paper
and letterhead in each instance is made to conform to the best
business and social usages.
For business correspondence, custom allows but little leeway in the
choice of paper. For print shops, advertising concerns, ink
manufacturers, engravers, or paper manufacturers, stationery offers
an opportunity to exploit their taste or products in an effective
and legitimate manner. For most houses, however, a plain bond,
linen, or the vellums and hand-made papers that are coming into
favor, furnish the best letter paper.
Colors on correspondence paper are seldom used to good effect; the
results are frequently glaring and cheap. When in doubt as to what
tint to use in the paper stock, use white, which is always in good
taste. Tinted stock is occasionally used to good advantage as a
"firm color." In such cases all the correspondence of that house has
a uniform tint, which thus acquires an advertising value in
attracting attention to itself among a mass of other letters. Aside
from this occasional and often doubtful advertising value, tinted
stock tends toward the eccentric except in the cases of paper
dealers, publishers, or printers who have a purpose in displaying
Many concerns use paper of various tints, each of which identifies
the particular department from which it comes. Thus, white paper may
mark the letters from the executive department, blue from the
selling department, and brown from the manufacturing department.
But, even in such cases, the colors are used ordinarily only for
inter-house or inter-department communications.
The sheet should be of standard size; that is the letter sheet
should be folded to fit exactly into the envelope that is used.
Only such paper stock should be selected as can hold ink readily.
Never select a stock that is not entirely serviceable on a
typewriting machine. Never sacrifice the practical to the eccentric
in business stationery.
An inferior quality of stationery is sometimes accepted by the
shrewd observer either as a deliberate act to economize or as an
indication of poor taste or indifference. A man who gets an
estimate, for example, written on cheap paper, may be led to believe
that the man who skimps on letter paper is apt to skimp on his work.
So long as the paper represents the sender, just so long will the
sender be judged by it.
From a semi-business or social standpoint, stationery often plays an
important role; many instances are recorded where a man's private
note paper has been the means of eliminating his name from select,
social lists. The lady who, in writing to an employment office for a
butler, used her private stationery with the remark, "that is one
more way of giving them to understand what sort of a butler I want,"
knew the effect produced by proper letter paper.
In other words, the _stationery_ of a business house--the size, the
proportions, the tint, the quality of its correspondence-paper--
offers the first of the several opportunities for the correspondent
to put the recipient into a receptive state of mind toward the
communication. It is an item that the shrewd correspondent does not
ignore, because it offers him an opportunity--and the first
The _Typographical_ Make-Up
Of BUSINESS LETTERS
PART IV--THE DRESS OF A BUSINESS LETTER--CHAPTER 13
_All business houses recognize the necessity for having printed
letterheads and envelopes, but the variety of designs and styles are
infinite. Nothing, not even the paper, affords such an index to the
character of the individual or firm as the typography of the
envelope and letterhead. An impression, favorable or otherwise, is
created_ BEFORE THE LETTER IS READ. _This chapter describes the
methods of printing, engraving and lithographing; the advantages of
each process, and the difference in prices; the proper placing of
date, name and address, the width of margins, spacing between
lines--little points that contribute to the appearance of the letter
and give it tone_
* * * * *
The feature of a business letter that invariably commands the first
conscious attention of the recipient is the name--printed or
written--of the firm or individual from whom the letter comes.
Except when the correspondent intentionally omits this information
for the purpose of inducing the recipient to notice a circular
letter that he might otherwise ignore, the name and address of the
sender is printed on the envelope.
This is done for two reasons: it brings the name of the
correspondent before the recipient immediately upon receipt of the
letter; it tends to secure favorable attention, and it enables the
post office authorities to return letters to the senders in case of
non-delivery because of removals, death, wrong address or other
In either case, the interests of the correspondent are best served
by printing this information in the upper left corner of the face of
the envelope. It is this side of the envelope that bears the address
and the stamp, and consequently the only side, under ordinary
circumstances, that receives attention from either the postal
officials or the recipient. When the sender's name is printed in
this position, it is brought prominently to the attention of the
recipient as the letter is placed before him. But even a more
practical reason for putting this data in the upper left corner is
that such a location on the envelope permits the post office rubber
stamp, "_Return to Sender_," to be affixed, in case of need, without
the confusion and annoyance that is caused when this address is
printed on the back of the envelope, as is sometimes done.
As a rule, the printed matter that appears on the envelope should
consist merely of the name and address of the sender in plain,
In no case should the address be ambiguous. However many branch
offices the firm may have, the use of more than one address on the
envelope is apt to be confusing and may result in a communication's
being returned to an office other than that from which it comes. To
avoid this, only one address should be printed on the envelope, and
that should be the address to which the correspondence is to be
returned by the postal authorities in case of non-delivery to the
addressee. The trade mark or other similar distinctive imprint of a
firm may properly be used on the envelope, but only in cases where
it will not tend to confuse or crowd the essential wording. The name
of the person to whom the letter is to be returned is of
considerable more practical value to the postman than a unique
design with which the envelope may be adorned.
The letterhead offers wider opportunities for an array of data.
Pictures of offices, buildings and factories, trade marks, lists of
branch offices, cable codes and the names of officers and executive
heads may be used, but too much reading matter leads to confusion.
The tendency today is toward simplicity. The name and address of the
firm, and the particular department or branch office from which the
communication comes, is regarded as sufficient by many houses. The
day of the letterhead gay with birds-eye views of the plant and much
extraneous information seems to be passing, and money that was once
spent in elaborate designs and plates is now put into the "quality"
of the letter paper--and quality is usually marked by dignified
simplicity and directness.
Letterheads may be mechanically produced by several different
processes that range widely in costs. The principal methods of
printing letterheads are:
First: From type.
Second: From zinc or half-tone plates made from drawings--generally
designated as "photo-engraving".
Third: From plates engraved on copper or steel.
Fourth: From lithograph plates, engraved on stone.
Fifth: From photogravure or similar engraved plates.
Generally speaking, letterheads printed from type are the cheapest.
The costs of type composition for an ordinary letterhead will vary
from fifty cents to four or five dollars, dependent upon the amount
of work. The printing ranges in cost from one dollar a thousand
sheets for one color to several times that amount, dependent upon
the quality of ink and paper, and upon local conditions. Many
concerns are discarding letterheads printed from type, as more
individuality can be shown in some form of engraved or lithographed
Good results may often be secured from "line cuts" or zinc plates--
which cost from five to ten cents a square inch, with a minimum
charge ranging from fifty cents to a dollar--made from pen-and-ink
drawings. Good and distinctive lettering may often be secured in
this way, where type matter does not offer the same opportunities.
The cost of printing from zinc plates is practically the same as the
cost of printing from type. If the drawings are made in water color,
"wash" or oil, or if they contain fine crayon or pencil shadings,
the reproductions must be made from half-tone plates. These cost
from twelve cents to twenty cents a square inch, with a minimum
rate that usually is equivalent to the cost of ten square inches.
Half-tones, however, can be printed only on an enamel or other
smooth-surface paper, and cannot be used satisfactorily on a
rough-surface paper as can zinc plates.
Copper or steel engravings are made from designs furnished either by
the engraver or by some other designer. For simple engraved
lettering such as is customarily used on business stationery, the
cost of a copper plate is about ten cents a letter. For elaborate
designs the costs increase proportionately. Steel plates, which are
more durable, cost about sixty per cent more. Printing from such
plates is considerably more expensive than the two processes
previously described. Engraved letterheads cost from six dollars
upward a thousand for the printing, while the envelopes cost
approximately two dollars and fifty cents a thousand. The envelopes
are usually printed from steel dies, which cost about ten cents a
For large orders of stationery, exceeding 20,000 sheets, lithography
offers economies in price and other advantages that render it more
practical than metal engraving. The design is engraved upon stone
and printed from the stone block. While the initial costs of
lithography are high, ranging from $25.00 to $100.00 for the
engraving (with an average cost of about $50.00), the price of
printing is so moderate as to make this form of production popular
among extensive users of business paper. Lithography gives a smooth,
uniform and permanent impression on the paper, and permits of an
indeterminate "run." The cost of printing from lithographic plates
is practically the same as from steel or copper plates. The savings
effected in large orders is in the cost of the plates, for copper
and steel must be renewed as they become worn down.
The photogravure process is costly both in the plate-making and in
the printing. While it gives a rich and uniform impression on the
letter paper, and is highly valuable for reproducing pictures and
ornate designs, it is adaptable only for special purposes and is not
generally regarded as suitable for commercial work. A photogravure
plate costs from seventy-five cents to one dollar and twenty-five
cents a square inch, or about $12.00 to $50.00 for a letterhead. The
printing costs about the same as for other engraved stationery. With
other processes, somewhat similar in the market, this method of
printing letterheads has not yet won extensive favor.
It is now almost universally recognized that a letter should be
written on one side of the sheet only.
A copy should be kept of every communication that leaves the
office. Either a carbon copy may be made at the time the letter is
written--six good copies can be made simultaneously on the average
typewriter, although one is usually sufficient--or a letter-press
copy can be made from the sheet after it is signed. Both forms have
been accepted by the courts as legal copies of correspondence.
Such copies are usually filed alphabetically either by the name of
the company or individual to whom the letter is addressed.
Letter-press copies must necessarily be filed chronologically, even
when separate books for each letter of the alphabet are maintained.
In either case the search through the files for a letter copy is
facilitated by placing the name, address and date of a letter at the
For the same reason the date of a letter should be placed in
the upper right corner of the page; the recipient must know when
the communication is sent; it may have a bearing on other
communications. The name and address of the addressee, similar to
the address on the envelope, should in all cases be placed, as the
formal salutation, in the upper left corner of the sheet, whether
the correspondent be greeted "Dear Sir" or "Gentlemen." Not only
does this establish at once the exact individual for whom the
communication is intended but it facilitates the filing of the
correspondence, both by the recipient and by the sender.
The margins of a business letter, owing to the limitations of the
typewriter, are usually variable. The space occupied by the
letterhead must, of course, determine the margin at the top of the
sheet. Theoretically, the margins at the left and right should be
exactly the same size; practically, however, the typewriter lines
will vary in length and cause an uneven edge on the right side. In
printing, the use of many-sized spaces not only between words but at
times, between the letters themselves rectifies these variations,
but the typewriter does not permit this. The more even the right
margin is and the more uniform it is to the left margin, the better
the effect. The margins should be about one and a half inches in
width. The margin at the bottom should not be less than the side
margins. Should it be smaller, the page will appear cramped for
space as the reading matter will be really running over into the
margin--a typographical defect that is as noticeable on typewritten
as on printed pages.
The spacing between the lines and between the paragraphs of a
business letter may vary to suit the tastes of the individual,
although considerations of a practical nature tend to establish a
few general principles.
Both for purposes of convenience and of economy, a letter should be
as compact as possible, both in words and in mechanical production.
It should not take up two sheets if the message can be written on
one without undue crowding. Hence most business letters are single
spaced; that is, only one space on the typewriter separates the
lines. Even when a letter is short, it is advisable for purposes of
uniformity, to use single spaces only.
The first line of each paragraph is usually indented from five to
fifteen points on the machine. Each business house should establish
exactly what this indentation shall be in order to secure uniformity
in its correspondence. Instead of indenting the first line, some
concerns designate the paragraphs merely by separating them by
double spacings, beginning the first line flush with the left
margin. The best practice, however, seems to embody both of these
methods, but the average business letter usually has its paragraphs
separated by double spacing and indenting the first line.
The address on the envelope, to which the salutation at the top of
the letter should correspond, either exactly or in slightly
condensed form, may be properly typewritten in various ways. The
style that is most observed, however, and which has the stamp of
general approval, provides for an indentation of about five points
on each line of the address.
Between the lines the spacings may be either single or double but
the latter is preferable. Greater spacing tends to separate the
address too much to allow it to be read quickly.
Another approved, though less popular form of address does not
indent the lines at all.
Any radical departure from these forms should be made cautiously,
especially if the various items of the address are separated from
The address, like a paragraph, is generally read as a unit--as a
single, distinct idea. The closer the address conforms to the
generally accepted forms, the more readily are the envelopes handled
by the postoffice and the less danger of delay.
Getting a UNIFORM _Policy_ and
_Quality_ in Letters
PART IV--THE DRESS OF A BUSINESS LETTER--CHAPTER 14
_Every correspondent naturally reflects his own personality in his
letters. His distinguishing characteristics, good, bad and
indifferent, inevitably tend to find expression in his
correspondence_--UNLESS THOSE TENDENCIES ARE GUIDED. _That is
exactly what the modern business house does. It directs the work of
its correspondents by means of general and specific rules as well as
by instruction in the policies of the house until ail of its letters
are uniform in quality and bear the stamp of a consistent
personality--the personality of "the house"_
* * * * *
A number of years ago, the president of a company manufacturing
carriages felt that he was not getting adequate results for the
money he was spending in the mail sales department. One day he
called a meeting of all his correspondents and asked each man what
arguments he used in writing to prospects. He discovered that eight
correspondents were using eight different lines of talk. One
emphasized this feature of the carriage, a second based his argument
on another feature, and no two correspondents were reaching
prospects from the same angle or making use of the same arguments.
"Here are eight different approaches," said the president. "It is
certain that one of these must be more effective than the other
seven. They can't all be best. It is up to us to test them out and
determine which one is best and then we will all use it."
When the proposition was presented in this way, it was so elementary
that everyone wondered why it had not been thought of before. A
series of tests followed with the different arguments and
presentations and by a process of elimination the company proved
conclusively which was the strongest approach. Then all of the
correspondents used it in the first letter and the second strongest
argument was used in the second letter, and so on through the
follow-up. It was no longer left for each man to develop his
arguments and his selling talk according to his own ideas. Through
tests, consultation and discussion, every point was considered and
all the correspondence was on the same level.
By adopting a uniform policy the efficiency of the sales department
was increased, the quality of the letters was raised and the work
was handled more expeditiously and more economically.
One cannot write to all his customers and prospects; that is why it
is necessary to have correspondents in the various departments. It
is an easy matter to adopt rules and establish policies that will
make their letters of a much higher standard and give them greater
efficiency than if each went his own way without rule or regulation
to guide him. Every correspondent represents the house in a
dignified manner and handles the subjects intrusted to his care in a
way that will reflect the best thought and the most successful
methods of the house. Not everyone can be developed into a master
correspondent but it is possible to establish a policy and enforce
rules that will give quality and at least a fair measure of
salesmanship to all letters.
Many businesses have grown so rapidly and the heads have been so
absorbed in the problems of production and extending markets that
little time or thought has been given to the work of the
correspondents. And so it happens that in many concerns the
correspondence is handled according to the whims, the theories and
the personality of the various men who are in charge of the
different departments. But there are other concerns that have
recognized the desirability of giving individuality to all the mail
that bears a house message. They have found that the quality can be
keyed up and the letters, even though they may be written in a dozen
different departments, all have the family resemblance and bear
evidence of good parentage.
And it may be certain that when all the letters from a house impart
this tone, this atmosphere of quality and distinction, it is not
because of chance. It is not because the correspondents all happen
to use a similar policy. Such letters imply a deliberate,
persistent, intelligent effort to keep the correspondence from
falling below a fixed level. Such a policy represents one of the
finer products of the process of systematically developing all the
factors in modern business--the stamping of a strong individuality
upon all of the correspondence of a large organization.
To secure this uniformity in policy and in quality, it is necessary
to adopt a set of clear, comprehensive rules and to impress upon the
correspondents the full significance of the standing, the character
and the traditions of the house.
There are certain tendencies on the part of some correspondents that
can be overcome by a general rule. For instance, there are the
correspondents who try to be funny in their letters. Attempts at
humor should be forbidden for the day has gone when the salesman can
get orders by telling a funny story. Another correspondent may deal
too largely in technicalities in his letters, using words and
phrases that are not understood.
Then there is the correspondent who has an air of superiority in his
letters and writes with impudence and his letters suggest a
condescension on his part to explain a proposition; or the complaint
department may have a man who grants an allowance or makes an
adjustment but puts a sting into his letter that makes the reader
wish he had never patronized the house. All such tendencies may be
eradicated by a set of rules giving specific instruction on how to
handle every point that comes up and the attitude that is to be
assumed in answering complaints, collecting accounts, making sales,
and so forth.
And in order to have the letters reflect the house, rules have been
adopted in some cases that cover every conceivable point from a
broad policy in handling arguments to a specific rule regarding the
use of commas.
For instance, it is no longer left to the discretion of the
correspondent to start his letter "John Smith." A rule provides that
all letters shall begin "Mr. John Smith." For the sake of dignity, a
western mail-order house decided to use "Dear Sir" and "Dear Madam"
in the first three letters that went to a customer. But on the third
and succeeding letters this house uses the salutation "Dear Mr.
Smith" or "Dear Mrs. Smith."
This is a matter of policy, a rule that will keep the letters up to
a fixed standard.
* * * * *
Page from One Firm's Book of Rules:
_In a long letter, or where two or more subjects are treated, each
subject must be introduced with an appropriate subhead.
All letters, long or short, must carry a general subject head
between the address and the first paragraph. This general head and
the subheads must be in capitals, underscored with a single line,
and as nearly as possible in the middle of the sheet from right to
Carefully avoid even the appearance of sarcasm.
Be wary of adjectives, particularly superlatives. "Very,"
"great," "tremendous," "excellent," etc., have marred many an
otherwise strong phrase and have propped needlessly many a good
word, all-sufficient of itself.
Never use the first personal pronoun "I" when writing as Blank
Company. "We" is the proper pronoun. Where a personal reference is
necessary, "the writer" may be used; but even this should be avoided
Don't forget that certain small words are in the language for a
purpose. "And," "a," "the," are important, and their elimination
often makes a letter bald, curt, and distinctly inelegant.
Carefully avoid such words and stock phrases as "beg to
acknowledge," "beg to inquire," "beg to advise," etc. Do not "beg"
Do not say "kindly" for "please."
Do not say "Enclosed herewith." Herewith is superfluous.
Do not "reply" to a letter; "answer" it. You answer a letter and
reply to an argument._
* * * * *
In determining a uniformity in policy and quality, the rules may be
grouped in three classes: those which determine the attitude of the
writer; those that relate to the handling of subject matter; and
then there are specific rules, such as the style of paper, the
salutation, the subscription, signature, and so forth.
The attitude and policy of the house must be determined according to
the nature of the business and the ideas of the management. The same
rules will not apply to all houses but this does not lessen the
desirability of an established policy. For instance, one large
corporation, selling entirely to dealers and to large contractors,
forbids the use of the first person singular. Under no consideration
is the correspondent permitted to say "I". And if a personal
reference is absolutely necessary, he must refer to "the writer".
The rule is to say "we" and the correspondents are urged to avoid
this personal pronoun, using the name of the company, as, "It has
always been the practice of the Workwell Company," and so on.
Most mail-order houses, on the other hand, get just as far away from
this formal attitude as possible. Here it is the policy to get up
close to the reader by a "you-and-me" attitude. Some mail-order
houses have letters written in the name of the company, signed by
the writer as department manager, sales manager, or other officer.
Then there are other houses that omit the company name entirely in
order to get away from the "soulless corporation" idea as much as
possible, and letters to a customer are always signed by the same
individual to get a personal relationship that is considered a most
valuable asset. This does not mean merely the matter of the
signature, but the entire attitude of the letter. "Address your
reply to me personally" is the spirit of these firms--a policy that
has been adopted after tests have demonstrated that it is the one
appeal most effective with the average mail-order customer.
A large concern aims to make its points stand out more clearly by
having the arguments presented in a one, two, three order, and each
paragraph is introduced with a subject printed in capitals at the
beginning of the first line, such as _Location_, _Terms_,
_Guarantee_. This company, dealing in lands, usually finds it
necessary to write rather lengthy letters and the subject heads
serve as guide-posts and tend to concentrate attention.
One firm has barred all superlative adjectives, not merely to guard
against exaggeration but because the superlative degree lacks
conviction. The statement that "This is the best collar ever made"
is not believed, but to say that it is a "fine" collar or a "good"
collar for it is five-ply, and so forth, rings true. It is a better
selling talk and so the superlative is not permitted.
Then there are other general policies that concerns have adopted,
such as a rule that the price of articles cannot be mentioned in a
letter. A printed enclosure gives this information and reference may
be made to it, but the dollar mark does not appear in the letter
itself. This policy has been adopted to emphasize upon readers the
fact that the company quotes but one price to all, and it makes an
effective selling talk out of the point that special discounts and
"inside prices" are never given. As confidence is always the first
essential in building up a mail-order business, this policy has done
much towards increasing the standing and reputation of the houses
And then come certain specific instructions covering a multitude of
details. For instance, the style of paper is a matter that
progressive business houses no longer ignore. The policy of the
house may be revealed in the envelope and letter paper before one
has had time to read even the date line. Some firms provide
different grades of stationery for different departments, the sales
letters going out in a much finer dress than letters from other
The style to use is largely a matter of personal taste and
preference. The significant thing is not in the kind that is used by
certain companies but the fact that progressive business houses now
appreciate the necessity for a uniformity in stationery and in the
manner of handling it.
Harmony of color is especially desirable--the tint of the paper, the
color of the lithographing, embossing or printing, the color of the
typewriter ribbon used and the color of the ink used in signing.
None of these points are too small to be considered in the
progressive business houses today.
The closing is no less important than the opening and most rule
books relieve the correspondent of all responsibility in deciding on
what subscription to use or how to sign the letter. For instance, he
is told that the house policy is to close with "Yours truly" and
that the name of the company is written with the typewriter followed
by the signature of the writer and his title, such as "President,"
or "Sales Manager."
A publishing house in the east for years clung to the established
policy of having all letters go out in the name of the president.
But it was finally decided by the executive committee that this
policy tended to belittle the house, for it was obvious that no
institution of any size could have all its mail handled directly
from the president's office. It was argued that if the president's
name were used only occasionally, greater prestige would be given to
the letters that actually came from his office, and thereafter
letters were signed by different department heads as "Manager of
Sales," "Advertising Manager," "Managing Editor," "Manager of
Collection Department," and so forth.
And just so one could go through the book of rules of any business
house and find a good reason for every policy that has been adopted.
For while it is desirable to have a "family resemblance" which is
possible only through established rules, and while letters written
under specific instructions have added dignity and character, yet
there is back of each rule some additional significance, the force
of some tested argument, the psychological effect of some timely
No longer do large manufacturing and mercantile houses send out
their salesmen and allow each one to push his line as he sees best.
Many concerns require the salesmen to take a regular course of
training to learn thoroughly the "house" attitude, and they are
given instructions on the best way to present arguments and overcome
objections--just so the men who sell by letter are now instructed in
the best methods for getting results.
The best way to secure a uniform policy is a practical question.
Some houses employ a correspondent expert to spend a few weeks in
the correspondence department just the same as an expert auditor is
employed to systematize the accounting department. In other houses
the book of rules is a matter of evolution, the gradual adding of
new points as they come up and as policies are tried out, a process
of elimination determining those that should be adopted. In some
concerns the correspondents have regular meetings to discuss their
problems and to decide upon the best methods of meeting the
situations that arise in their work. They read letters that have
pulled, analyze the arguments and in this way try to raise the
quality of their written messages.
While it must be admitted that some men have a natural faculty of
expressing themselves clearly and forcibly, the fact remains that
letter writing is an art that may be acquired. It necessitates a
capacity to understand the reader's attitude; it requires careful
study and analysis of talking points, arguments and methods of
presentation, but there is no copyright on good letters and any
house can secure a high standard and be assured that distant
customers are handled tactfully and skilfully if a uniform policy is
worked out and systematically applied.
Making Letters UNIFORM In
PART IV--THE DRESS OF A BUSINESS LETTER--CHAPTER 15
_Business stationery should reflect the house that sends it out but
unless specific rules are adopted there will be a lack of uniformity
in arrangement, in style, in spelling, infolding--all the little
mechanical details that contribute to an impression of_ CHARACTER
_and_ INDIVIDUALITY. _Definite instructions should be given to
correspondents and stenographers so that letters, although written
in a dozen different departments, will have a uniformity in
appearance. What a book of instructions should contain and how rules
can be adopted is described in this chapter_
* * * * *
Just as progressive business houses now aim to have their
correspondence uniform in policy and quality, so too, they aim at
uniformity in letter appearance--the mechanical production. It is
obvious that if the letters sent out by a house are to have
character, one style must be adopted and definite rules must be
formulated for the guidance of the stenographers. The authorities
differ on many points such as the use of capital letters,
abbreviations, the use of figures, and so forth, and it is not to be
expected that stenographers, trained at different schools and
working in different departments, could produce uniformity unless
they all follow specific instructions.
And so the more progressive firms have adopted a fixed style and
codified certain rules for the guidance of stenographers and
typists. In the writing of a letter there are so many points that
are entirely a matter of personal taste that a comprehensive rule
book touches an almost infinite number of subjects, ranging from an
important question of house policy to the proper way of folding the
sheet on which the letter is written.
It is not the purpose of this chapter to give a summary of the rules
for punctuation and capitalization or to pass judgment on questions
of style, but to emphasize the necessity for uniformity in all
correspondence that a house sends out, and to call attention to a
few of the more common errors that are inexcusable.
As far as the impression created by an individual letter is
concerned, it really makes very little difference whether the
paragraphs are indented or begin flush with the line margin. But it
is important that all the letters sent out by a house follow the
same style. A stenographer should not be permitted to use the
abbreviation "Co." in one part of her letter and spell out the word
"company" in the following paragraph.
In formulating the rules, two things should be kept in mind--
clearness, to make the meaning of the writer plain; and a pleasing
appearance that will make a favorable impression upon the reader.
The sole purpose of punctuation marks is to help convey a thought so
clearly that it cannot be misunderstood and experienced writers
learn to use the proper marks almost intuitively. The rules are
applied unconsciously. Many correspondents in dictating designate
the beginning and the close of each sentence but others leave this
to the intelligence of the stenographer, and there is no better rule
for those to whom such matters are left than to be liberal in the
use of periods. Avoid long, involved sentences. There is little
danger of misunderstanding in short sentences.
Most of the rules can be made hard and fast--a simple regulation to
do this or to avoid that. They should begin with the date line.
Instructions should be given as to the place for the date line:
whether it should be written on one or two lines and whether the
month should be expressed in figures or should be spelled out, and
whether the year should be printed in full or abbreviated. There is
a growing tendency to use figures, such as 10-15-10, and
supplementary letters, such as "rd," "th," and so forth, are being
eliminated. Some firms are placing the date at the bottom of the
letter at the left hand margin, although for convenience in making a
quick reference the date line at the top of the letter is much to be
* * * * *
A Page of Instructions to Stenographers:
_City and date must be written about three spaces below the lowest
printed matter on letterhead, as follows: Chicago, date single space
below, regulated so that it will precede and extend beyond "Chicago"
an equal distance, the end of date being in line with margin of body
of letter; spell the month in full, followed by the date in figures,
after which use comma; add year in figures and end with period.
Commence letter by addressing customer, then double space and follow
with city and state (do not give street address) except where window
envelope is to be used; double space and address as "Dear Sir" or
"Madam." Also double space between this salutation and first
Paragraphs must begin ten points from margin on a line with city.
Use single space, with double space between paragraphs.
In closing use the phrase "Yours very truly" and sign "The
Wilson-Graham Company." Have correspondent's and stenographer's
initials on line with margin on left hand side of sheet. Margins
must be regulated by length of letter to be written, using your
judgment in this respect.
The half size letterhead should be used for very short letters.
Envelopes must be addressed double space, with beginning of name,
street address, city and state on marginal line, as per sample
* * * * *
The points that are suggested here, however, are entirely a matter
of taste. There is no court of last resort to which appeal can be
made as to the better method. Each house must use its own judgment.
The important thing is to secure uniformiy.
Rules should govern the name of the addressee, whether it should be
prefaced by such titles as "Mr." or "Messrs." The form of the
salutation, the size of the margin, the spacing between lines and
between paragraphs, the indentation of paragraphs, if any--all of
these points should be covered by rules. The subscription, the
placing of the dictator's and the stenographer's initials are all
proper subjects for the instruction book.
The use of capital letters is a disputed question with writers,
printers and proofreaders. But there is a growing tendency to use
the small letters wherever possible. One large firm in the east has
"When in doubt regarding the use of a capital letter, don't.
Use a small letter."
A great many business houses, for the sake of emphasis,
capitalize the names of their own products. For instance:
"In this Catalogue you will find listed a very complete line of
Countershafts, Magnetos, Induction Coils, Lubricators, Mufflers,
Spark Coils, and a complete line of automobile accessories."
* * * * *
There is no rule that justifies such capitalization but it is a
common practice in business correspondence.
There are some correspondents who write a word or a sentence in
capital letters for emphasis. Occasionally this may be done to
advantage but the tendency is to overwork the scheme. At best it is
a lazy man's way of trying to secure emphasis without the mental
exertion of thinking up some figure of speech or some original
expression that will give force to his thought.
The rule book should help out the stenographer in the use of numbers
and prices. Usage and a practical viewpoint both commend the use of
figures for expressing sums of money. "Twelve hundred dollars" may
be understood but it takes longer to write and does not make such a
sharp image in the mind of the reader as $1,200. A common rule for
figures is to spell out numbers under one hundred and to use
numerals for larger amounts.
The use of abbreviations should be restricted and an inflexible rule
should be never to use a man's initials or abbreviate his given name
if he spells it out. If you find by a letterhead that the one to
whom you are writing spells out the name of his state it is wise to
follow the trail.
The errors in punctuation found in business correspondence are of
infinite variety, although a surprising number of stenographers make
similar errors in using hyphens for dashes and in misplacing
quotation marks. Here is a common error:
"A model No. 8,--the one we exhibited at the Business
Show last week,--has been sold to a customer in New Zealand."
* * * * *
There is no excuse for the comma used in connection with the dash
and yet this construction is found in letters every day.
Unfortunately most typewriters do not have a dash and so the hyphen
is used, but stenographers should be instructed to use two or,
better yet, three hyphens without spacing (---), rather than a
single hyphen as is so frequently seen. Here is a sentence in which
the girl was versatile enough to combine two styles in one sentence:
"The auto---although it was completely overhauled a few days
ago---could not be started."
* * * * *
In the first place, the single hyphen gives the appearance of a
compound word, and placing a space on each side is scarcely less
objectionable. Insist upon two or three hyphens without spaces when
a dash is wanted.
Quotation marks are another stumbling block. There is no occasion to
put the name of well-known books, magazines, and newspapers in
quotation marks. If you refer to Harper's Monthly the reader will
get your meaning just as well without the quotation marks. Many
stenographers in writing a sentence that ends with a quoted word
place the quotation mark first and the period or question mark
Johnson's last words to me were: "I will accept your terms".
* * * * *
Put the period inside the fence where it belongs. This is a rule
that is violated more often than it is observed, the confusion
coming from an occasional exception where a punctuation mark has
nothing to do with the quotation, as in the sentence:
"May we not send you a trial order of our "X Brand"?
* * * * *
Here it is plain that the question mark should follow the quotation
mark. There is no excuse for the frequent misplacing of these marks,
for the quoted part of a sentence invariably shows the proper
position for each mark.
A chapter could be filled with errors to be avoided--only a few of
the most common ones are mentioned here. This reference to them may
suggest to the heads of correspondence departments the range of
points to be covered in a rule book.
Some rule books go further and devote pages to faulty diction that
must be avoided and print lists of words that should not be used and
words that are "preferred".
The folding of the typewritten page usually comes in for a rule and
instructions are generally given regarding corrections--whether the
pen can be used at all or if letters must be rewritten.
With these rules laid down for the guidance of the stenographer, her
mind is left free for other things that will contribute to her
usefulness. It is no reflection on their knowledge of correct
English to say that the majority of correspondents, working under
high pressure, make mistakes that the stenographer must catch. It is
extremely easy in dictating to mix up the tenses of verbs and to
make other slips which most letter writers look to their
stenographers to correct. It should be a hard and fast rule that an
ungrammatical letter must never be sent out under any circumstances.
Some correspondents not only look to the stenographer to edit their
"copy" but to come back for a new dictation if the meaning of a
letter is not perfectly clear. The thought is that if the
stenographer does not understand it, there is danger of its being
misinterpreted by the one to whom it is addressed.
Many rule books include a list of trade terms and phrases that the
most expert stenographer may never have met with in their previous
work. Legal terms are especially difficult to take down until a girl
has become familiar with the unknown Latin words. This may also be
said of technical terms, mechanical terms, architectural and
building terms, and so forth. It is a saving of time and annoyance
in many offices to have a list of frequently used words that the new
stenographer can study before she attempts to take dictations.
It is not likely that any two business houses could adopt the same
rules throughout. But this does not lessen the desirability of
having specific instructions covering all these points, for without
uniformity, the letters will not have the character, the dignity and
the individuality that is desired by every concern.
How to Write the _Letter_ That
Will "LAND" the _Order_
PART V--WRITING THE SALES LETTER--CHAPTER 16
_Selling goods is considered the biggest problem in the business
world. Hard as it is to close a deal with the prospect right before
you, it is infinitely harder to get his order when he is miles away
and you must depend upon a type-written sheet to interest him in
your proposition sufficiently to buy your goods. Methods that
have succeeded are described in this chapter and samples of
order-bringing letters are given_
* * * * *
The letter that is sent out unaided to make its own approach, open
its own canvass and either complete a sale or pave the way to a sale
may be called "the original sales letter." There has been no
inquiry, no preliminary introduction of any kind. The letter is
simply the substitute for the salesman who voluntarily seeks out his
own prospect, presents his proposition and tries to land an order.
Such a letter undertakes a big task. It has a more difficult mission
than the personal salesman, for it cannot alter its canvass on the
spot to suit the prospect's mood. It must have its plan complete
before it goes into the mail. It must be calculated to grip the
attention, impel a reading, prompt a favorable decision and get
back, in the return envelope, an order or at least a request for
The letter that can do that, a letter so clever and so convincing
that it makes a man a thousand miles away put his hand into his
pocket, take out his hard earned cash and buy a money order; or
makes the shrewd man at the desk take up his pen, write a check and
send it for the goods you have to sell, is a better employee than
your star salesman because it gets the order at a fraction of the
cost. And the man who can write the letter that will do that is a
power in the business world--his capacity is practically unlimited.
Original sales letters are of two kinds: those that endeavor to
perform the complete operation and secure the order and those that
are intended merely as the first of a follow-up series or campaign.
Which to use will depend upon the nature and cost of your
proposition. A simple, low-priced article may be sold with a single
letter--the margin of profit may not warrant more than that. On an
expensive, complicated article you cannot hope to do more in the
initial letter than win your prospect's interest, or possibly start
him toward the dealer who sells your goods.
Consider first the former. You are to write a single letter and make
it an attention-getting, interest-winning, complete, convincing,
order-bringing medium. There is no better way to do this than to put
yourself in the position of the salesman who must do all these
things in a single interview. You really must do more than the
salesman, but this is the best way to get in your own mind the
proper attitude toward your prospect.
Say to yourself, "I am now going into this man's office. He does not
know me and does not know I am coming. This is the only chance I
have to see him and I shall probably never see him again. I must
concentrate all my knowledge of my proposition on this one selling
talk and must tell him everything I can about it that will make him
want to buy. I must say it in such a way that he will clearly
understand; I must give him a good reason for buying today and I
must make it easy for him to do so."
Then picture yourself in his office, seated beside his desk and
proceed to _talk_ to him. Above all, keep in mind that you are
talking to _one_ man. No matter if your letter is to go to ten
thousand people, each letter is individual. Remember, it goes to one
person. So when you write it, aim directly at one person.
And _see_ him in your mind's eye. Get as clear an idea as you can of
the class your letter is going to and then picture the average man
in that class. The best way is to pick out some friend or
acquaintance who most nearly represents the class you want to reach
and write the letter to him. You'll be surprised how much easier it
is when you have a definite person in mind. And your letter will
then be sure to have that much desired "personal touch."
Of prime importance in this single sales letter is the close, the
clincher. Your one big purpose is to get the order, and no matter
how clever you may be three-fourths of the way through, if the
letter falls short of clinching the order in the end, it may as well
not have been written at all.
Here is an excellent example of one of these complete letters. Note
particularly the summing up, the guarantee offer and how easy the
writer makes it to order:
HOW TO GET A POSITION
AND HOW TO HOLD IT
Is the title of a little book that business men and editors say is
the most sensible and helpful thing ever printed on its subject
Contains the boiled-down experience of years. Written by an expert
correspondent and high-salaried writer of business literature who
has hunted positions for himself, who has been all along the road up
to places where he, in turn, has advertised for employees, read
their letters, interviewed and engaged them--who is now with a
company employing 2700 of both sexes and all grades from the $3 a
week office boy to a $75 a week specialist.
HOW TO GET A POSITION AND HOW TO HOLD IT treats of what one should
be able to do before expecting to find a good position; takes up the
matter of changes; advises how long to hold the old position; tells
what kind of a new position to try for; explains the various ways of
getting positions; suggests how the aid of prominent people can be
enlisted; shows the kind of endorsements that count; teaches how to
_write letters of application that COMMAND attention_; gives hints
on preparing for the interview and on how to make the best
impression; tells what should be done when you are selected for a
position and take up your duties; deals with the question of salary
before and after the engagement; with the bugbear of experience; the
matter of hours; and gives pages of horse-sense on a dozen other
important topics. The clear instructions for writing strong letters
of application, and the model letters shown, are alone worth the
price of the book. Not one in a hundred--even among the well-
educated--can write a letter of application that convinces.
_How many of yours fail?_ The engagement usually depends on the
interview; and the interview cannot, as a rule, be obtained without
the impressive letter. Consequently, the letter is of tremendous
If you carry out the suggestions set down in plain language in this
little book, you can hardly fail to land a position. And I am
offering the book for _twenty-five cents a copy_. Just think of
it! The principles and plans outlined in its pages have been the
means of securing high-salaried positions for its author and for
others, and this valuable information is yours for the price of five
This is my offer: Send me a 25-cent piece in the enclosed coin-card,
or twenty-five cents in stamps, and I'll mail you a copy of HOW TO
GET A POSITION AND HOW TO HOLD IT. If, after reading the book, you
do not feel it is worth many times its cost, just tell me so and
return the copy in good condition. I'll send your money back without
any quibbling. Could any offer be fairer?
Order today--now. Next week there may come to your notice an opening
that may be the chance of a lifetime--when my little book will be
worth its weight in gold. Besides, it tells how to create openings
when none are advertised. You need not write me a letter. Just write
your full name and address on the back of this sheet and wrap your
stamps up in it, or put your name and address on the coin-card after
you have enclosed the 25-cent piece. I'll understand.
Write plainly. I am selling the book so cheaply that I cannot afford
to have any copies go astray in the mails.
[Signature: Charles Black]
* * * * *
Now as to the other kind of original sales letter--the one that is
merely the first of a series of three or more letters skillfully
planned to build up interest until the climax, the purchasing point
is reached. This letter is really a combination of the two kinds. If
you can land the order with the first letter, you want to, of
course. But you know you can expect to do this only in a small
percentage of cases. So while you must put into the initial letter
enough information to make your proposition clear and must give at
least one good reason for buying, you must keep good convincing
sales talk in reserve for the succeeding letters. And you must plan
this first letter so that the re-enforcements to follow will
logically support your introduction.
This can best be illustrated by a clever first letter from a very
successful series. The manufacturer of a $5 fireless cooker planned
a letter campaign to induce hardware dealers and department stores
to buy a stock of his product.
The first sales letter of the series scored strongly on one or two
points and at the same time paved the way for the second letter:
Are you ready for the woman who wants a fireless cooker but can't
pay ten or fifteen dollars?
The aggressive advertising done by the manufacturers of fireless
cookers and the immense amount of reading matter published in
women's magazines about the fireless method of cooking has stirred
up a big demand.
But just figure out how many of your customers can't afford to pay
$10, $12 or $15.
Think of the sales that could be made with a thoroughly reliable
cooker at $5--one that you could feel safe in standing back of.
We had the $15-idea, and we worked out the prettiest cooker you ever
saw at any price. But we got together one day and figured out that
the big market was for a low-priced cooker that every woman could
How to get a Jenkins-quality cooker, one that a retailer would be
proud to sell, down to the retail price of $5 was the question. But
we figured our manufacturing up into the tens of thousands, and the
enclosed folder tells about the result.
Our advertising next month in the Woman's Home Companion, Ladies'
Home Journal, Ladies' World, Good Housekeeping, Everybody's,
Cosmopolitan and McClures will do big things for you if you have the
Jenkins $5 Fireless Cooker in your window.
We have a good sized stock on hand but they won't last long the way
orders are coming in from far-sighted retailers.
How would a dozen do as a starter for you?
[Signature: Black & Black]
* * * * *
A letter of this kind should be effective because it gives enough
information to make a sale in case the reader is an unusually good
prospect, and at the same time it lays a good foundation for the
Are you willing to make more money on soap?
Yes, we suppose you are carrying many soaps, but when a distinctive
soap is advertised as thoroughly as we are advertising WESINOD, it
actually creates new trade, and of course you aren't sorry to see
new faces in the store.
WESINOD SOAP has the curative and beneficial effects of Resinol
Ointment, which is now used so extensively by the medical
WESINOD SOAP is more than a cleanser: it is a restorer, preserver
and beautifier of the skin, and as such is attracting the favorable
attention of women.
Enclosed is a reproduction of our advertisement in the magazines
this month and a list of the magazines in which the copy appears.
We are educating 10,000,000 readers to feel the need of WESINOD
A supply of our liberal samples and a trial order to be used in a
window display will show you the possibilities.
May we send samples and a trial gross?
Yours for more soap money,
WESINOD SOAP COMPANY
* * * * *
_This is a strong selling letter that interests the reader, disarms
his natural objection to adding an additional line of soap and
presents briefly convincing reasons for stocking with Wesinod. While
this letter is intended to get the order, it effectively paves the
way for further correspondence_
* * * * *
It is unnecessary to take up here the elements that should go into
the sales letter--attention, interest, argument, proof, persuasion,
inducement and the clincher. But it is well to emphasize three
points that are especially important in the original letter in the
series: confidence, price and the close.
You may be sure, that unless you win the confidence of your prospect
from the start, your whole campaign is going to be a waste of time,
paper and postage. Distrust and prejudice, once started, are hard
things to overcome by mail, particularly when you are a concern or
individual unknown to the man to whom you are writing.
''If your magazine pulls as well as the Blank Monthly I will give
you a twelve-page contract.''
That remark wasn't meant for our ears, but one of our solicitors
couldn't help overhearing it. It was made by a prominent advertiser,
too. We wish we could give his name, but when we asked permission to
quote he smiled and said he'd rather not. So, we'll have to refer
you to our advertising pages.
But the remark speaks pretty well for the Blank Monthly, doesn't it?
It's not surprising, though. The Blank Monthly goes into 151,000
homes. It is taken and read by the best class of technical,
scientific and mechanically inclined men, representing one of the
choicest classes of buyers in America.
Our subscribers are great buyers of things by mail. Dozens of our
advertisers have proved it. They don't sell shoddy or cheap goods,
either. That's why we believe your advertising will pay in the Blank
Monthly. If we didn't believe it, we shouldn't solicit your
Try your copy in the June issue, which goes to press on April 27--
last form May 6.
If you send copy TODAY, you will be sure to get in.
Very truly yours,
[Signature: M. O. Williams]
* * * * *
_The quoted language gives the opening of this letter an interesting
look. The first three paragraphs are strong. The fourth paragraph is
merely assertive, and is weak. A fact or two from some advertiser's
experience would be much better_
* * * * *
And so with this in mind, be careful of the tone of your letter. Be
earnest, make reasonable statements, appeal to the intelligence or
the experience of the reader and deal with specific facts rather
than with mere assertions or claims. There is no inspiration to
confidence in the time-worn claims of "strongest," "best," and
"purest". Tell the facts. Instead of saying that an article is
useful in a dozen different ways, mention some of the ways. When you
declare that the cylinder of your mine pump is the best in the
world, you are not likely to be believed; the statement slips off
the mind like the proverbial water from a duck's back. But when you
say that the cylinder is made of close-grained iron thick enough to
be rebored, if necessary, you have created a picture that does not
call for doubt. But watch out that you don't start an argument.
Brander Mathews gives us a great thought when he says that
"controversy is not persuasion." Don't write a letter that makes the
reader feel that he is being argued into something. Give him facts
and suggestions that he can't resist; let him feel that he has
convinced himself. This paragraph fails of its purpose, simply
because it argues. You can almost picture the writer as being
"peevish" because his letters haven't pulled:
"This stock is absolutely the safest and most staple you could buy.
It will positively pay regular dividends. We stand back of these
statements. You must admit, therefore, that it is a good buy for
you. So why do you hesitate about buying a block of it?"
* * * * *
On the other hand, this appeals to the investor because it has
genuine proof in it:
"No stockholder of ours has lost a dollar through fluctuation in the
price of the stock, though we have been doing business for fifteen
years. Our stock has been readily salable at all times. No dividend
period has ever been missed. The quarterly dividend has never been
less than 2-1/2 per cent. During the depression of 1907-1908 our
stock maintained itself at 40 per cent above par when other
industrial stocks were dropping to par or below. Surely, here is an
investment worth your investigation."
* * * * *
Telling specific facts helps to produce conviction as well as to
create confidence. Not every one is a genius in the handling of
words, but every writer of a letter that is to bristle with
conviction must use his imagination. He must put himself mentally in
the place of the typical customer he is addressing and use the
arguments and facts that would convince him. The writer should try
to see himself enjoying the foods or service--picture his
satisfaction. Then he has a better chance of reproducing his picture
in the mind of the reader.
For instance, read this paragraph of idle assertions:
"Buy our hams once and you will buy them always. All of our meat is
from young hogs, and is not tough, but is high-grade. Nothing but
corn-fed stock is used. We guarantee the quality. We use good sugar
in curing our hams, the best quality of saltpeter and some salt. The
result is a natural flavor that can't be beat. We challenge
* * * * *
And now contrast it with this real description of the same product,
calculated to create confidence in the trademark it bears:
"This mark certifies that the hog came from good stock, that it
was corn-fed in order that it might be firm and sweet--that it
was a barrow hog, so that the meat would be full-flavored and
juicy--that it was a young hog, making the ham thin-skinned and
tender--well-conditioned and fat, insuring the lean of the ham to be
tasty and nutritious. The mark certifies that the ham was cured in a
liquor nearly good enough to drink, made of granulated sugar, pure
saltpeter and only a very little salt; this brings out all the fine,
rich, natural flavor of the carefully selected meat, and preserves
it without 'salty pickling.'"
* * * * *
Note how much more graphic the second paragraph is than the first,
and every statement is backed up by a logical reason.
The testimony of other people, especially of those in positions of
authority and those who would not be suspected of bias, has much
convincing power. There is nothing in the contention that
"testimonials are out of date." They constitute the strongest kind
of support. But get testimonials that really say something. The man
who writes and says that he got out of the book he bought from you
an idea that enabled him to make a profit of $50 the first week,
says a thousand times more than the man who writes and merely says
that he was pleased with his purchase.
Let price come in the letter just about where it would come in an
oral canvass. The skillful salesman of high-priced shirts doesn't
talk about the $3 price until he has shown the shirt and impressed
the customer. If price is the big thing--is lower than the reader is
likely to imagine it would be--it may be made the leading point and
introduced at the outset, but unless it is an attraction, it should
be held back until strong description has prepared the reader for
The method of payment and delivery must be treated effectively in
the closing paragraphs. The following plans all have their use:
Offer to send on free trial for ten days or longer;
Offer to send for free examination, payment to be made to express
agent when examination has shown article to be satisfactory;
Offer to send on small payment, the small payment to be a guarantee
against trifling, balance payable on examination;
Offer to sell on easy-payment plan;
Offer to sell for cash but with strong refunding guarantee;
Offer to supply article through local dealer on reader's
authorization. With such an authorization, the advertiser has a good
opening to stock the retailer.
The price feature offers one of the best opportunities to give the
letter real inducement. If the price is in any sense a special
price, make it clear that it is. Sometimes you can hang your whole
letter on this one element.
Reduced price, if the reduction is set forth logically, is a strong
feature. One publisher uses it in this fashion:
"We have just 146 sets of these books to sell at $18.50. When the
new edition is in, it will be impossible to get a set at less than
$25. The old edition is just as good as the new, but we are entirely
out of circular matter describing the green cloth binding, and as we
don't want to print a new lot of circulars just to sell 146 sets, we
make this unusual offer. Now is your chance."
* * * * *
Advance in price is almost as strong. It's a lever to quick action:
"On the 1st of October the rate of the MESSENGER will go up to one
dollar a line. If you place your order before the thirtieth of this
month you can buy space to be used any time before January 1 next at
seventy-five cents a line. After the thirtieth, positively no orders
will be accepted at less than one dollar a line. As a matter of fact
our circulation entitles us to a dollar a line right now.
"Don't let this letter be covered up on your desk. Attend to this
matter now, or instruct your advertising agent to reserve space for
you, and get a big bargain."
* * * * *
Price, in this case is, in fact, a part of the close. It spurs the
reader to "order now."
Setting a time limit, in which a proposal holds good, is also a
strong closer. A large book publisher finds it effective to make a
discount offer good if accepted within a certain number of days.
Guarantee offers are strong. Don't content yourself with the old
"absolutely guaranteed" expression. Be definite. "Order this buggy,
and if, at the end of a month, you are not entirely satisfied that
it is the biggest buggy value you ever had for the money, just write
me, and I'll take the buggy back without quibbling. Could any offer
be fairer? I make it because I've sold 246 of these buggies since
January, and so far no man has asked for his money back."
The sum-up is as important a part of the sales letter as it is of
the lawyer's speech or brief. It should concentrate the whole
strength of the letter at the close, as, for instance:
"So you see that though our machine is apparently high-priced it is
really cheaper by the year than another machine. Our offer of a free
trial right in your own plant gives you absolute protection. It is
quite natural, of course, for us to be desirous of getting your
order, but we do not see how you can, from your own point of view,
afford not to put the Bismarck in your factory."
* * * * *
And finally, help the prospect buy. The sales letter designed to
bring the order must provide an easy method of ordering. In the
first place, a great many people do not understand how to order. To
others, making out an order is a task that is likely to be
postponed. By making it easy for the reader to fill out a blank with
a stroke or two of the pen, while the effect of the letter is
strong, a great many orders will be secured that would otherwise be
It should be axiomatic that if a letter is expected to pull business
through the mails it must place before the recipient every facility
for making it easy and agreeable to reply and reply NOW. How this
can best be done will be taken up more fully in a separate chapter
on "Making It Easy to Answer."
One thing to remember particularly in the case of the original sales
letter is that if possible it should have a definite scheme behind
it. A reason for the offer, a reason for the letter itself.
A safe-deposit vault was well advertised by sending out letters that
contained a special pass to the vault with the name of the reader
filled in. Of course the letter gave a pressing invitation to call
and allow the custodian to show the vault's interesting features.
Still another clever letter soliciting rentals of safe-deposit boxes
proposed that in case the reader now had a box elsewhere, they would
take the lease off his hands. In reality they merely gave him free
rental until his other lease expired, but the scheme was cleverly
A buggy maker wrote enclosing duplicate specifications of a buggy he
had just had made for his own personal use, and suggested that he
would have another made for the reader exactly like it and turned
under the same careful supervision.
Letters that give the reader something or offer to give him
something have similar effect. The letter about a new facial cream
will command extra attention because of the small sample of the
cream enclosed. In fact, one cold cream company finds it an
effective plan to send a sample and a sales letter to druggists'
mailing lists or to names taken from telephone books, telling the
reader in the final paragraph that the cream can be purchased at the
local drug store.
A letter offering a sample can of a high-grade coffee for the name
of the reader's favorite grocer will bring a good response and
afford the advertiser a strong hold on the grocer.
A favorite method of securing savings depositors is to send a
good "savings letter" that offers a free home-savings bank or a
Even calendars may be given out more effectively by sending a letter
and telling the reader that a good calendar has been saved for him
and asking him to call at the office.
A striking paragraph of a real estate dealer's soliciting letter is
one that asserts that the dealer has a client with the cash who
wants just about such a house as the reader of the letter owns.
A real estate dealer, whose specialty is farms, has this telling
sentence in his original letter: "Somewhere there is a man who will
buy your farm at a good price; I should like to find that man for
There is hardly a product or a proposition that does not offer
opportunity to put some scheme behind the letter. And such a plan
doubles the appeal of the original sales letter. But once more,
remember, not to put all your ammunition into the first letter. Be
prepared to come back in your second and third letters, not simply
with varied repetitions, but with more reasons for buying. Make your
first letter as strong as you can, but at the same time--pave the
The Letter That Will BRING
PART V--WRITING THE SALES LETTER--CHAPTER 17
_Comparatively few propositions can be sold in the first letter; in
most campaigns it is enough to stimulate a man's interest and get
him to reply. This chapter gives specific schemes that have proved
successful in pulling answers--in making an opening for the heavy
artillery of the follow-up_
* * * * *
Think what a problem you would have if you started out as a salesman
to sell a certain article with no definite idea of where to find
your prospects. You might interview a hundred men before you found
one who was interested. That would be pretty slow and pretty
expensive selling, wouldn't it?
And think what it would mean if you were to send out broadcast a
thousand expensive booklets and follow-up letters only to receive
one reply from the one man with whom you effected a point of
contact. That, too, would be a prohibitively costly method of
Yet one or both these methods would in many cases be necessary were
it not for the inquiry-bringing letter. The inquiry letter is a
"feeler"--the advance agent of the selling campaign. It goes
broadcast to find and put its finger on the man who is interested or
who can be interested, and his reply labels him as the man whom it
is worth while for your salesman to see, or, who is at least worth
the expense and endeavor of a follow-up series.
The inquiry letter is like the advertisement which asks you to send
for a catalogue or booklet. The advertisement writer believes that
if you are interested enough to write for the booklet, you will be
interested enough to read his sales letters, and possibly become a
purchaser. It is the same with the inquiry-bringing letter. It is
simply a sieve for sifting out the likely prospects from the great
mass of persons, who for many reasons cannot be brought around into
a buying mood concerning your proposition.
The great advantage of the letter which induces the recipient to
express his interest in an inquiry, is that you not only make him
put himself unconsciously under an obligation to read further
details, but you give time for the thoughts that you have started to
get in their work.
The fact that a man has decided to ask for more information and has
put that decision in writing is of considerable psychological value.
The one thing the salesman hopes to find, and the one thing the
letter writer strives to create, is a receptive mood on the part of
his prospect. The moment a man answers the inquiry-letter, he has
put himself into a frame of mind where he waits for and welcomes
your subsequent sales talk.
He looks forward with some interest to your second letter. At first
there was just one person to the discussion. Now there are two.
In this respect the letter is like the magazine advertisement. Give
all the details of a $500 piano in an advertisement of ordinary
size, quoting the price at the close, and it is extremely unlikely
to bring the reader to the point of deciding that he will buy the
piano. It is better to deal with some point of interest about the
piano and offer a fine piano book free.
And right here it is worthy of mention that interesting books with
such titles as "How to Select a Piano," "How to Make Money in Real
Estate," "Bank Stocks as an Investment," or "The Way to Have a
Beautiful Complexion," make letters as well as advertisements draw
inquiries of a good class.
In other words, offer an inducement, give your man a _reason_ for
When you have written a letter calculated to draw inquiries, put
yourself in the position of the man who is to get it and read it
through from his standpoint. Ask yourself whether _you_ would answer
it if you received it. Test it for a reason, an inducement, and see
if it has the pulling power you want it to have.
If you are offering a book, for example, impress the reader with the
real value of the book, magnify its desirability in his mind. A
paper company does this admirably when it writes:
"The new Condax specimen book is a beautiful thing--not a mere book
of paper samples, understand, but a collection of art masterpieces
and hand-lettered designs, printed with rare taste on the various
kinds of Condax papers. Many have told us it is the finest example
of printing they have ever seen come from the press.
"We feel sure you would treasure the book just for its artistic
merits, but we are not sending you one now because there is such a
tremendous demand for it that we do not like to chance having a
single copy go astray and we want yours to reach you personally. We
are holding it for you and the enclosed card will bring it,
carefully wrapped, by return mail."
* * * * *
Of course such a book must be designed to do the proper work when it
gets into the hands of the reader.
It is a mistake to tell a great deal in the inquiry-bringing letter,
unless you can reasonably hope to close a sale. A man will act on
impulse in ordering a dollar article, but he isn't likely to be
impulsive about an insurance policy. If you give him the entire
canvass on an insurance policy at the first shot, it will have to be
of extraordinary interest and convincing power to close the sale.
The subject is new. The prospect has not had a chance to think over
the facts. He is suspicious of your power; afraid of hastiness on
his own part. He is likely to give himself the canvass and decide
"No," before giving you any further chance.
Appeal to curiosity. Arouse interest and leave it unsatisfied.
Remember that your inquiry letter is a definite part of your
campaign. Therefore it must be consistent with what is to follow and
must pave the way naturally for it. Seek replies only from those who
can use and can afford to buy the article you have to sell.
A maker of a specialty machine got out an inquiry letter along this
"If you are tired of a salaried job, if you want to get into a
big-paying, independent business of your own. I have a proposition
that will interest you."
* * * * *
Of course he got a big percentage of replies, for what man does not
want a big-paying, independent business of his own? But when in his
follow-up letter he stated his proposition, offering state rights to
his machine for $5,000, he shot over the heads of 99 per cent of the
men who had answered his first letter. His inquiry letter had
completely failed of its purpose. It was not selective, it was
I should like to have you consider buying the enclosed series of
talks on advertising for use in your paper.
I am an expert advertising man and I have spent a great deal of time
and energy on these talks. I know that they will produce results
that will be very satisfactory to you for they are based on the real
experience of an expert.
The price of these talks--that is, the right to use the talks and
illustrations in your city--is $15, which you must admit is dirt
cheap, considering the quality of the matter.
All the progressive publishers are jumping at the chance to get
these talks at the low price I am quoting them.
If you do not accept my offer, one of your competitors will
certainly do so, and you will lose prestige.
Hoping to hear from you at once and promising careful attention to
your valued favors, I am
[Signature: G. L. Lawrence]
* * * * *
_This letter has an unfortunate beginning. The writer starts by
considering his own interests rather than those of the publisher. It
is not tactful to begin with "I want-to-sell-you-something" talk.
The second paragraph is merely an egotistic statement. No facts are
furnished to impress the publisher. In the third paragraph price is
introduced before desire is created. The fourth paragraph is a
palpable boast that will not be believed and an insinuation that the
publisher addressed may not be progressive. The suggestion about the
competitor is likely to arouse antagonism. The close is hackneyed
and the entire letter is rathsr an advertisement of the writer's
inability rather than of his ability_
* * * * *
Do not deceive. Nothing is gained by deception in a high grade
venture. Your offer to give away a first-class lot in a first-class
suburban real estate campaign will make a good class of readers
suspicious of you. And though you may get many inquiries from those
who are looking for something for nothing, the chances are that the
inquiries will be of a very poor quality. Better get two per cent of
first-class prospects than ten per cent that will only waste your
time. You must not forget that it costs money to solicit people
either by mail or by salesmen.
HOW TO INCREASE YOUR ADVERTISING RECEIPTS
[Sidenote: Heading and first sentence introduce a subject of vital
interest to publishers.]
What would it be worth to you to have a dozen more local advertisers
buying your space regularly?
[Sidenote: Facts and arguments which show that the writer knows
How much money would it mean to have in the paper regularly just a
few of those who advertise poorly and spasmodically for a short
time, then drop out and whine that "advertising doesn't pay?"
[Sidenote: As he has had such wide experience he understands the
situation and his words carry conviction--touch a tender spot with
I know your problems. I have had soliciting experience as well as
broad copywriting experience. I served three years on the
advertising staff of THE BALTIMORE NEWS--the paper for which Mr.
Munsey recently paid $1,500,000. I know how hard it is to get a
certain class of local advertisers started. I know how hard it is to
keep them going after they once start. Of course YOU know why some
advertisers come in the paper but won't stay. They can't see where
their money comes back, AND THE PLAIN TRUTH IS THAT OFTEN IT DOESN'T
COME BACK simply because these advertisers don't advertise
Your solicitors are not all skillful copywriters. Soliciting ability
and copy-writing ability rarely go together. Even if your solicitors
were all good copy-writers, they wouldn't have time to study each
advertiser's proposition exhaustively.
But if you expect to keep your advertising receipts up to the
high-water mark, you can't always do ALL SOLICITING and NO HELPING.
You must assist the advertiser to get the full value of the money he
spends with you. How? This letter answers the question.
[Sidenote: Clear and logical.]
Read the attached SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL ADVERTISING. They are short,
but they are interesting and they are practical. Note the plain
examples of the good and the bad. These talks will encourage
advertisers to begin and will help those who come in to get the
worth of their money. If you sent all of your customers and
prospective customers a book on Advertising--even if a suitable one
were available--it might insult some. Perhaps only a few would read
it thoroughly. Besides, it would probably cost you a hundred
These short talks can be used on days when you are not pushed for
space. You can see that they look readable. They can be read in a
minute or two. The cost is insignificant, considering the results
that are sure to come from this campaign of education. Suppose only
two or three new patrons came in as the result; you would get back
your little investment over and over. Who will educate your
customers and prospective customers if you don't?
[Sidenote: An effective, confident close that commands respect and
I do not urge you. Just read the articles. I know what you, as a
progressive publisher, will think of them. Let me hear from you as
soon as convenient, for if you do not want the service, I shall want
to offer it elsewhere. You are the only publisher in your city to
whom I am now offering the service. I enclose stamp for the
return of the sheets in the event that you do not keep them.
Yours for more and better advertising.
[Signature: M. B. Andrews]
* * * * *
The question of how to open your inquiry letter is a big one. Good
beginnings are as varied as the proposition which the letter
The straight question usually commands attention. "Do you get the
best price for your goods?" "Are you securing all the advertising
patronage to which you are entitled?" "Couldn't you use an extra
pair of good trousers?" "Do you collect 98 per cent of your
accounts?" Openings of this kind rivet attention.
With some letter-writers, the direct command style of opening is
popular: "Get more advertising. How? This letter answers the
question." "Wear tailor-made clothes at the price of ready-made."
"Make your money earn you six per cent." If these openings are
chosen with the care that the advertising man uses in selecting
headings for advertisements, attention will be secured.
Your easiest profits are those you make by saving expense.
There is one way you can save rent; save wages; save damage to
samples and still sell more goods.
Install a Patent Extension Display Rack in any department you like--
picture, linen, notions, sporting goods, etc., and you will add 30
square feet of display for every foot you use. You will enable one
salesman to do the work of two. You will save the time your salesmen
now spend in getting out goods and putting them away. You will
prevent the samples from becoming soiled.
Don't take the trouble to write us a letter, just pencil on the foot
of this the name of the manager of the department you would like to
begin with, and we will explain all about these display racks to
Yours very truly,
[Signature: Smith and Deene]
P.S. Marshall Field & Co., of Chicago, bought the first Extension
Display Rack we sold and they have been buying ever since. Their
last order just received amounts to nearly a thousand dollars. Can
you afford not to investigate?
* * * * *
_The reference to easy profits at once interests every business man
and the method of saving rent, saving wages and increasing sales is
certain to be investigated. The third paragraph presents good
argument--short and to the point. The letter is extremely easy to
answer--just a few words with a pencil and that is all. Proof of the
merit of the article in its satisfactory use by a large wholesale
house is cleverly brought out in the postscript_
* * * * *
Another good way to win the interest of the prospect is to
offer to help him in his buying in some specific way. A firm
selling diamonds by mail, for instance, does it in this fashion:
"Unless you are an experienced judge of precious stones, it is
almost impossible to buy a diamond at random and be certain of
getting value for your money. But you need not take chances. Our
best expert has written a booklet telling just how to determine
diamond value, how to detect flaws, and explaining the choicest
cuttings. Whether or not you buy of us, this little book will be of
inestimable value to you in buying stones. We will be glad to send
you a copy for the asking."
* * * * *
Still other writers follow the declarative form of opening. "Allison
Preferred has advanced to 106 in a week." "Yesterday we sold for
$10,000 cash a property that was put in our hands only Tuesday." But
inasmuch as the declarative form lacks a little of the inherent
interest of the question or the command, it should deal with some
point of particular "interest value" to the class addressed.
Style and interest value are just as important in the letter that is
to draw an inquiry as in the letter designed to make a sale. Some
think that just because a letter is fairly certain to reach a man if
properly addressed, it is easy to get a reply. Far from it. Unless
there is a good reason for a man answering a letter, he isn't going
to do it.
Suppose that a furniture dealer, on receiving a new stock of
furniture, writes a letter like this to a list of several hundred
"Our fall stock of furniture arrived on Saturday and is now on
exhibition on our third floor. The showing is unsurpassed. Here you
will find something to suit you, whether you wish oak, mahogany,
walnut or birch. We invite you to pay us a call."
* * * * *
Some who would probably have come anyway may come in response to
such a letter or may write for special information. But a letter of
this kind is sure to bring results:
Dear Mrs. Brown:
I remember that when you purchased the mahogany bed last March you
expressed a desire to buy a dresser that would match. In the new lot
of furniture that we put on our floors only yesterday are several
dressers that would match your piece perfectly. Come in and see
them. I should like you to see also the dressing tables and chairs
that match your dresser, even if you are not ready just now to get
an entire set.
* * * * *
The first letter has little point to it. The second has personality
and interest, and if signed by the salesman that sold the first
piece of mahogany, is certain to bring the customer in if anything
A strong method of closing letters of this sort is to have final
paragraphs of this style: "May we tell you more? This won't put you
under the least obligation. If we can't show you that it is to your
interest to take up this matter, it is our fault--not yours. Mail
the card now and let us put all the facts before you."
A post card or a postal card should be enclosed in all inquiry-
bringing letters. The request for further details should be printed,
so that the prospect has only to sign his name and mail the card. In
other words, make it easy for the prospect to answer. Another thing,
don't print anything on the card that will make it appear that the
prospect is committing himself. Paragraphs of this sort have proved
effective: "Without committing myself, I give you permission to
furnish me full information about the subject mentioned in your
The card method is particularly good if the inquiry is to be
followed up by a solicitor, for the card may be sent conveniently to
the solicitor who will take it with him when he calls. It sometimes
pays to have all the inquiries from a territory sent on cards
addressed to a certain solicitor, though the inquirer may think at
the time of inquiring that the one whose name appears on the card
merely is the correspondent that wrote the letter. The advantage is
that a prospect who sends in a card addressed to "Mr. H. E.
Carrington, care of the Smith Publishing Company," has seen Mr.
Carrington's name. When Mr. Carrington calls, the inquirer is
sometimes flattered to think that the gentleman has been sent from
the home office. As he has written a card to Mr. Carrington, he
cannot with good grace deny an interview.
The man who writes and offers to do something without putting the
least obligation on the inquirer who accepts the offer is hard to
turn down. A writer of advertisements, after a courteous criticism
on advertisements that he doesn't like, closes in this way: "I think
I can show that it is to your interest to use some copy of my
construction. If I can't, certainly it won't be your fault. May I
show you what I think is a more profitable way of advertising these
goods? If when you see my copy you are not more than satisfied to
pay my bill, there won't be any ill-feeling on my part. The decision
will rest with you."
* * * * *
THE INQUIRY BRINGING LETTER
WHAT IT MUST DO
AWAKE DESIRE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
GIVE REASON FOR ANSWERING
MAKE INDUCEMENT FOR ANSWERING
PAVE WAY FOR FOLLOW UP
CALL FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION
WHAT IT MUST NOT DO
AROUSE IDLE CURIOSITY
CREATE EXAGGERATED IDEAS
GIVE FULL PARTICULARS
CLOSE WAY FOR FURTHER LETTERS
* * * * *
A townsite company, selling town lots by mail, uses a device that
gets replies when ordinary requests would be disregarded. As the
close of a three-page form letter this paragraph is used:
"We enclose letter that the railway company wrote us. Please return
it in the enclosed stamped envelope, and tell us what you think of
* * * * *
The next sheet following is a facsimile letter from a prominent
railway official commending the plan, so making it easy for the
prospect to add a few words of commendation.
This is a clever scheme to coax a reply out of the prospect--and it
is certain that he carefully reads the letter from the railroad
company before he returns it. No matter what the nature of his
letter it gives an opportunity for a personal reply.
A clothing manufacturer has an effective method of drawing out a
fresh inquiry or indication of interest from his mailing list by
inquiring what satisfaction the reader got out of the last suit
ordered, asking a criticism of service if the buyer has any to make,
saying that anything that was wrong will be made right.
Writers of investment letters have found that it pays to emphasize
the fact that only a small lot of stock is available. If the letter
leads the prospect to believe that barrels of the stock will be
sold, the effect will be prejudicial. The "limited quantity" idea is
effective in selling other things.
An investment letter that brought good results where the signer of
the letter knew all those to whom the letter was sent made the
statement that four or five shares of stock had been put aside for
the prospect. Practically no more information was given in the
letter, but full information was offered on receipt of request. The
request gave opportunity for the salesman to call. This "putting
aside" idea may be applied to clothing and other commodities. Its
efficiency lies in the fact that it gives a definite point to the
In the letter that angles for an inquiry, do not tell too much. Whet
the appetite and arouse the curiosity. Make them hungry to learn all
about it, make them come back like Oliver Twist and ask for more.
But it is fatal to paint a proposition in such brilliant colors that
there is a chance for disappointment when the prospect gets his
additional information. Nor should an offer of a free booklet or
free samples be made so alluring that the letter will be answered
out of idle curiosity when the recipient is really not a prospect at
Schemes without number can be devised to get a reply and only enough
should be put in such a letter to stimulate a reply, saving up the
real arguments and the big talking points for the letter that aims
on getting the actual order.
How To _Close_ Sales By
PART V--WRITING THE SALES LETTER--CHAPTER 18
_Suppose that your most obstinate "prospect"--a man in the next
block on whom your cleverest salesman had used every tactic and had
been rewarded only by polite turn-downs until he had lost hope--
should call up some afternoon and ask you to send over a salesman.
Would you despatch the office boy? Or would you send your star
salesman? Yet if that prospect lived a hundred miles away and sent
in a letter of inquiry, one out of two firms would entrust the reply
to a second or third-rate correspondent--entirely forgetful that an
inquiry is merely a clue to a sale, and not a result in itself. This
chapter shows how to_ GET THE ORDER _by letter_
* * * * *
The man who inquires about your goods isn't "sold" by a long ways.
He is simply giving you an opportunity to sell him. Inquiries aren't
_results_, they're simply _clues_ to possible sales, and if you are
going to follow those clues up and make sales out of them, you need
the best men you can find and the best letters those men can turn
out to do it. Inquiries of good quality are costly, frequently
several times as costly as the advertiser figures in advance that he
can afford to pay. Yet, strange to say, many advertisers will employ
$50 or $100-a-week ability to write advertisements that will produce
inquiries and then expect $10 or $15 men to turn them into sales. As
a matter of fact nine times out of ten the hardest part of the
transaction is to close the sale.
An inquiry is merely an expression of interest. The reader of the
advertisement says, in effect, "All right, I'm impressed. Go ahead
and show me." Or, if he hasn't written in reply to an advertisement,
he sends an inquiry and invites the manufacturer or dealer to tell
what he has. To get the highest possible proportion of sales from
each hundred inquiries, requires that the correspondent be as
skillful in his written salesmanship as the successful man behind
the counter is with his oral canvass and his showing of the goods.
If the truth were known, it is lack of appreciation of this point
that discourages most concerns trying to sell by mail, and it is the
real secret of a large percentage of failures.
A clock manufacturer notified the advertising manager of one of the
big magazines that he had decided to discontinue his advertising.
"The inquiries we get from your magazine," he wrote, "don't pan
out." The advertising manager thought he saw the reason why and he
made a trip down to the factory to investigate. Reports showed that
in two months his magazine had pulled over 400 inquiries, yet out of
that number just seven prospects had been sold.
"Will you let me see your follow-up letters?" he asked. They were
brought out, and the advertising manager almost wept when he read
them. Awkward, hackneyed, blundering notes of acknowledgment, they
lacked even the merest suggestion of salesmanship. They would kill
rather than nourish the interest of the average prospect. He sent
the set of letters up to the service bureau of his magazine and a
new series of strong convincing letters, such as the clock deserved,
On the strength of these he got the advertiser back in and the next
month out of 189 inquiries, forty-six clocks were sold. Think of the
actual loss that manufacturer suffered simply because he did not
really appreciate that inquiries aren't sales!
Get this firmly in mind and then get the proper attitude toward the
inquirer. There is a big difference between the original sales
letter and the answer to the inquiry. You haven't got to win his
interest now. You've got that. But you have got to hold it and
develop it to the buying point. Your man has asked you something;
has given you the chance to state your case. Now state it in the
most complete, convincing way you know how.
We are pleased to receive your request for "Wilson's Accounting
Methods," and a copy goes forward by today's mail. Do not fail to
notify us if it fails to reach you within a day of the receipt of
Your attention is particularly called to the descriptive matter on
pages 3 to 9, inclusive. We are confident that among the forty stock
record forms there illustrated and described you will find a number
that will save time and labor in your office. You will see that our
stock forms are carried in two sizes--3 by 6-1/4 inches and 5 by 8
inches, the smaller size being furnished at $2 a thousand and the
larger size at $2.50 a thousand, assorted as you desire.
Should you desire special forms to meet your individual
requirements, we can furnish them to order, printed from your copy,
on one side of linen-bond stock--your choice of five colors--at
$3.50 a thousand.
On pages 116 to 139 you will find complete descriptions and order
blanks of our special introductory outfits, ranging in price from $1
We make these attractive offers to enable our customers to select
outfits that can be installed at a very small cost, and we ship any
of our stock outfits with the distinct understanding that if they
are not entirely satisfactory they may be returned to us at our
Under the liberal conditions we make, you incur no risk in placing
an order, and we trust that we may be favored with one from you
right away. By purchasing direct from us--the manufacturers--you
eliminate all middleman's profits and are sure to get proper
Let us hear from you.
Very truly yours,
[Signature: Anderson & Anderson]
* * * * *
_A letter that sums up well the principal features of the goods
described in detail in the catalogue and the strong points of the
manufacturer's plan of selling. The letter is closely linked with
the catalogue. Such a letter as this is a strong support to the
* * * * *
A good way to get at this is to put yourself once more in the other
man's place. What do _you_ like to get when _you_ answer an
advertisement? And how do you like to get it? First of all you like
a prompt answer.
"I have had some experiences lately," says one business man, "that
have made me feel that promptness and careful attention to all of a
correspondent's requests are fully as important as the literary part
of business correspondence. I am interested in an enterprise in
which material of various kinds will be used--sample jars, mailing
cases, and so forth. I have been writing to manufacturers in the
effort to get samples and prices.
"In several cases it really seemed to me as if the manufacturer was
trying to test my patience by waiting from three days to a week
before answering my letter. Several of them forgot to send the
samples they referred to in their letters. In other cases the matter
of samples was overlooked for a few days after the letter was
written or the samples were ordered forwarded from a distant factory
without any explanation to me that the samples would be a few days
late in arriving. In still other instances references were made to
prices and sizes that were not clear, thus necessitating another
letter and a further delay of a week or ten days.
"As I had to have all the material before I could proceed with any
of it, one man's delay tied up the whole job.
"Really when one has a chance to see the dowdy, indifferent way in
which a great many business concerns take care of inquiries and
prospective customers, the wonder is that there are so many
successes and not more failures.
"How refreshing it is to get a reply by return mail from an
enterprising man who is careful to label every sample and to give
you all the necessary information in complete form and to write in
such a way as to make you feel you are going to get prompt, careful
service if your order is placed with him. It is a pleasure to send
business his way, and we do it, too, whenever we can."
It is easy enough to look out for these things when a regular method
is adopted. With a catalogue before him, the correspondent should
dictate a memorandum, showing what samples or enclosures are to be
sent and how each is to be marked. By referring to the memorandum,
as he dictates, the references will be clear.
Cherish both carefulness and promptness. You don't know what you
sometimes lose by being a day late. An inquirer often writes to
several different concerns. Some other correspondent replies by
return mail, and the order may be closed before your belated letter
gets in its work, particularly if the inquirer is in a hurry--as
inquirers sometimes are. You may never learn why you lost the order.
When you cannot give full attention to the request immediately, at
least write the inquirer and tell how you will reply fully in a day
or so or whenever you can. If you can truthfully say so, tell him
that you have just what he wants and ask him to wait to get your
full information before placing his order. In this way you may hold
the matter open.
Replying to your esteemed favor of recent date would say that we
have noted your request for a sample of Royal Mixture and that same
has been forwarded.
This tobacco is absolutely without question the finest smoking
tobacco on the market today. This statement will be substantiated by
tens of thousands of smokers.
We hope to receive your valued order at an early date and remain
[Signature: Brown & Co.]
* * * * *
_The first paragraph of this letter is so hackneyed that it takes
away all personality, and there is nothing in the second paragraph
to build up a picture in the reader's mind of an enjoyable tobacco_
* * * * *
Now as to the style and contents of your letter, here's one thing
that goes a long way. Be cheerful. Start your letter by
acknowledging his inquiry as though you were glad to get it. "Yours
of the 15th received and contents noted," doesn't mean anything. But
how about this: "I was glad to find on my desk this morning your
letter of the 15th inquiring about the new model Marlin." There's a
personal touch and good will in that. A correspondence school
answers a prospective student's inquiry like this: "I really believe
that your letter of the 6th, which came to me this morning, will
prove to be the most important letter that you ever wrote." An
opening such as this clinches the man's interest again and carries
him straight through to the end. Don't miss an opportunity to score
on the start.
Your order for a sample pouch of Royal Mixture is greatly
appreciated. The tobacco was mailed to-day.
To appreciate the difference between Royal Mixture and the "others,"
just put a little of it on a sheet of white paper by the side of a
pinch from a package of any other smoking tobacco manufactured. You
won't need a microscope to see the difference in quality. Smoke a
pipeful and you will quickly notice how different in mellowness,
richness and natural flavor Royal Mixture is from the store-bought
If you are not enthusiastic over its excellence I shall feel greatly
disappointed. So many discriminating pipe smokers in all sections
are praising it that it makes me believe that in "The Aristocrat of
Smoking Tobacco" I have produced an article that is in fact the best
tobacco money can buy.
Royal Mixture is all pure tobacco, and the cleanest, best-cured and
finest leaf that the famous Piedmont section of North Carolina can
produce. The quality is there, and will be kept as long as it is
offered for sale. Depend upon that.
The more you smoke Royal Mixture the better you'll like it. This is
not true of the fancy-named mixtures which owe their short-lived
popularity to pretty labels, fancy tin boxes and doctored flavors. I
give you quality in the tobacco instead of making you pay for a gold
label and tin box.
The only way to get it is by ordering from me. Royal Mixture goes
right from factory to your pipe--you get it direct, and know you are
getting it just right, moist and fresh.
Right now, TO-DAY, is the time to order. A supply of Royal Mixture
costs so little and means so much in pipe satisfaction that every
hour of delay is a loss to you. It's too good to do without. Money
refunded promptly if you are not satisfied!
If it is not asking too much of you, I would like to hear within a
day or two just how the tobacco suits you. Will you not write me
about it? Be critical, as I desire your candid opinion.
[Signature: Wallace E. Lee]
* * * * *
_The letter is here rewritten, making it interesting from the first
line to the last. It makes one feel that Royal Mixture is something
* * * * *
Second, be sure you _answer_ the inquiry--every point in it. You
know how provoked you are when you ask a question and the
correspondent in replying fails to answer. Be sure you answer all
the questions of the inquiries you handle. Give letters a final
reading, to be sure. It is often advisable to quote the inquirer's
questions or to use side-heads so he will understand you refer to
the questions he asked.
For example, suppose a real estate agent receives an inquiry about a
farm. The inquiry can be clearly answered by adopting a style like
We are very glad to give you details about the Abbott farm in
LOCATION.--This farm is on the macadam road between Frederick and
Whittsville, three miles from Frederick. There is a flag station on
the D. & L. railroad one and a quarter miles from the farm gate on
the macadam road.
TRANSPORTATION FACILITIES.--There are six trains a day on the D. &
L. road that will stop at the flag station mentioned. These trains
give a four-hour service to Baltimore.
* * * * *
This style of letter is a great aid to the writer in bringing
related points together and thus strengthening description and
If the inquiry involves the sending of a catalogue, hook the letter
and the enclosure together by specific references. It adds immensely
to the completeness of your letter. And don't be afraid to repeat.
No matter what is in the catalogue or booklet that is sent along
with the letter, the letter should review concisely some of the most
important points. The average person will pay closer attention to
what is said in the letter than to what appears in the catalogue.
The letter looks more personal. For example:
On page 18 you will see described more fully the cedar chest that we
advertise in the magazines. Pages 20 to 28 describe higher-priced
chests. All these chests are of perfect workmanship and have the
handsome dull egg-shell finish. The higher-priced models have the
copper bands and the big-headed nails. Use the order blank that
appears on page 32 of the catalogue, and be sure to read the
directions for ordering that appear on page 30.
* * * * *
These descriptions and references tie the letters strongly to
the enclosures and thus unify the entire canvass.
The woman who gets a letter telling her that the refrigerator she
inquired about is described and illustrated on page 40 of the
catalogue sent under separate cover, and then reads some quoted
expressions from people in her town or state who have bought these
refrigerators, is more likely to order than if a letter is sent,
telling her merely that the catalogue has been mailed under separate
cover; that it gives a complete description but that any special
information will be given on request. The first method of replying
makes it appear that the correspondent is enthusiastic about his
refrigerators and really wants to sell the inquirer one. The second
method is cold and indifferent. If your goods permit the sending of
samples by all means enclose some with the letter. They permit the
actual handling of the article, which is so great an advantage in
selling over the counter. And then insure attention. No man, for
example, will throw away a haberdasher's letter referring to spring
shirts if samples are enclosed. The samples will get some attention,
though the one who received them may not need shirts at the time.
Samples also give an opportunity to emphasize value. For instance,
it is a good plan to say: "Take these samples of outings to your
local store and see if you can get anything at $25 that is half as
good as what we are offering you." The fact is, few people make such
comparisons, but the invitation to compare is evidence of the
advertiser's confidence. For that matter, few people ask for refund
of money on honest merchandise, provided the refund is limited to a
brief period; but the promise of instant refund when unsatisfactory
goods are returned, is a great confidence-creator.
It is not always possible for one correspondent to handle the entire
inquiry. In that case it is well to let the answer indicate the care
exercised in preparing it.
A part of a letter may sometimes advantageously refer to some other
correspondent who can deal more thoroughly with a technical matter
under discussion. A large mail-order concern employs a man who can
tell customers in a tactful way just how to make coffee and tea, and
he makes satisfied customers out of many who otherwise would believe
that they had received inferior goods. This same man is also an
expert in adjusting by letter any troubles that may arise over the
company's premium clocks, and so forth.
Unless such technical matters are extensive enough to require a
separate letter, they can be introduced into other communications by
"On reading what you have written about the engine,
our expert has this to say:"
* * * * *
Your esteemed inquiry has been received, and we are sending you one
of our booklets.
In case none of the samples suit you, let us know what colors you
like and we will send more samples.
We can save you money on trousers. A great many of the best dressers
of New York and Chicago are wearing trousers made by us.
You run no risk in ordering, for if the trousers are not as I
represent them or do not fit you, we will correct the mistake or
refund your money.
We urge you to order immediately, as we may not have in stock the
patterns you prefer.
Trusting to receive your order at an early date.
[Signature: Edward Brown]
* * * * *
_This letter starts out with a hackneyed opening and not enough
emphasis is put on the samples. It is a mistake to make the
suggestion that the samples sent may be unsuitable. The third
paragraph starts out with an assertion unbacked by proof and the
second sentence is a silly boast that no one believes. A man does
not pay his tailor the full price until the trousers are completed.
It is a weak selling plan to try to persuade a stranger to send the
entire price to an advertiser whom he knows nothing about. The plea
for an immediate order on the ground that the pattern may not be in
stock later is a weak and unfortunate method of argument. The final
paragraph is as hackneyed as the first, and fails to impress the
* * * * *
Here you are! This mail will bring you a sample book containing some
of the neatest trousers patterns you have seen in a long time. Tear
off a strand from any of them and hold a match to it; if it doesn't
"burn wool" the laugh is on me.
You may wonder why I can undersell your local dealer and yet turn
out trousers that "make good." Certain conditions, of which I shall
tell you, make this possible.
In the first place, trousers are my specialty. Other tailors want
suit orders above all, but I have built up my business by
specializing on trousers alone.
I buy my fabrics from the manufacturers in large quantities at
wholesale prices. The saving--the money that represents your
retailer's profit--comes to you.
I don't need an uptown "diamond-front" store, with an exorbitant
rental. Instead, I employ the best tailors I can find.
The trousers I make are built, not shaped, to fit you. We don't
press them into shape with a "goose," either. All our fabrics are
shrunk before we cut them at all. Sewn throughout with silk, the
seams will not rip or give. And style--why, you will be surprised to
see that trousers could have so much individuality.
I could not afford to sell just one pair of trousers to each man at
these prices. It costs me something to reach you--to get your first
order. You will order your second pair just as naturally as you
would call for your favorite cigar.
I am enclosing three samples of $6 London woolens. These have just
come in--too late to place in the sample book. Aren't they beauties?
Please don't forget that I guarantee to please you or to return your
money cheerfully. I ask for the $1 with order only to protect myself
May I look for an early order?
Yours, for high-grade trousers.
[Signature: Chas R. Greene]
* * * * *
_An interesting beginning, inviting proof of quality. Facts show
why low prices can be quoted, followed by graphic description and
logical argument. The samples give point to the letter and the
plain, fair selling plan makes an effective ending_
* * * * *
Then again, make your letter _clear_. Good descriptions are just as
important in answers to inquiries as in letters that have the task
of both developing interest and closing a sale. All that has been
said in previous chapters as to the value of graphic descriptions
and methods of writing them applies with full force to this chapter.
The letter that is a reply to an inquiry can properly give more
detailed and specialized description than a letter that is not a
reply to an inquiry, for in writing to one who has inquired the
correspondent knows that the reader of the letter is interested and
will give attention to details if they are given clearly and
attractively. Generally speaking, a sales letter that is in response
to an inquiry should make it unnecessary for the reader to ask a
second time for information before reaching a decision.
And this leads to one big important point: do your best to close the
sale in this first reply. Don't leave loop holes and uncertainties
that encourage further correspondence. Give your letter an air of
finality. Lay down a definite buying proposition and then make it
easy for your man to accept it.
* * * * *
WHAT WILL MAKE REPLY EFFECTIVE
ANSWER ALL QUESTIONS
GIVE FULL DETAILS
MAKE FURTHER LETTERS UNNECESSARY
LABEL SAMPLES PLAINLY
GUARANTEE OF SATISFACTION
MAKE ORDERING EASY
INDUCEMENT FOR QUICK ACTION
* * * * *
Guarantees, definite proposals, suggestions to use "the enclosed
order blank," are important factors in effective closing paragraphs.
Don't put too much stress on the fact that you want to give more
information. Many correspondents actually encourage the inquirer to
write again and ask for more information before ordering. Try to get
the order--not a lot of new questions.
Experiments show that the interest of an inquirer wanes rapidly
after the receipt of the first response. In replying to inquiries,
the chance of securing a sale with a third letter is much less than
the chance with the first, for after receiving the first letter, if
it is unconvincing, the inquirer is likely to come to an adverse
decision that cannot afterwards be easily changed. In this respect,
answers to inquirers are much like unsolicited letters sent out to
non-inquirers and planned to create and build up interest. In a
number of lines of business the third letter sent out in response to
an inquiry barely pays for itself. For this reason, it is usually
poor policy in handling this class of business to withhold some
strong argument from the first letter in order to save it for the
second or the third. Better fire the 13-inch gun as soon as you have
If the first answer fails to land the order, the advertiser may
follow up with an easier plan of payment, a smaller lot of the
goods, or make some other such inducement. Not all goods admit of
offering small lots, but when this can be done, the argument may be
made that there is no profit in such small orders, that the offer is
only made to convince the inquirer of quality.
Some very successful correspondents close in the direct-command
style: "Don't delay; send your order NOW." "Sit right down and let
us have your order before you forget it." "It isn't necessary to
write a letter; just write across the face of this letter 'I accept
this trial offer', sign your name and send the sheet back to us in
the enclosed envelope." Such closing sentences are strong, because
the reader is influenced to act immediately, and the loss that
usually comes about by reason of people putting things off and
forgetting is reduced. The third example is particularly good
because it eliminates letter-writing, which is a task to many and
something that is often put off until the matter is forgotten.
Other correspondents, instead of using the direct command style,
close in this way: "We are having a big sale on these porch chairs.
If you order immediately we can supply you, but we cannot promise to
do so if you wait." "We know that if you place your order you will
be more than well pleased with your investment."
If prices are to be increased on the goods offered, the
correspondent has a first-class opportunity to urge an immediate
response: "There is just two weeks' time in which you can buy this
machine at $25. So you can save $5 by acting _immediately_."
Experience shows that the increased-price argument is a good closer.
In the final sentences of the letter should be mentioned the premium
or the discount that is given when the order is received before a
certain date. These offers are effective closers in many cases. In
making them it is well to say "provided your order is placed _in the
mails_ not later than the 10th," for such a date puts all on the
same footing no matter how distant they are from the advertiser.
Finally, don't overlook the opportunity to make even the signature
to your letter contribute something.
Firm signatures are rather lacking in personality. "Smith & Brown
Clock Co." hasn't much "pull" to it. But when the pen-written name
of Albert E. Brown appears under this signature the letter has much
more of the personal appeal. For this reason, many concerns follow
the practice of having some one put a personal signature under the
firm name. It is not desirable, of course, to have mail come
addressed to individuals connected with the firm, but this can be
avoided by having return envelopes, addressed to the firm, in every
letter. In fact, a little slip may be enclosed reading: "No matter
to whom you address an order or letter always address the envelope
to the firm. This insures prompt attention."
At least one large clothing concern has found it profitable to let
its letters go out over such signatures as "Alice Farrar, for BROWN
& CO." Those to whom Miss Farrar writes are informed that the
inquiry has been turned over to her for personal attention--that she
attends to all requests from that inquirer's section and will do her
best to please, and so on.
When methods of this kind are followed and it becomes
necessary--because of the absence of the correspondent
addressed--for some one else to answer a letter, it is well to say.
"In the absence of Miss Farrar, I am answering your letter." Never
let an inquirer feel that the one he addresses is too busy to attend
to his wants or is not interested enough to reply. When the busiest
presidemt of a business concern turns over to some one else a letter
intended for the president's personal reading, the correspondent
should say, "President Parkins, after reading your letter, requests
me to say for him," and so on.
These little touches of personality and courtesy are never lost.
They create a cumulative business asset of enormous value.
What to ENCLOSE With _Sales_
PART V--WRITING THE SALES LETTER--CHAPTER 19
_Sales have been made--and lost--by the printed matter enclosed
with business correspondence. A mere mass of folders, cards and
bric-a-brac is in itself not impressive to the "prospect_'" unless
each item backs up a statement in the letter _and has a direct
bearing on the sale_
_Enclosures may be classified thus:_ FIRST, _catalogues, price lists
and detailed descriptive matter--to inform the prospect of the
goods_; SECOND, _testimonials and guarantees--to prove the claims
made for the goods_; THIRD, _return postals, addressed envelopes and
order blanks--to make it easy for the prospect to buy the goods_
* * * * *
The enclosure is to the letter what the supporting army is to the
line of attack. It stands just behind the men at the front, ready to
strengthen a point here, reinforce the line there, overwhelm
opposition finally with strength and numbers.
A clever sales letter may make the proper impression, it may have
all the elements necessary to close the sale, but it is asking too
much to expect it to handle the whole situation alone.
The average prospect wants more than he finds in a letter before he
will lay down his money. The very fact that a letter comes alone may
arouse his suspicions. But if he finds it backed up by accompanying
enclosures that take things up where the letter leaves off, answer
his mental inquiries and pile up proof, the proposition is more
certain to receive consideration.
The whole principle of right use of enclosures is a matter of
foreseeing what your man will want to know about your proposition
and then giving it to him in clear convincing form and liberal
measure. But enclosures must be as carefully planned as the letter
itself. They are calculated to play a definite part, accomplish a
definite end and the study of their effect is just as vital as the
study of step-by-step progress of letter salesmanship.
Some letter writers seem to think that the only essential in
enclosures is numbers and they stuff the envelope full of
miscellaneous folders, booklets and other printed matter that does
little more than bewilder the man who gets it. Others make the
mistake of not putting anything in with the letter to help the
prospect buy. Neither mistake is excusable, if the writer will only
analyze his proposition and his prospect, consider what the man at
the other end will want to know--then give him that--and more.
And in order to live up to this cardinal rule of enclosures, simply
confine your letter to _one_ article. Seven of the best letter
writers in the country have made exhaustive tests with descriptive
folders. They have found that _one_ descriptive circular, with _one_
point, and _one_ idea pulls where the multiplicity of enclosures
simply bewilders and prejudices the reader. These men have
conclusively proved that overloaded envelopes do not bring results.
In general the enclosure has three purposes: first, to give the
prospect a more complete and detailed description of your goods;
second to give him proof in plenty of their value; third, to make it
easy for him to buy. On this basis let us classify the kinds of
enclosures; that is, the mediums through which these three purposes
may be accomplished.
The first, the detailed description, is usually given in catalogue,
booklet or circular, complete in its explanation and, if possible,
illustrated. Supplementing the catalogue or booklet, samples should
be used whenever practicable for they help more than anything else
can to visualize the goods in the prospect's eyes.
Proof is best supplied in two ways, through testimonials and
guarantees; and the ways of preparing these for the prospect are
endless in variety.
Third, you will make it easy to order through the use of order
blanks, return cards, addressed envelopes, myriads of schemes that
tempt the pen to the dotted line.
The exact form of each of these elements is not of moment here so
long as it is clear to the man who receives it. The point to be made
is that one enclosure representing each of these elements--
description, proof, and easy ordering--should accompany the sales
letter to back it up and make its attack effective.
And now to take these up one by one and see the part each plays.
When the prospect reads your letter, if it wins his interest, his
first thought is "Well, this sounds good, but I want to know more
about it." And right there the circular comes to his assistance--and
to yours. And on this circular depends very largely whether his
interest is going to grow or die a natural death. If it is to lead
him toward an order it must picture to him clearly just what your
proposition is and at the same time it must contain enough
salesmanship to carry on the efforts of the letter.
And it is well to bear down hard on this: do not put material into
your letter that properly belongs in the circular. Link your letter
up with the enclosure and lead the reader to it, but do not go into
lengthy descriptions in the letter. Concentrate there on getting
your man interested. Do that and you may depend on his devouring the
enclosures to get the details. A common mistake in this line is to
place a table of prices in the body of the letter. It is simply
putting the cart before the horse. Price in every sale should be
mentioned last. It certainly should not be mentioned _before_ you
have convinced your prospect that he wants your article. Prices
should be quoted at the erid of the descriptive folder or on a
separate slip of paper.
This descriptive enclosure takes on many forms--a booklet, a
circular, a folder, a simple sheet of specifications, a price
list--but in all cases it is for the one purpose of reinforcing the
argument made in the letter. When a proposition requires a booklet,
the mistake is often made of making it so large and bulky that it
cannot be enclosed with the letter. The booklet comes trailing along
after the letter has been read and forgotten. Sometimes the booklet
never arrives. Where possible it is much better to make the booklet
of such a size that it may be enclosed in the same envelope with the
letter. Then you catch the prospect when his interest is at the
highest point. It is embarrassing and ineffective to refer to "our
booklet, mailed to you under separate cover." Put the book with the
letter. Or, if you must send the booklet under separate cover, send
it first and the letter later, so that each will arrive at about the
And now that you have put in a circular to help the letter, put in
something to help the circular--a sample. Here you have description
visualized. In more ways than one the sample is by all odds the most
valuable enclosure you can use. In reality, it does more--much more
than help the circular with its description, it is concrete proof,
in that it demonstrates your faith in the article and your readiness
to let your prospect judge it on its merits. A two by three inch
square of cloth, a bit of wood to show the finish, any "chip off the
block" itself speaks more eloquently than all the paper and ink your
money can buy. How irresistible becomes a varnish maker's appeal
when he encloses in his letters a small varnished piece of wood, on
the back of which he has printed, "This maple panel has been
finished with two coats of '61' Floor Varnish. Hit it with a hammer.
Stamp on it. You may dent the wood, but you can't crack the varnish.
This is _one_ point where '61' varnish excels."
* * * * *
FOLDERS OR BOOKLETS
RETURN POST CARD
COUPONS OR CERTIFICATES
LIST OF BUYERS
* * * * *
A manufacturer of a new composition for walls gives a more accurate
idea of his product than could ever be learned from words and
pictures by sending a small finished section of the board as it
could be put on the wall.
A knitting mill approaches perfection in sampling when it encloses a
bit of cardboard on which are mounted a dozen samples of underwear,
with prices pasted to each and a tape measure attached to aid in
ordering. A roofing concern has the idea when it sends little
sections of its various roof coatings. And at least one carriage
maker encloses samples of the materials that go into his tops and
Most unique samples are enclosed and because of their very novelty
create additional interest in a proposition. A real estate company
selling Florida lands enclosed a little envelope of the soil taken
from its property. To the farmer this little sample has an appeal
that no amount of printed matter could equal.
A company manufacturing cement has called attention to its product
by making small cement souvenirs such as paper weights, levels, pen
trays, and so forth, sending them out in the same enclosure with the
letter or in a separate package.
One manufacturer of business envelopes encloses with his letter his
various grades of paper, made up into envelopes, each bearing the
name of some representative concern that has used that particular
grade. Then in the lower corner of the envelope is stamped the
grade, weight, price and necessary points that must be mentioned in
purchasing. The various envelopes are of different sizes. On the
back of each envelope is a blank form in which the purchaser can
designate the printed matter wanted, and underneath, in small
letters, the directions, "Write in this form the printed matter you
demand; pin your check to the envelope and mail to us."
Thus this one enclosure serves a number of purposes. First, it
carries a testimonial of the strongest kind by bearing the names of
prominent concerns that have used it; then, it is an actual sample
of the goods; and lastly, it serves the purpose of an order blank.
Even a firm which sells a service instead of a product can
effectively make use of the sample principle. One successful
correspondence school encloses with each answer to an inquiry a
miniature reproduction of the diploma that it gives its graduates.
While the course itself is what the student buys, unquestionably the
inspired desire to possess a diploma like the one enclosed plays its
part in inducing him to enroll.
A New York trust company gets the same effect by sending the
prospective investor a specimen bond complete to the coupons which
show exactly how much each is worth on definite dates through
several succeeding years. Here again the specimen bond is not
actually the thing he buys but it is a facsimile and an excellent
one in that it puts in concrete form an abstract article.
Possibly it is inadvisable to include a sample. Then a picture of
the article accomplishes the purpose. A grocer who writes his
customers whenever he has some new brand of food product, always
includes in his letter a post card with a full tinted picture of the
article. For instance, with a new brand of olives he encloses a
picture of the bottled olives, tinted to exactly represent the
actual bottle and its contents, and underneath he prints the terse
statement "Delicious, Tempting, Nutricious." If his letter has not
persuaded the housewife to try a bottle of the olives, the picture
on the enclosure is apt to create the desire in her mind and lead to
An automobile dealer who knows the value of showing the man he
writes a detailed picture of the machine, includes an actual
photograph. Even the reproduction of the photograph is insufficient
to serve his purpose. The photograph is taken with the idea of
showing graphically the strongest feature of the machine as a
selling argument, and illustrating to the smallest detail the sales
point in his letter. Then, with pen and ink, he marks a cross on
various mechanical parts of engine, body or running gear, and refers
to them in his letter.
To carry the photograph enclosure a step farther, one dealer of
automobile trucks illustrates the idea of efficiency. He encloses
with his letter a photograph of his truck fully loaded. In another
photograph he shows the same truck climbing a heavy grade. Then in
his letter he says, "Just see for yourself what this truck will do.
Estimate the weight of the load and then figure how many horses it
would take to handle an equal load on a similar grade."
In the sale of furniture, especially, is the actual photograph
enclosed with the letter a convincing argument. Fine carriages,
hearses, and other high-grade vehicles are forcibly illustrated by
photographs, and no other enclosure or written description is
After description and visualizing--through the medium of circular
and sample--comes proof, and this you may demonstrate through any
means that affords convincing evidence of worth. The two best are
testimonials and guarantees, but the effectiveness of either depends
largely on the form in which you present them. Testimonials are
often dry and uninteresting in themselves, yet rightly played up to
emphasize specific points of merit they are powerful in value. The
impression of their genuineness is increased a hundredfold if they
are reproduced exactly as they are received.
An eastern manufacturer has helped the prestige of his cedar chests
tremendously with the testimonials he has received from buyers.
Letters from the wives of presidents, from prominent bankers and men
in the public eye he has reproduced in miniature, and two or three
of these are enclosed with every sales letter.
An office appliance firm with a wealth of good testimonials to draw
on sends each prospect letters of endorsement from others in his
particular line of business. A correspondence school strengthens its
appeal by having a number of booklets of testimonials each
containing letters from students in a certain section of the
country. The inquirer thus gets a hundred or more letters from
students near his own home, some of whom he may even know
A variation of the testimonial enclosure is the list of satisfied
users. Such a list always carries weight, especially if the firms or
individuals named are prominerit. A trunk manufacturer, who issues a
"trunk insurance certificate" to each customer, reproduces a score
or more of these made out to well known men and submits them as
proof of his product's popularity.
Another effective form of enclosure is a list of buyers since a
recent date. One large electrical apparatus concern follows up its
customers every thirty days, each time enclosing a list of important
sales made since the previous report.
Another plan is that of a firm manufacturing printing presses. In
making up its lists of sales it prints in one column the number of
"Wellington" presses the purchaser already had in use and the number
of new ones he has ordered. The names of the great printing houses
are so well known to the trade that it is tremendously effective to
read that Blank, previously operating ten Wellingtons, has just
ordered three more.
Second only to the testimony of the man who buys is the guarantee of
the seller. Mail-order houses are coming more and more to see the
value of the "money-back" privilege. It is the one big factor that
has put mail sales on a par with the deal across the counter. Time
was when sellers by mail merely hinted at a guarantee somewhere in
their letter or circular and trusted that the prospect would
overlook it. But it is often the winner of orders now and concerns
are emphasizing this faith in their own goods by issuing a guarantee
in certificate form and using it as an enclosure.
A roofing concern forces its guarantee on the prospect's attention
by giving it a legal aspect, printing in facsimile signatures of the
president and other officials--and stamping the company's name.
Across the face of this guarantee is printed in red ink, the word
"Specimen." Along the lower margin is printed, "This is the kind of
a real guarantee we give you with each purchase of one of our
stoves." A mail-order clothing firm sends a duplicate tag on which
their guarantee is printed. Across the tag of this sample guarantee
is printed in red, "This guarantee comes tagged to your garment."
The prospect who finds proof like this backing up a letter is forced
to feel the worth-whileness of your goods or your proposition, and
he draws forth his money with no sense of fear that he is chancing
The number and kind of enclosures you will put into your letter is
entirely up to you. But before you allow a letter to go out, dig
under the surface of each circular and see whether it really
strengthens your case.
Apply this test; is the letter supported with amplified description,
proof, materials for ordering? If it is, it is ready for the attack.
You may find it best to put your description, your testimonials,
your guarantee and your price list all in one circular. It is not a
mistake to do so. But whether they are all in one enclosure or in
separate pieces, they should be there. And in addition, put in your
return card order blank or envelope or whatever will serve best to
bring the order. When your letter with its aids is complete,
consistent, equipped to get the order then, and only then, let it go
into the mails.
Bringing In _New Business_ By
PART V--WRITING THE SALES LETTER--CHAPTER 20
_Methods of soliciting trade by mail are not confined to the
letter or printed circular. The postal regulations are sufficiently
broad to allow a generous leeway in the size and shape of
communications that may be sent by mail, and as a result, a new
field of salesmanship has been opened by the postal card. Folders,
return- postals and mailing cards have become part of the regular
ammunition of the modern salesman, who has adapted them to his
varied requirements in ways that bring his goods before me
"prospect" with an emphasis that the letter often lacks--and
sometimes at half the cost_
* * * * *
The result-getting business man is always asking the reason why. He
demands that a method, especially a selling plan, be basically
right; that it have a principle behind it and that it stand the
microscope of analysis and the test of trial.
There are three reasons why the postal card is a business-getter.
Did you ever pause while writing a letter, sit back in your chair,
and deplore the poverty of mere words? Did you ever wish you dared
to put in a little picture just at that point to _show_ your man
what you were trying to say? Of course you have if you have ever
written a letter. That is reason one.
Did you ever watch a busy man going through his morning's mail? Long
letters he may read, short letters he is sure to glance through, but
a post card he is certain to read. It is easy to read, it is to a
degree informal and it is brother to a call on the 'phone. That is
And the third reason is that no matter what the principles behind
it, by actual test it brings the business.
While primarily the postal mailing card is intended to aid the
letter in many ways it does what the letter can never do. It can
carry a design or an illustration without the least suggestion of
effrontery, which a letter can not do without losing dignity. It can
venture into clever schemes to cinch the interest. It is the acme of
simplicity as means to win an inquiry. And withal it does its work
at less cost than the letters.
In general postal mailing cards may be classed as of three types:
1. THE DOUBLE OR RETURN POST CARD. This consists simply of two
ordinary post cards attached for convenience in mailing, sometimes
closed at the loose edges by stickers but usually left open. The one
carries the inquiry-seeking message; the other is for the reply. It
is already addressed for returning and contains on the opposite side
a standardized reply form to be signed.
2. The two or three or four FOLDER MAILING CARD. This gives greater
space and opportunity for cleverness of appeal through design. The
third or fourth fold may or may not be prepared for use as a reply
card. Instead of providing for the reply in this way, some of these
folders hold a separate card by means of corner slots. In any case
they fold to the size of the ordinary postal and are held by a stamp
3. ILLUSTRATED PERSONAL LETTERS. These are in effect simply letters
printed on heavier stock which fold into post card size. Their
advantage lies in the opportunity for illustration and an outside
design or catch phrase to win attention. In some cases they are even
filled in exactly in the manner of a form letter.
Which of these forms is best suited to your uses is a matter which
the nature of your proposition and your method of selling must
determine. Whether you want to tell a long story or a short one,
whether you want it to serve merely as a reminder or as your
principal means of attack, these and other points must guide you. So
to help you determine this, it is best to consider the post card
here on the basis of its uses. There are four:
1. To get inquiries.
2. To _sell_ goods; to complete the transaction and get the order
just as a letter would.
3. To cooperate with the dealer in bringing trade to his store.
4. To cooperate with the salesman in his work on dealer or consumer.
Inquiries may be inspired in two ways--either by using a very brief
double card or folder which tells just enough to prompt a desire for
more information or by a post card "letter" series which works
largely on the lines of letters enclosed in envelopes. In the first
instance the card or folder resorts to direct pertinent queries or
suggestions of help that impel the reader to seek more details.
An addressing machine manufacturer, for instance, sends his
"prospects" a double folder with a return post card attached This
message is little more than suggestive:
"Do you know that there is one girl in your addressing room who can
do the work of ten if you will let her? All she needs is a Regal to
help her. Give her that and you can cut nine names from your pay
roll today. Does that sound like good business? Then let us tell you
all about it. Just mail the card attached. It puts you under not the
slightest obligation. It simply enables us to show you how to save
some of your good dollars."
* * * * *
Such a card is virtually an inquiry-seeking advertisement done into
post card form to insure reaching the individual. And for this
reason it may be well to carry a design or illustration just as an
advertisement would. A life insurance company has made good use of a
post card folder, building it up around its selling point of low
cost. The outside bears a picture of a cigar and the striking
attention-getter "At the cost of Your Daily Smoke--" the sentence is
continued on the inside"--you can provide comfort for your family
after you are gone, through a policy." Then follows enough sales
talk to interest the prospect to the point of urging him to tear off
and send the return card for full information.
Many propositions can be exploited in this way. In other instances a
much more complete statement must be made to elicit a reply. Here
the illustrated personal letter comes into use. And it is
significant that in a number of specific cases these letters in post
card form have been far more productive of inquiries than ordinary
letters on the same proposition. Their unique form, the accompanying
illustrations, by their very contrast in method of approach, prompt
a reading that the letter does not get.
Postal mailing cards may be used in two ways--either as a campaign
in themselves or as steps in a follow-up series. They are especially
good when your selling plan permits of goods being sent on approval
or a free trial basis. Then you can say, "Simply drop the attached
order card in the mail box and the goods will come to you by first
A publishing house has sold thousands of low priced books on this
basis, using merely a double post card. One section carries to the
prospect an appealing description of the book and emphasizes the
liberality of the offer. The return card bears a picture of the book
itself and a clearly worded order, running something like this, "I
will look at this book if you will send it charges prepaid. If I
like it, I am to remit $1.00 within five days. If not, I am to
return it at your expense." There can be no misunderstanding here.
The simplicity of the card scheme itself appeals to prospects and
brings back a big percentage of orders.
A variation of the use of the postal as a direct sales medium is the
employment of it to secure bank savings accounts.
A banking house in Chicago sent out folders to a large mailing list
of property holders and renters in all parts of the city. As a
special inducement to establishing savings accounts, this house
offered each person, who returned an attached card, a small metal
savings bank free, which could be kept in the home for the reception
of dimes and nickels until filled--this small bank to be returned at
intervals to the bank for the establishment of a permanent savings
account. On the return card enclosed was a promise to send to the
inquirer's home one of those small banks absolutely without cost to
the receiver. Here the simplicity of the scheme and method of
proposing it again brought large returns.
One manufacturer of dental cream sends out free samples upon
request. The tube is wrapped in pasteboard, which proves to be a
post card ready for signature and stamp--inviting the recipient to
suggest the names of friends to whom samples can be sent. Some
concerns offer to send a free sample if names are sent in but this
firm has achieved better results by sending the sample to all who
ask and then diplomatically inviting them to reciprocate by
furnishing the names of their friends.
Several large hotels have found valuable advertising in post cards
that are distributed by their guests. These cards are left on the
writing tables with an invitation to "mail one to some friend."
A St. Louis restaurant keeps a stack of post cards on the cashier's
desk. They are printed in three colors and give views of the
restaurant, emphasizing its cleanliness and excellent service. Every
month hundreds of these are mailed out by pleased customers and as a
result the restaurant has built up a very large patronage of
visitors--people from out of the city who are only too glad to go to
some place that has been recommended to them.
A most unusual use of post cards appeared in a St. Louis street car.
A prominent bondseller had arranged an attractive street car
placard, discussing briefly the subject of bonds for investment
purposes. In one corner of this placard was a wire-stitched pad of
post cards, one of which passengers were invited to pull off. The
card was mailable to the bondseller, and requested a copy of his
textbook for investors. The prospect who sent the card was of course
put upon the follow-up list and solicited for business. Here, again,
the uniqueness appeals to the public.
As a cooperator with a letter follow-up, the card or folder is
effective, because it introduces variety into the series, sometimes
furnishing just the touch or twist that wins the order.
In the follow-up series the double folder becomes especially
adaptable, because of its simplicity. It usually refers to previous
correspondence. For example, one suggests: "You evidently mislaid
our recent letter. Since its message is of such vital interest to
your business--" The remainder of the message is given up to driving
home a few of the fundamental points brought out in the previous
letters. Simple directions for filling out an attached return card
One double post card, used as a cooperator with a follow-up, calls
attention to a sample previously mailed, asking a careful comparison
of the grade of material and closes with a special inducement to
replies in the form of a discount for five days.
Return cards, employing the absolute guarantee to insure confidence
of fair dealing give clinching power. Here is a sample:
Gentlemen:--Please send me a ____ case for trial. It is clearly
understood in signing this order that the shipment comes to me all
charges prepaid and with your guarantee that you will promptly
cancel the order, in case I am in any way dissatisfied.
* * * * * * *
A space is left at the bottom of the card for the person ordering to
sign name and address.
Again the post card serves a similar purpose as a cooperator with
the salesman. Often between calls the house makes a special
inducement to sales.
Here, either double post cards or folders give the advantage of
simplicity; the return card offering a powerful incentive to
immediate action on the part of the customer. The return card
indicates to the house that the customer is interested and a
salesman is called back to handle the order.
One manufacturer, through use of the folder and card, wins a clever
advantage for his salesmen. An attractive folder, with numerous
illustrations, gives a fairly complete description of the firm's
product. Enclosed with the folder is a return card bearing the form
reply, "Dear Sirs: I am interested in ----. Please mail me a picture
catalog of ----." And a space is left with directions for filling in
name and address of the person replying.
These cards when received are carefully filed and from them the
salesmen gauge their calls on the prospects. Here the advantage to
the salesman is obvious, since his personal call assumes the nature
of a favor to the prospect.
From time to time, mailing folders or double post cards, are mailed
between calls of the salesman, and serve to keep the proposition
warm in the mind of the prospect.
Usually the postal or folder is a valuable aid in sending trade to
the dealer. One manufacturer to stimulate business by creating
orders for his retailer, sent out an elaborate series of mailing
cards to the retailer's customers. Enclosed with the folder were
leaflets giving special features in the stock, which added value to
the sales letter. Handsomely engraved cards guaranteeing the
material were also enclosed as a suggestion that the customer call
on the retailer and the retailer's private business card was
A western coffee dealer used mailing folders on lists of consumers
supplied him by retailers. Attractive designs on the outside of the
folder create interest and put the consumer's mind in a receptive
condition for considering the sales arguments embodied in the
personal letter feature of the folder.
A manufacturer of a contrivance for applying special paints builds
an approach for the dealer's salesman with postal folders. The
design on the outside of the folder indicates the simplicity with
which the appliance may be operated. The sales letter inside gives
minute directions for using the machine and calls attention to
particular features by reference to the demonstration on the
outside. As an entering wedge to orders, the letter offers a free
trial and suggests that a salesman make a practical demonstration.
The manufacturer has his dealer sign every letter and the return
card enclosed gives only the address of the dealer.
A varnish concern sent to a large mailing list a series of
illustrated letters describing the use and advantage of its
products. They appealed to the consumer and built up a trade for the
local dealer. Each letter contained both a return post card,
addressed to the local dealer and a small pamphlet showing various
grades of the varnish. The result of this follow-up system was
twenty-five per cent more replies than the same number of envelope
One of the most successful campaigns ever conducted to introduce a
new cigarette depended entirely upon postal letters. A series of
five or six of these--well nigh masterpieces of sales talk--created
the desire to try the product. Enclosed with each folder was a card
bearing a picture of the distinctive box in which the cigarettes
were sold, so that the prospect could recognize it in the dealer's
In another instance a book publisher created a demand for a new
novel by mailing a series of single post cards bearing illustrations
from the book. In this case the element of mystery was employed and
the real purpose of the cards was not divulged until five or six had
been sent and the book was ready to go on sale.
Whatever variety of card, folder or letter you choose to use, these
features you should carefully observe: the style of writing and the
design and mechanical make-up.
The effectiveness of the mailing folder must depend upon the
combination--ideas of attractiveness, simplicity and careful use of
the personal letter feature. It must command attention by a
forceful, intelligent approach. It must stand out sharply against
the monotonous sameness of the business letter.
The folder's appearance should be in accord with the class or type
of men it goes to meet. Its approach should contain sincerity,
purpose, and originality. Originality in shape hardly serves the
purpose, because of the ridicule unusual shapes may give the
proposition. The originality should be in the illustrations or catch
This illustrative feature is all important because it virtually
plays the part of the initial paragraph of the letter--it makes the
point of contact and gets the attention. It corresponds to the
illustrated headline of the advertisement. No rules can be laid down
for it as it is a matter for individual treatment.
Colors that create a proper condition of mind through psychological
effect must be taken into consideration in the attention-getting
feature of the folder. There are certain color schemes which are
known to create a particularly appropriate condition of mind. For
instance, where quick action is wanted, a flaring color is
effective. Where pure sales arguments count most in stating a
proposition, blacks and whites have been found the most adequate.
Soothing colors, such as soft browns and blues, have been found to
appeal to the senses and serve to insure additional interest through
a pleasant frame of mind.
The right impression once gained, the style of the reading matter
must make the most of it. Many have hesitated to use the postal or
folder because they fear for a certain loss, through lack of
dignity, where the proposition demands an especially high-class
approach. But to some folders, especially of the letter variety now
in use, no such criticism could possibly be offered. Really fine
samples of these letters bear outside illustrations from photographs
or the work of the best artists. Their appearance outside and inside
is given every possible attention to create the impression of
distinct value. An appeal to the senses, as in the use of pleasing
colors, is a feature of their make-up.
The personal letter inside is perfect in details of typography; it
is carefully filled in with prospect's or customer's name; care is
taken to see that the filling-in process matches the body of the
letter and a personal signature is appended to give a more intimate
The cost of these folders, because of the high grade of reproduction
and the art work, runs considerably above the usual business-getting
letter of one-cent mailing. The lowest class of these folders cost
approximately the same as the usual letter under two-cent
mailing. Any addition of special art work increases their cost
proportionately, but the expense is frequently justified.
These illustrated letters depend upon their power of suggestion,
through graphic illustration and design, and upon the personal idea
of the letter used for getting business. Few enclosures, other than
the return card, or reminder card, for filing purposes, are used.
One physician, especially anxious of promoting a new remedy, sent
out mailing folders describing his remedy and offered an absolute
guarantee of results before payment. The return card enclosed with
this folder was engraved with the name and address of the physician
above and underneath his absolute guarantee. Because the campaign
was so unusual, it produced unexpectedly large returns.
Here, as in the usual business-getting letter, careful attention is
given to details. The importance of attracting attention in the
first paragraph by careful expression, followed by the creating of
desire in the mind of the customer or prospect and the adding of
conviction--and finally, the use of reason that compels action
cannot be emphasized too strongly.
A more appealing letter could scarcely be written than the
following, used in the cigarette campaign previously mentioned. The
outside of the folder carried an appropriate drawing by one of the
best American artists and the whole folder gave an impression of the
highest quality. Note the easy style, designed to catch the reader
as he first opens the folder and carry him along fascinated to the
[Sidenote: Attention-getter; natural and effective. Explanation
clear, and a desire is created through promise.]
Turn back in your mind for one minute to the best Turkish cigarette
you ever smoked.
If you remember, it was not so much that the cigarette was fragrant,
or that it had a particular flavor, or aroma, or mildness, that
caused it to please you--it was the combination of all these
qualities that made it so delicious.
This means that the perfection of that cigarette was in the blend,
the combination of rare tobacco, each giving forth some one quality.
We have worked out a blend that produces a Tobacco Cigarette which
satisfies _our_ ideal at least.
We call the cigarette made of this brand PERESO. We make no secret
of the kind of tobacco used--the exact proportion and how to treat
the rare leaves is our secret.
To get a perfect aroma, we must take ---- Tobacco: young sprigs of
yellow so soft that the Turks call it "Golden Leaf."
We use ---- leaves for their flavor; they have marvelous fragrance
as well a delicate mildness.
[Sidenote: Giving conviction by details.]
To get each of these tidbits of Tobacco into perfect condition, so
that their qualities will be at their prime when blended, is our
profession. The PERESO cigarette is the result.
[Sidenote: Suggesting immediate action.]
Touch a match to a PERESO cigarette after luncheon today. You will
be delighted with its exquisite aroma, its fleeting fragrance and
[Sidenote: Strength in clincher lies in absolute guarantee.]
If it is not better than the best cigarette you have ever smoked,
allow us the privilege of returning the fifteen cents the package
cost you. The original box with the remaining cigarettes, when
handed to your dealer, will bring the refund.
Will you Join us in a PERESO cigarette today?
Very truly yours.
[Signature: Adams & Adams]
* * * * *
Enclosed in this folder next to the letter was a card bearing a
picture of the cigarettes in their box. At the bottom of the folder,
underneath the letter, was the phrase: "All good dealers--fifteen
cents a package."
With the mailing card, as with the letter, guarantees, free trial
offers and the like, help to strengthen the close of the
proposition, win the confidence and bring back the answer.
For example, a large watch company, wishing to appeal to a class of
customers who had previously been listed and whose financial
standing made its proposition secure, sent out folders signed by
department heads asking the privilege of mailing a watch for
examination and trial. The letter, which carefully described the
advantages of the watch over other watches sold at similar prices,
offered this trial without any cost to the prospect, only asking
that if the watch suited his needs a draft be mailed to the company.
The return card in this case contained an agreement by the firm to
hold the prospect in no way obligated to the company, except through
purchase. Before returning the card to the company, the prospect was
required to sign it, agreeing that, after a trial, either the watch
or the money should be sent in.
Before you enter upon the use of mailing cards, be sure you
understand the postal regulations regarding them. They are not
complicated, but more than one concern has prepared elaborate
folders only to be refused admittance to the mails because they did
not follow specifications as to size and weight.
Postal laws require that all cards marked "Post Cards" be uniform in
design and not less than three and three-fourths inches by four
inches and not more than three and nine-sixteenths inches by five
and nine-sixteenths inches in size. This means that all return
cards, whether enclosed or attached, must be within authorized sizes
to allow a first class postal rating.
Making It _Easy_ For the
PROSPECT to _Answer_
PART V--WRITING THE SALES LETTER--CHAPTER 21.
_The mere physical effort of hunting up pen and paper by which to
send in an order for_ SOMETHING HE REALLY WANTS, _deters many a
prospect from becoming a customer_.
_The man who sells goods by mail must overcome this natural inertia
by reducing the act of sending in an order or inquiry to its very
simplest terms--by making it so easy for him to reply that he acts
while the desire for the goods is still upon him. Here are Eighteen
Schemes for making it easy for the prospect to reply--and to reply
* * * * *
There are few propositions so good that they will sell themselves. A
man may walk into a store with the deliberate intention of buying a
shirt, and if the clerk who waits on him is not a good salesman the
customer may just as deliberately walk out of the store and go to
the place across the street. Lack of attention, over-anxiety to make
a quick sale, want of tact on the part of the salesman--any one of a
dozen things may switch off the prospective customer although he
wants what you have for sale.
Even more likely is this to happen when you are trying to sell him
by mail. He probably cares little or nothing about your offer; it is
necessary to interest him in the limits of a page or two and
convince him that he should have the article described.
And even after his interest has been aroused and he is in a mood to
reply, either with an order or a request for further information, he
will be lost unless it is made easy for him to answer; unless it is
almost as easy to answer as it is not to answer. A man's interest
cools off rapidly; you must get his request for further information
or his order before he picks up the next piece of mail.
It is a daily experience to receive a letter or a circular that
interests you a little--just enough so you put the letter aside for
attention "until you have more time." Instead of being taken up
later, it is engulfed in the current of routine and quickly
forgotten. Had the offer riveted your attention strongly enough; had
the inducements to act been forceful; had the means for answering
been easy, you would probably have replied at once.
Make it so easy to answer that the prospect has no good reason for
delaying. Make him feel that it is to his interest in every way to
act AT ONCE. Do the hard work at your end of the line; exert
yourself to overcome his natural inertia and have the order blank,
or the coupon or the post card already for his signature. Don't rely
upon his enthusing himself over the proposition and then hunt up
paper, pencil and envelope; lay everything before him and follow the
argument and the persuasion with a clincher that is likely to get
In making it easy to answer, there are three important elements to
be observed. You must create the right mental attitude, following
argument and reason with a "do it now" appeal that the reader will
find it hard to get away from. Then the cost must be kept in the
background, centering attention on the goods, the guarantee, and the
free trial offer rather than upon the price. And finally, it is
desirable to simplify the actual process--the physical effort of
The whole effort is wasted if there is lacking that final appeal
that convinces a man he must act immediately. Your opening may
attract his attention; your arguments may convince him that he ought
to have your goods; reason may be backed by persuasion that actually
creates in him a desire for them, but unless there is a "do it this
very minute" hook, and an "easy to accept" offer, the effort of
interesting the prospect is wasted.
* * * * *
SCHEME 1--A SPECIAL PRICE FOR A LIMITED PERIOD
The most familiar form of inducement is a special price for a
limited period, but this must be handled skillfully or it closes the
gate against an effective follow-up. The time may be extended once,
but even that weakens the proposition unless very cleverly worded;
and to make a further cut in price prompts the prospect to wait for
a still further reduction.
* * * * *
BETTER LOOK AGAIN AND SEE IF YOU HAVE SIGNED YOUT NAME AND
WRITTEN YOUR TOWN AND STATE PLAINLY. WE GET LOTS OF ORDERS
EVERY YEAR THAT WE CAN'T FILL BECAUSE THE ADDRESS IS INCOMPLETE
OR ILLEGIBLE. IT IS BEST TO BE ON THE SAFE SIDE AND WRITE YOUR
NAME AND ADDRESS SO PLAINLY THAT THERE CAN BE NO POSSIBLE MISTAKE.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO USE BETTER KEEP AN
THIS ORDER SHEET. YOU O R D E R S H E E T EXACT COPY OF THIS
CAN ORDER ANY OLD WAY ORDER FOR FUTURE
YOU LIKE. BUT USING THIS REFERENCE.
WILL SAVE US BOTH SOME
* * * * *
BE SURE TO ALWAYS SIGN THE MORE CAREFUL YOU ARE KEEP A COPY OF
YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS. TO FILL OUT THE FOLLOWING THE ORDER AND IF
WE GET LOTS OF ORDERS BLANKS CAREFULLY AND YOU DO NOT HEAR
WITH NO SIGN OF NAME CLEARLY, THE MORE CERTAIN FROM US IN A
OR ADDRESS. IF YOUR WE ARE TO GET YOUR ORDER REASONABLE
SHIPPING STATION IS FILLED PROMPTLY AND LENGTH OF TIME,
DIFFERENT FROM YOUR CORRECTLY. WE'RE ALL LONG WRITE US AND
POST OFFICE BE SURE RANGE MIND READERS AND TELL US JUST
TO GIVE BOTH CAN GENERALLY PUZZLE OUT WHAT YOU ORDERED
HOW AN ORDER IS MEANT TO AND WHEN YOU
BE BUT IT TAKES LOTS OF ORDERED IT
VALUE OF ORDER $ |cents
NAME____________________________ PAID BY P.O. MONEY ORDER |
STREET OR RURAL ROUTE___________ PAID BY EXP. MONEY ORDER |
POST OFFICE_____________________ PAID BY DRAFT |
COUNTY__________________________ PAID By CHECK |
SHIPPING STATION________________ PAID IN CURRENCY |
WHAT RAILROAD PREFERRED_________ PAID IN SILVER |
WHAT EXPRESS CO PREFERRED_______ PAID IN STAMPS |
TOTAL AMOUNT PAID |
MARK IN SQUARE WHICH WAY YOU WANT -------------------------------
THIS ORDER SENT___MAIL__EXPRESS PLEASE DON'T WRITE IN THIS SPACE
__FREIGHT OPENED BY_____BOOKED BY_____
O'K'D BY______TAGGED BY_____
SHALL WE USE OUR BEST JUDGMENT AS ROUTING_____________________
TO MANNER OF SHIPPING AND ROUTING?____
IF OUT OF VARIETY ORDERED HAVE WE
YOUR PERMISSION TO SUBSTITUTE EQUAL
OR BETTER ______ IN NEAREST VARIETY
BU|QTS|LBS|PTS|OZ|PKTS|NO|ARTICLES WANTED |VALUE
* * * * *
_This order sheet simplifies ordering and assures accuracy. On the
reverse side are printed several special offers, to which reference
may readily be made. The sheet is made to fold up like an envelope
and when the gummed edges are pasted down enclosures are perfectly
* * * * *
On some propositions the time limit can be worked over and over
again on different occasions like special store sales. A large
publishing house selling an encyclopedia never varies the price but
it gets out special "Christmas" offers, "Withdrawal" sale offers,
"Special Summer" offers--anything for a reason to send out some new
advertising matter making a different appeal. And each proposition
is good only up to a certain time. The letters must be mailed and
postmarked before midnight of the last day, and this time limit
pulls the prospect over the dead center of indecision and gets his
order. The last day usually brings in more orders than any previous
* * * * *
FILL OUT AND MAIL THIS COUPON
TO CHICAGO SUPPLY CO.
I AM INTERESTED IN ___________________________________
SEND ME FREE OF COST
MAMMOTH ILLUSTRATED CATALOG __
BOOK OF HOUSE AND BARN PLANTS __ STRUCTURAL STEEL NEWS __
HEATING AND PLUMBING GUIDE __ LINOLEUM BOOKLET __
BOOK ON ROOFING, SIDING, ETC. __ GASOLINE ENGINES __
CLOTHING FOR MEN AND BOYS __ LADIES' WEARING APPAREL__
SEWING MACHINE BOOK __ HARNESS AND VEHICLES __
PUT CROSS IN SQUARE OPPOSITE BOOKS YOU WISH
TOWN__________________________ STATE ____________
R.F.D.___________ BOX NO.________ ST. NO.________
* * * * *
_This coupon, used in advertisements and in printed matter, make
it extremely easy to send for information on special subjects_
* * * * *
SCHEME 2--THE LAST CHANCE TO BUY
If it is desired to come right back at a prospect, some such
paragraph as this is written:
"Only 46 sets left! The success of our special offer surpassed all
expectations. It will be necessary to issue another edition at once.
The style of binding will be changed but otherwise the two editions
will be the same. As we do not carry two styles on hand, we are
willing to let you have one of the 46 remaining sets at the SAME
TERMS although our special offer expired Saturday night."
* * * * *
And this appeal may pull even better than the first one--provided
the proposition is "on the square." It is hard to put sincerity into
a letter that is not based on an absolute truth. If "Only 46 sets
left" is merely a salesman's bluff when in fact there are hundreds
of sets on hand, the letter will have a hollow ring.
* * * * *
MAKING IT EASY TO ANSWER
LIMITED NO. OF ARTICLES
RESERVATION OF STOCK OR MACHINE
EVADING THE COST
FREE TRIAL OFFER
NOT AN EXPENSE--AN INVESTMENT
MONEY ORDER APPLICATIONS
* * * * *
Sincerity is the hardest thing in the world to imitate in a letter
and absolute confidence is the key-stone to all mailorder selling.
There are plenty of plausible reasons for making a time limit or a
special offer. A large publishing house, selling both magazines and
books by mail occasionally turns the trick by a human interest
"I told the business manager that I believed I could bring our
August sales up to equal those of the other months.
"He laughed at me. Always before they have fallen off about twenty
"But I am going to do it--if you'll help me."
* * * * *
Then the sales manager went on with a special offer; it was a
legitimate offer which made a real inducement that proved one of the
most successful the firm ever put out.
SCHEME 3--LOW PRICES DURING DULL SEASONS
In making a special price the prospect must be given some plausible
reason and sincere explanation for the reduction. A special
arrangement with the manufacturer, cleaning out of stock, an
introductory offer--some valid reason; and then state this reason in
a frank, business-like way, making the story interesting and showing
where it is to the advantage of both the prospect and yourself.
"Just to keep my men busy during the dull season I will make an
extra pair of trousers at the same price ordinarily charged for a
suit, on orders placed during July and August."
* * * * *
This offer sent out by a merchant tailor brought results, for he had
a good reason for doing an extra service--he wanted to keep his help
busied during the quiet months and the customer took advantage of
SCHEME 4--CUT PRICES IN EXCHANGE FOR NAMES
"If you will send us the names of your friends who might be
interested" and "if you will show it to your friends" are familiar
devices for they present a plausible excuse for cutting a price and
serve the double purpose of giving the manufacturer or merchant new
names for his mailing list. "A free sample if you send us your
dealer's name" is reasonably certain to call for an immediate reply
from most women, for they are always interested in samples.
Making a special introductory offer on some new device or appliance
is certainly a legitimate reason for cutting the price. It is an
inducement, moreover, that possesses a peculiar strength for a man
likes to be the first one in his vicinity or in his line of business
to adopt some improved method or system.
SCHEME 5--THE SPECIAL "INTRODUCTORY PRICE"
There can be no excuse for the carelessness that makes a "special
introductory price," and later in the same letter or in a follow-up
calls attention to the "many satisfied users in your section." Be
sure your reason is real--then it rings true and incites prompt
action like this offer:
The Wright Copy Holder sells the world over for $3.00. We are
certain, however, that once you see the holder actually increasing
the output of your own typist you will want to equip your entire
office with them. So, for a limited time only, we are going to make
you an introductory price of $2.25. Send to-day for one of these
holders and give it a thorough trial. Then any time within thirty
days, after you have watched the holder in actual use and seen it
pay for itself, in actual increased output, order as many more as
you want and we will supply them to you at the same introductory
price of $2.25 each. After that time we must ask the regular price.
* * * * *
This is convincing. The prospect feels that if the holder were not
all right it would not be sold on such terms, for the manufacturers
expect that the one holder will give such satisfaction that it will
lead to the sale of many more.
"Enclose $2.25 now in any convenient form and let the holder
demonstrate for itself what it can save you every day. Don't wait
until tomorrow--but send your order today--right now."
* * * * *
This is the closing paragraph and if you are at all interested in
copy holders it is likely you will place an order "NOW." And if you
don't and if the order is not placed within ten days, the offer may
be extended for two weeks and after that a "ten-day only" offer may
pull forth an order.
SCHEME 6--SPECIAL TERMS TO PREFERRED CUSTOMERS
A brokerage firm has found that a "Pre-public announcement special
offer to preferred clients only" in placing stocks and bonds is a
good puller. The recipient is flattered by being classed with the
"preferred clients" and is not unmindful of the opportunity of
getting in on the proposition before there is any public
* * * * *
WILSON SAFETY RAZOR CO.
DEAR SIRS:--PLEASE SEND ONE STANDARD WILSON SAFETY RAZOR (PRICE
VERY TRULY YOURS.
(YOUR) NAME _______________________
STREET AND NO _____________________
CITY ______________ STATE _________
IF THE RAZOR IS TO BE SENT THROUGH YOUR DEALER FILL OUT BELOW
(DEALER'S) NAME ___________________
CITY ______________ STATE _________
IF YOU PREFER THAT WE SEND RAZOR DIRECT TO YOU, PLEASE ENCLOSE
REMITTANCE IN EITHER OF THE FOLLOWING FORMS CASH (REGISTERED
MAIL), MONEY ORDER, NY BANK DRAFT CHECK
THE WILSON SAFETY RAZOR CO OR THE DEALER WHO EXECUTES THIS ORDER
IN ACCEPTING THE $3.00 FOR THE SAFETY RAZOR AGREES WITH THE
PURCHASER THAT IT IS SOLD ON 30 DAYS TRIAL WITHOUT ANY OBLIGATION
OR LIABILITY FOR USE DURING THAT PERIOD. IF FOR ANY REASON THE
PURCHASER DESIRES TO RETURN IT WITHIN THAT PERIOD THE SELLER UPON
SHALL UPON RECEIPT THEREOF REFUND THE $3.00
THE WILSON SAFETY RAZOR CO.
* * * * *
_This form of post card provides for two methods of ordering--the
customer may take his choice_
* * * * *
In influencing prompt action the time element and the special price
are not the only "Act Now" inducements although they are the most
common. A man had written to a firm that makes marine engines for
prices but the first two or three letters had failed to call forth
any further correspondence. So the sales manager wrote a personal
letter in which the following paragraph appeared:
"In looking over our correspondence I notice that you are
particularly interested in a 2-horse power engine. I have an engine
of that size on hand that I think will interest you. We have just
received our exhibits from the Motor Boat Shows. Among these I
noticed a 2 H.P. engine and remembering your inquiry for this size
engine, it occurred to me that this would make you an ideal engine
for your boat."
* * * * *
This was cleverly worded, for although the company would contend
that the exhibits were taken from stock, the possible buyer would
feel confident that the engine exhibited at the show had been tested
and tried in every way. If he were in the market at all, this would
probably prove a magnet to draw an immediate reply--for it is always
easy to reply if one is sufficiently interested.
SCHEME 7--HOLDING GOODS IN RESERVE
This "holding one in reserve for you" has proved effective with a
"The factory is working to the limit these days and we are behind
orders now. But we are going to hold the machine we have reserved
for you a few days longer. After that we may have to use it to fill
another order. Sign and send us the enclosed blank to-day and let
us place the machine where it will be of real service to you.
Remember it is covered by a guarantee that protects you against
disappointment. If you don't like it, simply return it and back
comes your money."
* * * * *
Bond brokers frequently use this same idea, writing to a customer
that a block of stock or a part of an issue of bonds had been
reserved for him as it represented just the particular kind of
investment that he always liked--and reasons follow showing how
desirable the investment really is.
In one form or another this scheme is widely used. When the order
justifies the expense, a night telegram is sometimes sent stating
that the machine can be held only one day more or something like
that. This only is possible on special goods that cannot be readily
In all these offers and schemes the price is kept carefully in the
background. Many firms never mention the price in the letter,
leaving that for the circular, folder or catalogue.
SCHEME 8--THE FREE TRIAL OFFER
Instead of the price being emphasized, it is the free trial offer or
the absolute guarantee that is held before the reader.
"Without even risking a cent you can use the Wilbur on your farm
free for 30 days. We will ship it to you, freight prepaid, with the
plain understanding that, should the Wilbur not come up to every
claim we make for it, we will take it off your hands, for we don't
want anyone to keep the Wilbur when he is not satisfied with it.
Thus, we agree to pay ALL charges and take ALL risk while you are
testing and trying the Wilbur for one whole month.
"You see, we have a great deal of confidence in the Wilbur or we
could not afford to make you this square and generous offer, which
leaves it entirely to you to say whether or not the Wilbur Fanning
Mill is a practical and money-making success. Since the 30 days'
free trial proposition puts you to no risk whatever, you should take
advantage of this opportunity and have a Wilbur shipped right away
on the free trial basis.
"To prove it, all you have to do is to fill in, sign and mail this
card. After 30 days you CAN return the machine if you are willing."
* * * * *
Not a word about price. All about the free trial and the fact that
you are to be the judge of the machine's value.
And not only the free trial but the absolute guarantee is
emphasized. "Your money back if not satisfactory" is the slogan of
every successful mail-order house. Frequently a facsimile of the
guarantee accompanies the letter; always it is emphasized.
SCHEME 9--THE "YOUR MONEY BACK" OFFER
A manufacturer of certain machines for shop use wastes little time
in describing the machine or telling what all it will do. The broad
assertion is made that after a month's use it would not be sold at
the price paid for it, and instead of arguing the case and
endeavoring to prove the statement, the company strives to make it
easy to place a trial order. Here are two of the three paragraphs
that make up one of its letters:
"To prove it, all you have to do is to fill in, sign and mail this
card. After 30 days you MAY return the machine if you want to.
"Try it out. Never mind what we might SAY about the uses your shop
men would be getting out of it--FIND OUT. It is easy. Just send the
* * * * *
This is simplicity itself. The writer does not put us on the
defensive by trying to argue with us. We are to be the judge and he
compliments us by the inference that we "don't need to be told" but
can judge for ourselves as to whether it is worth keeping. The price
is held in the background and the actual ordering is nothing more
than to sign a post card. There is no reason at all why we should
delay; we could hardly turn the letter over to be filed without
feeling that we were blind to our best interest in not replying.
SCHEME 10--THE DISCOUNT FOR CASH
Publishers of a magazine angle for renewals without boldly snatching
for a man's pocketbook, by this presentation:
"Simply tell us _NOW_ to continue your subscription. Remit at your
convenience. Better still, wrap a $1.00 bill in this post card--and
mail to us today. We will send not only the twelve issues paid for,
but will--as a cash discount--extend your subscription an extra two
* * * * *
Here the cost is brought in almost as an afterthought, yet in a way
that actually brings the cash with the renewal.
"Fill out the enclosed order and the goods will be shipped at once
and billed in the regular way."
* * * * *
The payment is not in sight--it hasn't yet turned the corner.
"Billed in the regular way" catches our order where we would
postpone action if it meant reaching down into our pockets and
buying a money order or writing out a check. The payment looks afar
off--and it will not seem so much if the account is paid along with
the rest of the bills at the first of the month.
SCHEME 11--THE FIRST INSTALLMENT AS A "DEPOSIT"
Where goods are sold on "easy terms" and a first payment required,
many correspondents refer to the remittance as a "deposit." In the
strong guarantee it is expressly stated that in case of
dissatisfaction, the "deposit" will be returned.
Even the deferring of the payment a few days helps to pull an order.
It is not that a man is niggardly or that he does not want the
article but it is the desire, rooted deep in human nature, to hold
onto money after it has been hard earned.
"To facilitate your prompt action, I am enclosing a convenient
postal card order. Our shipping department has had instructions to
honor this as readily as they would your check. There is no need to
send the customary initial payment in advance. Simply sign and mail
the enclosed card; when the file comes, pay the expressman the first
payment of $2.00."
* * * * *
Here the payment was very small and it was deferred only a few days,
but long enough to make it _seem easier_, and the orders were much
larger than when cash was required with the order.
SCHEME 12--SENDING GOODS FOR INSPECTION
"Take no risk" is the reassuring line in many advertisements and
letters. "Send no money--take no risk. We do not even ask you to
make a deposit until you are satisfied that you need the Verbest in
your business. Simply send the coupon today and the Verbest goes
forward at our risk."
Such offers pull best when simply worded and contain some such
phrase as "Without obligation on my part, you may send me." It gives
reassurance that there is no catch and inspires the confidence that
is the basis of the mail-order business.
Then there is the argument that the device or equipment will pay for
itself--a powerful leverage when rightly applied.
Here is the way the manufacturer of a certain machine keeps the cost
in the shadow:
"There is no red tape to go through. Simply sign the enclosed blank
and forward to-day with the first payment of $3.00. The Challenge
will go forward promptly. And the balance you can pay as the machine
pays for itself--at the rate of seventeen cents a day."
* * * * *
Simple, isn't it? You forget all about the cost. The paragraph is a
cleverly worded "Do it now" appeal and the cost is kept entirely in
SCHEME 13--THE EXPENSE VERSUS THE INVESTMENT ARGUMENT
A companion argument is that the device is not an expense but an
investment. Here there is no attempt to put the cost price in the
background but to justify the outlay as a sound investment--a
business proposition that is to be tested by the investment
standard. This is a strong argument with the shrewd business man who
figures the value of things not on the initial cost, but upon the
profits they will earn and the dividends they will pay.
The whole proposition must be shaped in such a way that it is easy
for the prospect to buy. He must want to buy--and the experienced
correspondent realizes that every word and phrase must be avoided
that is capable of being misconstrued. There are no details so small
that they do not have a bearing on the success of a campaign.
SCHEME 14--THE RETURN POSTAL FILLED IN FOR MAILING
And now that you have made clear your proposition and shown your
proof, now that you have led your prospect to the buying point, the
next step is to make him send you the order. And the only way to do
this is to follow the example of the good salesman: put the pen in
his hand, your finger on the dotted line, and slip the order blank
before him. The salesman does these things because he knows that he
might lose the sale if he asked his prospect to hunt up a pen, a
letterhead and some ink. He knows the value of making it easy to
buy. And in selling by mail you must do the same. Don't guide him on
to a decision to order and then leave him at sea as to how to do it.
Show him exactly what to do. It is easy enough simply to say, "Write
me a letter," or, "send me $2.00." The very man you want most to
sell may not know how to write a clearly worded order. Even if he
does, the fact that you ask him to go to the trouble of getting his
writing materials may serve to postpone the act and lose him the
desire to buy. So give him the order ready to sign, with as few
changes as possible required. And give him an addressed return
envelope to send it in. If no money is to be sent with the order,
put it on a post card. "Sign and mail the card" borders on the
extreme of simplicity in buying.
You cannot be too simple in your method of soliciting orders.
If your proposition will admit of saying, "Pin a dollar bill to this
letter and mail," say it. If more details are needed, make them
as simple as possible.
* * * * *
JOHNSON DYE ORDER AND COIN CARD
(BE SURE TO ADDRESS YOUR ENVELOPE VERY PLAINLY)
JOHNSON DYE COMPANY BOSTON, MASS.
SEND ME __ PACKAGES OF JOHNSON DYES, AT TEN CENTS EACH, AS
MARKED IN THE ORDER BLANK BELOW. I ENCLOSE IN THIS COIN ENVELOPE
SIGN VERY PLAINLY _______ CENTS
ADDRESS_________NUMBER, STREET, OR BOX, POST OFFICE, COUNTY, STATE
DON'T FAIL TO FILL OUT THIS [words behind HAS HE (ANY) JOHNSON
drawing of DYES FOR WOOL?_____
MY DEALER'S NAME_________ envelope] HAS HE (ANY) JOHNSON
DYES FOR COTTON?____
ADDRESS__________________ HAS HE THE JOHNSON
DYE COLORS ORDERED
WRITE PLAINLY BELOW? _____
JOHNSON DYES JOHNSON DYES
FOR WOOL FOR COTTON
_______LIGHT BLUE _______LIGHT BLUE
_______DARK BLUE [Envelope: PUT _______DARK BLUE
_______NAVY BLUE YOUR MONEY, COIN _______NAVY BLUE
_______BROWN OR BILL IN HERE] _______BROWN
_______SEAL BROWN _______SEAL BROWN
_______DARK GREEN _______DARK GREEN
_______CARDINAL RED _______CARDINAL RED
_______TURKEY RED _______TURKEY RED
* * * * *
_A manila enclosure that contains a small envelope suitable for
sending coins or bills. The directions not only cover all points on
the order but give the company information for its follow-up_
* * * * *
SCHEME 15--THE MONEY ORDER READY FOR SIGNATURE
If you want him to send a money order, help him to get it by
enclosing a money order application filled in except for his name.
Avoid the possibility of giving the order blank a legal appearance.
Simply have the order say, "Send me ----" and as little more as is
necessary. Show the prospect that there are no strings or jokers in
your blank. Make it so simple that there is no possibility of
misunderstanding its terms.
If the article is one that is sold in much th same way to every
purchaser, it is best to print the entire order, leaving only the
date line and the signature line blank. If the purchaser has to
choose between two styles of the article or between two quantities,
the order blank may be printed, so that the quantity not wanted may
be crossed out.
SCHEME 16--ORDERING BY MARKS
In dealing with an unlettered class of people, it is well to put a
footnote in very small type under optional lines or words and to
instruct the purchaser to "Cross out the style you do not want" or
"Put an X opposite the quantity ordered."
In case of articles that are sold for cash and also on the easy
payment plan, it is better to have two separate order blanks printed
on different colors of paper, one plainly headed "Cash Order Blank,"
and the other "Easy Payment Order Blank." Avoid the "Instalment
Plan." The name has lost standing of late; the wording "Easy Payment
Plan" is better and more suggestive.
SCHEME 17--THE COIN CARD
The coin-card method is a winner for sales under a dollar. The card,
with its open holes inviting the quarter or the fifty-cent piece,
and the order blank printed conveniently on the flap--captures much
The post office department will furnish money order applications
with the name of the advertiser printed in the proper spaces. These
printed applications should be sent for the prospect's convenience
in cases where a money order is likely to be used. They insure that
the advertiser's name will come before postmaster's written in the
preferred form, and they also relieve much of the hesitancy and
embarrassment of the people that do not know how to make out an
SCHEME 18--SENDING MONEY AT THE OTHER FELLOW'S RISK
One of the best schemes for easy ordering invited the reader to fold
a dollar bill in the letter "right now" and mail the letter at the
risk of the firm. That effective closing removed the tendency to
delay until a check or a money order could be secured. It took away
the fear of loss in the mails. It largely increased the returns of
It is sometimes an excellent plan to suggest that the reader sign
and mail at once a postal card that is enclosed. If there is an inch
or two of space at the bottom of the letter, a blank order or
request may be written there that needs only a signature to make it
complete. In the closing paragraph, direct the reader to sign and
return the slip.
An addressed envelope should always be enclosed. It will not always
be used, but it will be used by most people, and it assures the
correct address and facilitates the handling of incoming mail.
How To Write Letters That
_Appeal_ To WOMEN
PART VI--THE APPEAL TO DIFFERENT CLASSES--CHAPTER 22
_The two-page letter which a man would toss into the waste basket
unread may be read by a woman with increasing interest at each
paragraph. The average woman does not have a large correspondence;
her mail is not so heavy but what she_ FINDS TIME TO READ EVERY
LETTER THAT APPEALS TO HER EVEN SLIGHTLY. _The printed heading may
show a letter to be from a cloak company. She doesn't really need a
new coat--and anyhow she could hardly afford it this fall--but she
would just like to see what the styles are going to be like--and it
doesn't cost anything to send for samples. Yet if the writer of the
letter is skilled and understands the subtle workings of a woman's
mind_, THE CLOAK IS HALF SOLD BY THE TIME SHE FILLS OUT THE POSTAL
CARD. _This chapter tells why_
* * * * *
The more personal a letter is made the more successful it will
prove. Several large mail-order houses, handling thousands of
letters every day, are gradually abandoning the use of form letters,
making every communication personal. The additional expense is of
course great but the increased business apparently justifies the new
The carelessness that sends out to women form letters beginning
"Dear Sir" has squandered many an advertising appropriation. A man
might not notice such a mistake or he might charitably blame it onto
a stupid mailing clerk, but a woman--never.
The mail-order houses with progressive methods not only guard
against inexcusable blunders and tactless letters but they are
studying the classes and the individuals with whom they are dealing.
A mail may bring in two letters--one, from a farmer, laboriously
scrawled on a bit of wrapping paper; the other, from a lady in town,
written on the finest stationery. Both may request catalogues and
the same printed matter will be sent to each, but only the amateur
correspondent would use the same form letter in reply.
The book agent who rattles off to every prospect the set speech
which the house furnished him with his prospectus either throws up
the work as a "poor proposition" or changes his tactics, and the
form letter that tries to wing all classes of individuals is most
likely to miss all.
In making an appeal to women, the first thing to be considered is
the stationery. Good quality of paper is a sound investment. Saving
money by use of cheap stationery is not economy for it prejudices
the individual against the sender before the letter is ever opened.
Firms that cater to women of the better class follow out the current
styles in writing paper. The "proper" size and shape of sheet and
envelope immediately make a favorable impression. Various tints may
be used to good effect and, instead of a flaring lithographed
letterhead, the firm's monogram may be stamped in the upper
left-hand corner. The return card on the envelope should not be
printed on the face but on the reverse flap. Such a letter is
suggestive of social atmosphere; it is complimentary to the lady.
In beginning the letter it should strike at some vulnerable spot in
feminine nature--but it must be so skillfully expressed that the
motive is not apparent. If the line is anything that can be shown by
sample, manage to work into the very beginning of the letter the
fact that samples will be mailed free upon request. Women never tire
of looking at samples; they pull thousands of orders that could
never have been landed with printed descriptions or illustrations. A
most successful house selling suits and cloaks has proved
conclusively that nothing will catch the attention of a woman so
quickly as an offer of free samples or some reference to style and
economy in woman's dress. It urges upon its correspondents the
desirability of getting in this appeal in the very first sentence.
Letters from this house begin with some pointed reference: "Becoming
styles, we know, are what you want, together with quality and the
greatest economy." Or, "You know we guarantee you a perfect-fitting
suit, of the prettiest materials in the market--whatever you may
This letter has the personal signature of the sales manager:
I have been intending to write you ever since you sent for your
REPUBLIC Style Book, but I have been so busy in connection with our
new building as to hardly find time.
But you are no doubt now wondering just why, out of the many, many
thousand requests for the REPUBLIC Style Book, I should be so
particularly interested in yours. And so I am going to tell you
frankly my reason.
It is this: In your community there is only a very small number of
all the ladies who wear REPUBLIC Suits, and they ALL should wear
them--and WOULD wear them if they could but be made to know the real
beauty of our suits. I want to show them just how beautiful a
REPUBLIC Suit can be.
So I ask you, would you like to have made for you this season, the
most beautiful suit you ever had?
Would you like now, a suit more stylish, better fitting, more
becoming, better made--MORE PERFECT--than any other suit you have
If this interests you at all, then I am ready personally to see to
it for you.
A suit that is different from the ones worn by your acquaintances is
what I am now speaking of; not different because made of some
unusual material, or in some over-stylish design, but different
because BETTER. It is the difference of QUALITY, of genius in its
cutting, that I want your friends and neighbors to see and admire in
Now I am going to say to you very frankly that I have a reason for
wanting to make your suit attract the admiration of your friends. I
wish your suit to convince THEM that they, too, should have their
suits made by the REPUBLIC.
Would you care to have me tell you just how I propose to put this
unusual grace and style into your suit? First, everything depends
upon the LINES of a suit--if its lines are beautiful, the suit is
beautiful. Now we have at the REPUBLIC a chief designer, who is a
genius in putting the greatest beauty and grace into the lines of
We say he is a genius, because a man can be a genius in designing
just as a musician or any exceptionally skillful man may be said to
be a genius. And when a highly trained cutter and an expert tailor
make up one of this man's designs, the result is a suit that stands
apart from all others, by reason of the attractiveness there always
is in grace and style and beauty.
Such is the suit I offer to have made for you.
But there is to be no increased cost to you for this special
service. The price of every REPUBLIC Made-to-Measure Suit is plainly
stated under its description in our Style Book. That is all you'll
have to pay.
If you wish you can have a dressmaker take your measurements and we
will pay her for her trouble, as explained on the enclosed
Dressmaker's Certificate. Please read this certificate.
"Now, what am I to do?" you ask. Simply send your order to me
personally. Just say, "Make my suit as you agree in your letter."
Now if you wish other samples or information, write to me personally
and I will take care of it for you. But, the sooner you get yojir
order to me the better.
Please consider that we, at the REPUBLIC, will always be glad to be
of service to you. I, especially, will be pleased to have the
opportunity of making you a suit of which you can be proud and of
which we will be glad to have you say, "This is a REPUBLIC Suit."
Shall I hear from you soon?
Yours very respectfully,
[Signature: G. L. Lawrence]
* * * * *
This letter was sent out on very tasty tinted stationery. It was
written by someone who understood the subtle processes of the
feminine mind. In the first place the lady is flattered because the
sales manager himself writes to her and offers to give her order his
personal attention. Surely an opportunity to secure the very best
suit the house can turn out!
"It is the difference of _QUALITY_, of genius in its cutting, that I
want your friends and neighbors to see and admire in your suit." No
fulsome flattery here; it is so delicately introduced that it
appears entirely incidental, but the shaft strikes home. There is
just enough left unsaid to stir the imagination. The logic and the
matter-of-fact argument that would appeal to the man gives way to
suggestion and persuasion and the necessity for prompt action is
tactfully inserted at the proper place.
In another letter from the same house the prospect was impressed by
the great care used in making up garments:
"In order that your measurements may be taken exactly right, we send
you with this letter a 'Republic' Tape Measure. This is the same
kind that our cutters use and it is entirely accurate.
"We send this tape measure to you because we want to avoid the least
possibility of variation in your measurements. We want to make your
suit perfect, and we will personally see to every detail of its
* * * * *
No battery of arguments and proofs could make the same appeal to the
woman as the tape line sent in this way. The suggestion is more
powerful with a woman when skillfully handled than statements,
assertions and arguments. Compare the subtle appeal in the above to
the paragraphs taken from a letter sent out by a house that was
trying to enter the mail-order field:
"We want you to read our booklet carefully for it explains our
methods of doing business fully. We are very particular about
filling orders and know you will be pleased with any suit you may
buy from us.
"Our financial standing should convince you that if anything is not
right we will make it so. We guarantee satisfaction and solicit a
* * * * *
In the first place, the average woman would know nothing about the
financial standing of the house. It is evident that the man who
wrote the letter had been handling the correspondence with dealers
and firms that necessarily keep posted on the rating of
manufacturers. And the way the proposition is stated that "if
anything is not right we will make it so" suggests that possibly the
suit might not be satisfactory.
But while women are susceptible to flattery there is danger of
bungling, of making the effort so conscious that it is offensive.
"Your natural beauty will be enhanced by one of our suits for our
cutter understands how to set off a woman's form and features so she
is admired wherever she goes." The average woman is disgusted and
reads no further.
* * * * *
HOW DIFFERENT ARGUMENTS APPEAL TO WOMEN
Style _Foremost consideration_
Price _Secondary consideration_
Service _Minor importance_
* * * * *
Mere cleverness in expression will fall wide of the mark and
facetiousness should be strictly avoided. It is better to depend on
a very ordinary letter which will have little effect on the reader
one way or the other than to offend her by too obvious flattery or
an apparent attempt to make capital from a feminine weakness.
Arouse her curiosity--the curiosity of woman is proverbial, and a
general store at Nettleton, Mississippi, found a "Cousin Elsie"
letter, mailed at Atlanta, Georgia, to be the most effective
advertising it ever sent out, for it aroused the greatest curiosity
among the women of Nettleton. Here is a letter just as it was sent
out, the name of the recipient filled in on the typewriter:
My Dear Cousin:--
I know you will be surprised to get this letter. I spent such a
delightful Winter in California and wished so often that my dear
Nettleton kin could be with me.
On my return trip, I met the Wilson Piano Co's Manager. He told me
the Nettleton Supply Co. was giving away one of its $400.00 pianos
this year in advertising. I do hope that some of my ambitious
Cousins will get to work and get it. It will certainly be worth
Then what do you think? The first thing when I came to the office
this morning, I made an invoice of the Millinery that the Nettleton
Supply Co's buyer had bought of our house and I was certainly
surprised to know that such beautiful stuff is sold in a small town
like Nettleton. Our salesman said that this is one of the nicest
bills that he has sold this season.
I met the buyer and talked with her about all of you and promised to
attend the Spring opening. I know it will be one of the best the
house has had, as it will have so much pretty stuff to show.
I will have only a day or two and I want to ask you and all my
Cousins to meet me at this opening. I am anxious to see you and this
will be a good opportunity for us to meet. Don't fail to meet me.
I have lots of work to do and must bring this letter to a close.
With a heart full of love for all the dear old Nettleton folks and
an extra lot for you, from,
P.S.--Don't fail to come to the opening. I will be there if
possible. Miss Smiley will let you know when to come. Buy a pair of
Peters' shoes this Spring; you will never regret it.
* * * * *
Such letters could not be used very often but occasionally they are
immensely effective. "Mrs. Elliott's troubles and how they were
cured" have become famous in some parts of the country. Written in
long hand, they bore every resemblance to a social letter from a
lady to some old neighbor and told how many of her housekeeping
troubles had been ended by using a certain kind of furniture polish.
The letters were written in such a chatty style that they were read
through and passed around to other members of the family.
I know you will be surprised to hear from me and I may as well
confess that I am not altogether disinterested in writing you at
this time but I am glad to say that the duty imposed upon me is a
pleasure as well.
You know some time ago after I had painted my floors, I wrote the
company whose paint I used and they put my experiences in the form
of a little booklet entitled "Mrs. Elliot's Troubles."
* * * * *
_This is the first page of a facsimile hand-written letter that
proved highly successful as it appealed to feminine curiosity and
insured careful reading_
* * * * *
The appeal to women must hover around her love of style and her
desire for economy. Bring in either subject deftly at the beginning
of a letter and she will be an interested reader of all the sales
talk that follows.
Several mail-order houses have trained women to handle this part of
their correspondence for they are more apt in the use of feminine
expressions. Let a man try to describe some article as "perfectly
splendid," or "really sweet" and he will stumble over it before he
gets to the end of the sentence. Yet when these same hackneyed
phrases are brought in naturally by a woman who "feels just that
way" about the garment she is describing, they will take hold of the
reader in a way that is beyond the understanding of the masculine
In the appeal to women there is more in this tinge of off-hand
refinement, the atmosphere, the enthusiasm shown and in the little
personal touches, than in formidable arguments and logical reasons.
What is triviality to a man is frequently the clinching statement
with a woman. And so a fixed set of rules can not be formulated for
writing letters to women. Instead of a hard and fast rule, the
correspondent must have in mind the ideas and the features that
naturally appeal to the feminine mind and use them judiciously.
This mail is bringing to you a copy of our new catalogue, describing
our complete line of Hawkeye Kitchen Cabinets.
The catalogue will tell you how you can do your kitchen work in half
the usual time.
It will tell you how to save your strength, time, and energy--how to
relieve yourself of the burden of kitchen drudgery.
Aren't these things worth looking into?
Just try counting the unnecessary steps you take in preparing your
next meal. Calculate the time you lose in looking for articles that
should be at your fingers' ends but are not.
Imagine, if you can, what it would save you if you could do away
with your pantry, kitchen table, and cupboard and get all the
articles needed in the preparation of a meal in one complete
well-ordered piece of furniture that could be placed between the
range and sink, so you could reach almost from one to the other.
Think of the steps it would save you.
Imagine a piece of furniture containing special places for
everything--from the egg beater to the largest kitchen utensil--a
piece of furniture that would arrange your provisions and utensils
in such a systematic way that you could (in the dark) find almost
anything you wanted.
If you can draw in your mind a picture of such a piece of furniture,
you will have some idea of what a Buckeye Kitchen Cabinet is like.
How, don't you want one of these automatic servants? Don't you think
you need it?
If so, send for one NOW. Don't put it off a single day. You have
been without it too long already.
It doesn't cost much to get a Hawkeye. If you don't care to pay
cash, you can buy on such easy payments that you will never miss
the money--only five cents a day for a few months. You would think
nothing of paying five cents a day street-car fare to keep from
walking a few blocks in the pure air and sunshine, yet you are
walking miles in your kitchen when one streetcar fare a day for a
few months would do away with it.
Send your order right along and use the Cabinet thirty days. If it
doesn't do what we say it will, or if you do not consider that it is
more than worth the money, send it back at our expense and we will
refund whatever you have paid. That's fair, isn't it?
We pay freight on all-cash orders
[Signature: Adams & Adams]
* * * * *
_This letter is written in an easy, natural style, which is aided by
the short paragraphs. The appeal to the imagination is skillful, and
the homely illustration of the car-fare well chosen. The closing is
in keeping with the general quality of the letter and was
undoubtedly effective. This letter is a longer one than the man
would read about a kitchen cabinet, but there are not too many
details for women readers_
* * * * *
All women, for instance, are influenced by what other women do, and
there is no other touch more productive of sales than the reference
to what some other customer has ordered, or what comments she has
made. Both in educational campaigns and in writing to regular
customers on some specific proposition it is a good policy to work
in some reference to a recent sale:
"One of our very good customers from your neighborhood writes us
that her new suit (Style 3587) has caused her more perfectly
delightful compliments than she ever had before."
* * * * *
Such testimonials are to be found in every mail-order house that has
attained even a moderate success, for women who are pleased are
given to writing letters profuse in their expressions of
At times it is desirable to quote a whole letter, withholding, of
course, the name of the writer. The most convincing letters to use
are those that tell about first orders, or how some friend induced
the writer to send in a trial order, or how she came to be a
customer of the mail-order house. These personalities add a touch of
human interest, they create an atmosphere that is real, they mean
much to a woman.
Quoted letters are especially effective in getting a first order
after a woman has become sufficiently interested to write in for a
catalogue. Here is one lifted from a letter sent out by the general
manager of a suit house:
Dear Mr. Wardwell:
You ask me to tell you how I came to send you my first order.
I think I had written for your Style Book three seasons. Each time I
found many garments I liked. I found waists and dresses and skirts
that were much prettier than the ones I could get elsewhere. And
yet, some way or other, while I longed for these very garments, I
did not order them. I think it was simply because I never had
ordered by mail.
One day when looking through your Style Book the thought came to me:
"If you want this dress, why don't you stop hesitating and wondering
and sit down right now and order it?"
And I did--and ever since I have bought my suits, dresses, waists,
almost everything, from you.
* * * * *
Testimonial letters from prominent women, wives of distinguished
men and others whose names are widely known, are always
effective. A number of years ago Mrs. Frances Cleveland, wife of
the ex-president, wrote to a furniture factory for a cedar chest.
The order was in Mrs. Cleveland's own handwriting and the letter
was at once photographed and a facsimile enclosed with all the
letters and advertising matter sent out by the furniture house.
Such things have an influence on the feminine mind that the
skilled correspondent never overlooks.
The reason that so many letters fail to pull is because the
correspondents are not salesmen; they are unable to put actual
selling talk into a letter. For after you have aroused a woman's
curiosity and appealed to her love of style and her desire to
economize, there has got to be some genuine, strong selling talk to
get the order.
The difference is brought out by a large Chicago mail-order house
which cites the customer who inquired about a certain ready made
skirt in a 34-inch length which could not be supplied as the regular
measurements run from 37 to 43. A correspondent thinking only of the
number of letters that can be answered in a day simply wrote, "We
are very sorry we cannot supply the skirt you mention in the length
you desire, because this garment is not made regularly in shorter
lengths than 37 inches. Regretting our inability to serve you," and
The letter inspector threw out the letter and dictated another:
"We cannot furnish skirt, catalogue number H4982, in a 34-inch
length, but we can supply it in a 37-inch length; this is the
shortest length in which it is regularly made. You can have it
altered to a 34-inch length at a small expense, and as the skirt is
an unusually pretty style and of exceptionally good value, the price
being only $7.65, we trust you will favor us with your order."
* * * * *
This is letter-writing plus salesmanship. The correspondent did not
spill over in his eagerness to get the order; he did not describe
the skirt as the finest to be had nor insist that it was the most
wonderful bargain in the catalogue. Rather he told her it was an
"unusually pretty style and of exceptionally good value." It was so
simply told and so naturally that it carried conviction. It refers
to style and to economy--two things that appeal to every woman.
Letters personally signed by the "Expert Corsetiere" of a large
wholesale house were mailed to a selected list of lady customers in
cities where the Diana corsets were handled:
Here's an incident that proves how important corsets are in wearing
the new straight, hipless gowns.
Mrs. Thompson, who is stouter than the new styles require, tried on
a princess gown in a department store. The gown itself was
beautiful, but it was most unbecoming and did not fit at all, tho it
was the right size for her.
Mrs. Thompson was about to give up in despair saying, "I can't wear
the new styles"--when a saleswoman suggested that she be fitted with
a Diana Corset in the model made for stout figures.
The result was that the princess gown took the lines of the corset
and fitted Mrs. Thompson perfectly. In fact the original lines of
the gown were brought out to better advantage.
This only goes to prove that with a good corset any gown will drape
right and take the lines of the corset.
You'll find it easy to wear the new long straight style gowns if you
wear a Diana corset in the model made for your style of figure.
The Dianas are made after the same models as the most expensive
French corsets costing $10 to $25. Yet $1 to $5 buys a Diana.
The Diana is not heavy and uncomfortable as so many of the new
corsets are this year. The fabrics from which they are made are
light and comfortable. At the same time, so closely meshed and
firmly woven that with reasonable wear every Diana corset is
guaranteed to keep its good shape and style or you will receive a
new corset without charge.
The Diana dealer, whose card is enclosed, invites you to call and
see these new corsets.
Will you go in to see the Diana today?
Very truly yours,
[Signature: Grace La Fountain]
* * * * *
The letter is in a chatty style that assures its being read. It does
not say, "We have just the corset for you stout women"--but that is
what it means. It interests and appeals especially to the stout
women without reminding them offensively that they are too heavy to
wear the styles in vogue.
The National Cloak Company has studied the methods that take firm
hold on the women and finds it necessary to bear down heavily on the
guarantee of satisfaction. Many women are inclined to be skeptical
and hesitate long before sending money to an unknown house. So the
National uses a guarantee tag insuring customers against
dissatisfaction, sending these tags out with the goods. It assures
the return of money if the order is not all right in every way and
further agrees to pay all the express charges. Free reference is
made to this tag in the company's letters and it gives a certain
concreteness to the guarantee feature. This tag makes its own
argument, proves its own case.
Business men generally take it for granted that satisfaction goes
with the goods; their experience enables them to size up a
proposition quickly and if there is any flaw in the advertisements
or the company's methods, they pass it by. But women, not so
familiar with business affairs, must be approached from a different
angle. Little points must be explained and guarantees must be
strongly emphasized. The formal letter which appeals to a man by
going straight to the point would, by its very conciseness, offend
the vanity of a woman.
The successful correspondent never overlooks the susceptibility of a
woman to flattery--but it must be the suggestion of flattery, the
implied compliment, rather than the too obvious compliment.
"The handsomest gown money will buy can't make you look well unless
your corset is the correct shape."
* * * * *
This is the opening sentence in a letter advertising a particular
corset. The lady is gracefully complimented by the intimation that
she wears handsome gowns, yet there is not the slightest suggestion
that the reference was dragged in as a part of the selling scheme.
Instead of insinuating that she must buy cheaply, let it be hinted
that she is actuated by the very laudable motive of economy. "You
would scarcely believe that such delicious coffee could be sold at
20 cents--unless you happen to know that the flavor of coffee
depends largely upon the blending." Here the low price is emphasized
but there is no hint of forced economy; rather it suggests that the
best quality can be obtained without paying a high price.
"You can offer your most particular guest a cup of Regal coffee and
know she has never tasted a more delicious flavor and fragrance."
* * * * *
This is the beginning of a letter that successfully introduced a new
coffee. Here is a tactful compliment--the taking for granted that
the recipient entertains guests of some importance--guests who are
particular and will notice her coffee. There are few things that the
average woman is more concerned about than that her guests will be
pleased with her refreshments. The suggestion that she herself would
enjoy or even that her family would enjoy this coffee does not make
such direct appeal to a woman as this assurance that it will please
her particular guests.
The house that uses the same kind of letter on men and women will
never score such big results as the firm that understands the
different processes of thinking and the different methods of making
the appeal. With the man it is reason, logic, argument; with the
woman it is suggestion, flattery, persuasion. The correspondent who
aims to establish a large mail-order trade with women must study
their whims, their prejudices, their weaknesses and their
characteristics before he can make an appeal that brings in the
orders and makes permanent customers of trial buyers.
It is the little things--this subtle insight into feminine nature
that marks the successful selling letter to the woman. They are not
things that can be set down and numbered in a text book; they are
qualities of mind that must be understood and delicately handled.
Rightly used they are more powerful than irrefutable arguments and
How To Write Letters That
_Appeal_ to MEN
PART VI--THE APPEAL TO DIFFERENT CLASSES--CHAPTER 23
_ONE-HALF of the form letters sent out to men are thrown away
unread. A bare_ ONE-THIRD _are partly read before discarded, while
only_ ONE-SIXTH _of them--approximately 15 per cent--are read
through. The reason why such a large proportion is ineffective is
this: the letter-writer, through ignorance or carelessness, does not
strike the notes that appeal to every man. Here are some of the
subtle ways by which correspondents have forced the attention of_
MEN _by appealing to traits distinctly masculine_
* * * * *
If you received a dozen letters in your mail this morning it is
probable that there were just twelve different angles to the appeals
that were made. For most correspondents are not thinking about the
man they are writing to but are concerned solely with thoughts about
the propositions they have in hand--and that is why the great bulk
of the letters that are opened in the morning pause at the desk only
momentarily before continuing their way to the furnace room. It is
the exceptional correspondent who stops to analyze his letters,
looking at them from every viewpoint, and then tests out his
conclusions, trying one appeal after another until he evolves
certain principles that pull letter writing out of the class of
uncertainties and enable him to depend upon definite returns.
For there are appeals that are practically universal. Appeal to a
man's ambition and you have his interest: larger income, better
position, some honor or recognition--touch these and no matter how
busy, he will find time to read your message.
You've got to have more money.
Your salary, without income, is not enough. The man who depends upon
_salary alone_ to make him rich--well-to-do--or even comfortable, is
making the mistake of his life. For the minute you stop working, the
money stops coming in. Lose a day and you lose a day's pay--while
expenses go right on.
Don't you think it's time you got Nature to work for you? A dollar
put into a peach orchard will work for you days, nights and Sundays.
It never stops to sleep or eat but keeps on growing--growing-- _from
the very minute you put your money in_.
Think of the difference between a dollar invested with us and
increasing and yielding day by day and the dollar which you use to
purchase a few moments idle diversion or pleasure. The latter is
lost forever--the dollar put to earning with us earns forever.
* * * * *
"More money." That appeal strikes home. One glance at the letter and
a man is interested. He may not have money to invest but the other
letters will remain unopened until he finds out whether there is not
some plan or scheme that will actually mean more money to him.
The correspondence schools recognized the force of this appeal and
developed it so systematically that it might be called the standard
correspondence school argument.
Here is one of the best pulling arguments:
Pay-day--what does it mean to you?
Does your money "go 'round?" Or does it fail to stop all the gaps
made by last week's or month's bills?
Last week--according to actual, certified reports on file in our
office--A. B. C. men got their salary raised as a direct result of
becoming more proficient from studying A. B. C. courses.
Don't you think it's time that salary raise was coming _your way_?
* * * * *
The same product--a correspondence course--may use the line of
appeal peculiarly appropriate to men--that of responsibility. Such a
letter leads out:
If your expenses were doubled tomorrow could you meet them--without
running heavily in debt?
If you had to have more money on which to live--to support those
dependent upon you--could you make it?
You could if you had the training afforded by our course; it has
doubled other men's salaries, it can do the same for you.
* * * * *
Next to the appeal to ambition in strength is this appeal to
responsibility. This is the burden of the arguments used by
insurance companies, savings banks and various investment companies.
An insurance company marketing a particularly strong investment
policy, and which follows the plan of writing to the prospect direct
from the home office, finds that such a letter as this pulls:
Our Agent, Mr. Blank, no doubt has presented to you a majority of
the many advantages of a ---- policy in the ----. But we want you to
have in writing, and signed by an officer of the company, what we
regard as _the_ main reason you should be with us.
No civilized man can evade responsibility. Should anything happen to
you, you are responsible for that loss--to your business--your
family--your friends. Is your responsibility great enough--without
the protection of the Regal Company--to "make good" your own loss?
* * * * *
But the kind of appeal to make is only one phase of the problem. Of
equal importance is the manner of making that appeal.
On first glance it would be thought that the products which appeal
specifically and exclusively to men would be marketed by talking
points which have specifically and exclusively the masculine appeal.
But such is not the case. Men's clothes, as an instance, are
marketed on the talking points, "need for suitable dress,"
"quality," "style," and similar arguments. These arguments are not
the ones appealing merely to men; women are just as much interested
in need of suitable dress and the quality and style of the garment
worn as are the members of the opposite sex. But the general talking
point may be extended, or rather restricted, so as to make an appeal
to men along the lines of their exclusive experience:
Clothes are the outward index of the inner man.
The business man who dresses so as to show his inherent neatness and
orderliness has just that much advantage over his less careful
The employee who meets the responsibilities and niceties of good
business dress shows to his sharp-eyed employer that he is a man who
is liable to meet the niceties and responsibilities of a better
More than once has both business and advancement hinged on
appearance. And good appearance never handicaps--never holds a man
* * * * *
HOW DIFFERENT ARGUMENTS APPEAL TO MEN
* * * * *
This presentation is good "man copy" for it is based on that
universal attribute--the desire to "get on" in business and as an
employee. This letter has the right kind of appeal, rightly
presented. Compare that letter with the one sent out by a tailor to
the professional men of his city:
I hope you will excuse the liberty I am taking in addressing you
personally, but as it is on a matter that affects you very much and
also your profession, I hope you will overlook the familiarity.
As a physician you realize the importance of having good clothes and
also of having them kept in good order, both from a social as well
as a professional standpoint.
Being situated in your immediate neighborhood and having my store
open a greater part of the day, I am sure the proximity will be a
great convenience to you.
I have had twenty-seven years' experience in making clothes and
cleaning, pressing and repairing them. I do not think you need
question my ability to do your work satisfactorily as I have made
clothes for some of the most fastidious and aristocratic people in
Sixteen years in London, England, making clothes for Lords, Dukes
and other titled people should entitle me to your consideration.
Perhaps you may have some lady friends who need garments remodelled,
cleaned, pressed or repaired, who would be glad to know of my shop.
I assure you I will attend to all orders promptly and do your work
as you want it.
Yours very truly.
[Signature: M. B. Andrews]
* * * * *
_This letter begins with an apology and there is no inducement to
patronize the tailor except his unbacked assertion that he made
clothes for "titled people" for sixteen years_
* * * * *
He starts out with an apology and his sentences are involved. His
boast about the work he has done for titled nobility abroad
indicates that he is a snob--the whole letter lacks conviction.
Sometimes a man-to-man appeal may have the heart interest that
strikes a responsive chord.
Dear Mr. Smith:
[Sidenote: A statement that every man agrees with. Good
An extra pair of dressy, well-made trousers is something every man
can use--no matter how many suits he has. Here is an opportunity to
get a pair at exceedingly moderate cost.
[Sidenote: Effective method of dealing with a real bargain.]
You know how we make trousers--what substantial, well-selected
patterns we carry; how carefully we cut, so as to get perfect fit in
the crotch and around the waist; how we whip in a piece of silk
around the upper edge of the waist; put in a strip to protect
against wear at the front and back of the leg at the bottom; and sew
on buttons so that they won't pull off.
[Sidenote: Sending of samples greatly increases power of letter.]
Our season is winding up with a lot of patterns on hand containing
just enough for one pair or two pairs of "Burnham-made" trousers.
See the enclosed sample. There's a good variety in dark patterns and
a few light patterns, not a one sold regularly at less than $6.50
and some sold as high as $7.50.
[Sidenote: This consideration for the old customer is sure to have a
These remnants won't go into the windows until Saturday morning. We
are notifying you, as a regular customer, that as long as these
remnants last you can get a pair of trousers from any piece for
$5.50, or two pairs at the same time from the same measure for
$10--workmanship just the same as if you paid the regular price.
[Sidenote: The last half of the closing sentence has much subtle
This is a REAL bargain, and we hope to see you before the best of
the patterns are picked out.
THE BURNHAM COMPANY
* * * * *
_Here is a letter sent out by a rival tailor. It grips attention
in the first sentence and carries conviction. It prompts immediate
action and every sentence carries an appeal. Unlike the preceding
letter, it does not talk about the writer but about the goods he has
for sale--the bargains he offers_
* * * * *
The manager and owner of a business which was in immediate need of
money had tried out different sales letters with but fair success.
His product sold to men; it would stand up under trial; the
difficulty lay entirely in awakening interest in a highly
As there seemed scarcely a chance that the business might be made
to live, the manager decided to take the public into his
confidence--partly, perhaps, as extenuation for the failure he saw
ahead. So he led out with a sales letter beginning with this appeal:
Suppose you had put every cent of money--every bit of your wide
experience--every ounce of energy--into a business wouldn't you
want to see it go--live?
And if you _knew_--positively _knew_--that you had the test product
of its kind in the world--wouldn't it spur you to still greater
efforts--if you knew that there was danger of failure simply because
the public was not prompt enough in responding?
You, like hundreds and thousands of others, have had it in mind to
buy of me _sometime_. It is vital to the life of my business that
you make that _sometime_ NOW!
* * * * *
The pulling power of this letter was phenomenal; not only did
thirty-five per cent of the list order, but twelve per cent in
addition answered, stating that their orders could be depended upon
later. In addition, there were scattering letters of encouragement
and comment, making the total result a marker in the era of
solicitation by mail.
What made this particular letter pull, when dozens of other letters,
written by the same man to the same list on the same proposition,
had attained only mediocre results?
The last letter made a distinctive appeal--to men--and particularly
to men in business. For, since the time of "playing store," every
man has met, in its many varied guises, the wolf of Failure--and
once a fellow business man is in the same plight, the man who loves
fairness will do his part to help out.
That these talking points that appeal to men are efficient is proved
by such cases as just cited; once the man-to-man appeal is actually
brought out, the response is immediate.
While such appeals occasionally make a ten-strike, the average
correspondent must rely upon logic and "reasons why" in making his
appeal to men.
The ability to reason from cause to effect, omitting none of the
intermediate or connecting steps, has long been held to be a
substantial part of the masculine mind. Orators have found that
logic--conviction--may have little or no effect on a feminine
audience and yet prove the surest means of convincing an audience of
men. School teachers early note that the feminine portion of the
school lean towards grammar--which is imitative and illogical--while
the boys are generally best in mathematics, which is a hard and fast
Similarly in business, the average man is used to "working with his
pencil," and will follow a logical demonstration to the close, where
a woman would not give it a passing glance.
One of the latest selling campaigns, marketing town lots in various
new towns between St. Paul and the Pacific Coast, appeals to the
logical note in the masculine mind, and grants a concession in a
follow-up, even before it is asked for. This makes a particularly
strong appeal to the man who has begun to think about the
proposition and who senses that, somehow, it is not quite logical.
We have a letter from a man who, like you, read our advertisement
and sent for more information, including a copy of our contract, and
he wrote as follows:
"I don't like the forfeiture clause in your contract. Under it, if a
man paid you $950, and then lost his job and couldn't pay any more,
you would have the right to gobble up all of his money and keep the
lots too. You wouldn't dare to make a contract with me under which
as soon as I had paid you $300 you would deed to me the first lot
mentioned in my contract--the lot at -----,--and then with each $100
paid in on the contract, deed me the next lot named in my contract.
If you would do this, I would take your contract in a minute,
because I would have some land for my money I paid in, if I had to
quit before I paid you the full $1,000."
We took this man at his word, and have since thought that possibly
there were others who regarded our contract as being too severe.
If this was the reason that you did not invest with us, we ask you
to examine the enclosed proof sheet, from the printer, of our new
contract, and write us not only if it suits you, but if you can
think of any other way to make it any more fair and equitable.
* * * * *
The illustration given is particularly good because it is
anticipatory--nips an objection that may be just forming in the mind
of the prospect.
We sent you a sample of our Royal Mixture tobacco in response to
your request some time ago. We are anxious to know what you think
This is the best tobacco on the market today at the price, and as we
know you would not have asked for a free sample unless you intended
to buy more if you liked the sample, we hope to receive your order
by return mail.
[Signature: Morton and Morton]
* * * * *
_A flat, insipid letter entirely without order-pulling force. The
attempt to, twist the request for a free sample into an obligation
to place an order strokes a man's intentions the wrong way_
* * * * *
Well, how did you find the tobacco?
I'm anxious to learn your opinion of Boyal Mixture, now that you've
burned a bit of it in your pipe.
I believe in this tobacco, and back it up with a guarantee that
removes all risk so far as the customer is concerned. I refund money
without argument if you are not satisfied.
Royal Mixture is not intended for smokers who are satisfied with any
old stuff that will burn and give off smoke. It is used by people
who want nothing but the best and know it when they get it. It's the
perfection of pipe tobacco.
Men who smoke my Mixture for a month can't come down to common
mixtures again. It spoils the taste for cheap tobacco. Smoke a dozen
pipes of it and you'll wonder how you ever got any comfort out of
ordinary smoking tobacco.
Royal Mixture is skillfully blended from clean, ripe leaves of the
very best tobacco grown. It is neither too strong nor too mild--it
is precisely what a knowing pipe smoker likes: fragrant, satisfying,
delightful to nerves, nostrils and palate.
There's a glorious, natural aroma about Royal Mixture which appeals
to a gentleman's nostrils most favorably. Particular pipe smokers
praise it in the highest terms, and prove the sincerity of their
praise by ordering it from month to month.
Shall I number you among the "regulars?" Remember, you can't buy
Royal Mixture from the retail shops. It goes direct from packer to
purchaser and reaches you in perfect condition.
The cost is so small, and as you take not a particle of risk but can
secure full refund of money if dissatisfied, why hesitate to order?
The responsibility is entirely upon me.
Every day you delay ordering means a distinct loss to you of greater
pipe pleasure than you have ever experienced.
Won't you sit down now, while the matter is right before you, fill
enclosed blank and mail me your order TODAY--THIS MINUTE?
Yours very truly,
[Signature: L. W. Hamilton]
* * * * *
_Here is the letter rewritten, explaining why this tobacco is
superior. The appeal is cleverly worded to flatter the recipient
into believing he is one of those who know and demand something a
little better than common. The cost is kept in the background by the
guarantee of satisfaction and the clincher prompts immediate action_
* * * * *
Appeals to men can be peppered with technical description and still
interest and get results. The sales manager of a house selling
cameras by mail says, in speaking of this principle:
"We found it necessary to use an entirely different series of
letters in selling our cameras to men and to women. Generally
speaking, men are interested in technical descriptions of the parts
of the camera; women look at a camera from the esthetic side--as a
means to an end.
"In writing a sales letter to a man, I take up, for instance, the
lens. This I describe in semi-technical terms, stating why this
particular lens or combination of lenses will do the best work. Then
follows a description of the shutter--and so on through the
principal parts until, if the prospect be seriously interested, I
have demonstrated, first, that the camera will do the best work,
and, second, that it is good value for the money.
"In writing a letter, under the same conditions, to a woman, I put
all technical description in an enclosure or accompanying folder and
write a personal note playing up the fact that in after years it
will be very pleasant to have pictures of self, family, baby, and
"These two appeals are the opposite poles of selling--the one logic
and conviction, the other sentiment and persuasion."
Logic and conviction, in fact, are the keynotes to selling men by
mail. Men fear being "worked." On those occasions when they have
been "worked," it has generally been through sentiment--through the
arts of persuasion rather than a clearly-demonstrated conviction
that the proposition was right. As a consequence, persuasion alone,
without a mass of figures and solid arguments, does not convince a
A land company uses a novel method of conviction along this line,
aiming to get the prospect to furnish his own figures. The idea is,
that these figures, prepared by the prospect himself, and the
accuracy of which he himself vouches, will work conviction.
The letter reads in part:
Suppose, ten years ago, you had paid down, say $10 on a piece of
Then from time to time you had paid in say $10 per month on the same
land. Had you been able to buy then as you can buy from us now, your
land would have been secured to you on your first payment.
Now figure out what you would have paid in at $10 per month in ten
years. Now, remembering that well-selected land doubles in value
once, at least, every five years, what would you be worth now, from
your $10-a-month investment?
* * * * *
The letter proved the best puller of a series of try-outs sent to
professional men and men on salaries.
Every man has, as a by-product of his every-day experience, certain
more or less clearly defined impressions. With some men these are
still in a sort of hazy formation; with others these vague ideas are
almost a cult. The letter-writer who can tap one of these lines of
thought gets results in a flash. Such letter takes a basis of facts
common to most men, blends them in the letter written, so as to form
fixedly from the _prospect's own ideas and experiences_, a firm
conviction that what the writer is saying is absolute truth. A
single sentence that does not ring true to a man's experience is an
obstacle over which the message will not carry.
A company selling land in the west, sent out a five-page letter--
enough to smother whatever interest might have been attracted by the
advertisement. Here is the third paragraph from the letter:
"As you were attracted by this investment opportunity after reading
the straight facts regarding it, I have come to believe in your
judgment as a careful and prudent person who recognizes the value of
a good, permanent, promising investment."
* * * * *
That's enough! It is barely possible that the first few paragraphs
might arouse the reader's interest enough to glance through the five
pages, but this crude attempt to flatter him is such palpable "bunk"
that he is convinced there is not the sincerity back of the letter
to make it worth his while--and five pages more are headed for the
The "man appeal" is one that draws strongly from man experience.
Ambition, responsibility, logical arguments, reasons why--these are
the things that the correspondent keeps constantly before him. They
all have root in experiences, habits of thought and customs which
distinguish men; they are more exclusively masculine attributes that
play an important part in the make-up of letters that rivet the
attention of busy business men.
How To Write Letters That
_Appeal_ to FARMERS
PART VI--THE APPEAL TO DIFFERENT CLASSES--CHAPTER 24
_The farmer is a producer of necessities, hence he is a shrewd judge
of what necessities are. More, he has always in mind a list of
necessities that he intends to purchase--when he "can afford it."
For this reason the letter that sells goods to him must either
stimulate him to an immediate purchase of an article on his "want
list," or to displace a necessity that is already there with
something_ MORE _necessary. So the letter that sells goods to him
must appeal to his needs--and give him detailed specifications to
* * * * *
"Does it appeal to the farmer's need," is the overhead question
which is back of all advertising directed at the man living on a
farm. It is not necessary to go into proofs; the reasons are
"All other things being equal," says the chief correspondent for one
of the big mail-order houses, "the surest sale is the item that the
farmer patron feels he must have. Even after making money enough to
be classed well-to-do, the farmer persists in his acquired mental
habit--he tests every 'offer' put up to him by his need for it--or
rather whether he can get along without it. This predisposition on
the part of the audience to which the letter is addressed is to be
borne in mind constantly--that the farmer thinks in terms of
So the mail-order firm shapes its appeal to the farmer, emphasizing
the need of the merchandise it is offering, and at the same time it
bears down heavily on the advantages of buying direct.
And while the easiest way to reach the farmer's purse is by
appealing to his needs--the practical value of the article or goods
advertised--the correspondent must keep constantly in mind the
particular manner in which the appeal can best be made. The brief,
concise statement that wins the approval of the busy business man
would slide off the farmer's mind without arousing the slightest
interest. The farmer has more time to think over a proposition--as
he milks or hitches up, as he plows or drives to town, there is
opportunity to turn a plan over and over in his mind. Give him
plenty to think about.
The farmer's mail is not so heavy but what he has time to read a
long letter if it interests him, and so the successful correspondent
fills two or three pages, sometimes five or six, and gives the
recipient arguments and reasons to ponder over during his long hours
in the field. One of the most successful men in the mail-order
business sometimes sends out a seven-page letter, filled with
talking points. "It will save you money"--"I want you to compare the
Challenge with other machines"--"Shafting of high carbon
steel"--"Gearings set in phosphorus bronze bushings"--"Thirty days'
free trial"--"Try it with your money in your own pocket"--"$25,000
guaranty bond"--point after point like these are brought out and
frequently repeated for emphasis.
The head of the English department in the university would be pained
at the lack of literary quality, but it is a farmer's letter and it
follows the grooves of the brain in the man who is going to read its
seven pages. And after all, the writer is not conducting a
correspondence course in rhetoric; he is selling implements and is
not going to chance losing an order because his proposition is not
made perfectly clear--because it shoots over the head of the reader.
And the correspondent not only tries to make his proposition clear
but he tries to get up close to the recipient in a friendly way. The
farmer is awed by formalities and so the writer who really appeals
to him talks about "You and Me." "You do that and I will do this--
then we will both be satisfied." One successful letter-salesman
seldom fails to ask some direct question about the weather, the
crops, the general outlook, but he knows how to put it so that it
does not sound perfunctory and frequently the farmer will reply to
this question without even referring to the goods that the house had
written about. Never mind! This letter is answered as promptly and
carefully as if it had been an inquiry forecasting a large order.
* * * * *
HOW DIFFERENT ARGUMENTS APPEAL TO FARMERS
* * * * *
Such attention helps to win the confidence of the farmer and the
knowing correspondent never loses sight of the fact that the farmer
is, from bitter experience, suspicious especially of propositions
emanating from concerns that are new to him. After one or two
satisfactory dealings with a house he places absolute faith in it
but every legitimate mail-order concern is handicapped by the fact
that unscrupulous firms are continually lying in wait for the
unwary: the man with the county rights for a patent churn and his
brother who leaves a fanning mill with a farmer to demonstrate and
takes a receipt which turns up at the bank as a promissory note are
teaching the farmers to be guarded. Many of them can spot a gold
brick scheme as soon as it is presented. Therefore the correspondent
has to keep before him the fact that the farmer is always wary; his
letters must be so worded that no obscure phrase will arouse
suspicion; no proposition will admit of two interpretations.
So the guarantee and the free trial offer are essential features in
letters that sell the farmer. In hundreds of letters from
manufacturers of goods that are sold by mail to the farmer, nearly
every one throws into prominence the guarantee and the free trial
offer with money refunded if the purchase does not prove
A manufacturer of farm implements puts this guarantee into the first
Such a letter carries conviction; you are impressed by the fact that
40,000 farmers consider this spreader the best; the offer of
comparison and demonstration seems conclusive that a comparison is
not necessary; you feel that the man who bought a different kind of
spreader must have acted hastily without investigating the merits of
this particular machine.
The farmer is usually open to conviction but he has to be "shown."
After he has had successful dealings with a house for several years
he readily accepts its assurance that something is just as good at a
less price than what he would buy of a retailer, but he can most
easily be won over by strong "why" copy. An educational campaign is
almost always necessary for the farmer who has never bought goods by
mail; to pull him out of the rut of established custom it is
necessary to present facts and figures to convince him that the
direct-to-the-consumer method is to his advantage.
To get this to the eye and mind in a striking way is the first
A Cincinnati firm selling buggies uses a comparative table at the
bottom of the first sheet of the first follow-up, as follows:
* * * * *
COST OF RETAIL PLAN COST OF OUR PLAN
Actual factory cost of buggy.. $43.00 Factory cost..... $43.00
Factory selling expense....... 4.00 Selling expense.. 4.00
Salesmen's expense............ 4.50 Our profit....... 6.75
Factory profit................ 7.00 OUR SELLING -----
Retailer's selling expense.... 5.00 PRICE............ $53.75
Retailer's profit............. 15.00
DEALER'S SELLING PRICE $78.50
* * * * *
This makes the prospect stop and think if not stop and figure.
Another carriage manufacturing company uses a somewhat similar
method of comparison but introduces it at a different point. Between
the first and second pages of a three-page follow-up, a sheet in
facsimile handwriting is introduced forming a marked comparison,
mechanically, to the typewriting preceding and following it:
* * * * * *
Problems of Dollars and Cents saving easily solved.
Retail Dealer's plan of figuring selling price.
Actual factory cost of buggy.................... $46.25
Expense and salary, traveling salesman, about 10% 4.50
Jobber's profit--at least 15% .................. 7.00
Retail dealer's profit (figured very low)....... 20.00
Losses from bad debts........................... 2.50
RETAIL DEALER'S SELLING PRICE................... $80.25
My Plan of Figuring Selling Price.
Actual factory cost of buggy.................... $46.25
Expense and salary of traveling salesman........ nothing
Jobber's profit................................. nothing
Retail dealer's profit.......................... nothing
Losses from bad debts........................... nothing
My _one small gross_ profit................ 8.50
MY SELLING PRICE................................ $54.75
* * * * *
This "saving sheet" can not fail to attract greater attention by
means of its form and place of introduction than though it were
typewritten and in regular order.
Right-out-from-the-shoulder arguments and facts may also be used to
good advantage in handling competition. What the farmer wants is to
know whether the other goods are as represented; whether the
proposition has any holes in it. If the seller can give him facts
that prove his product better than others, honestly and fairly, it
does not boost the competitor but helps to sell his own goods.
A cream separator manufacturer claiming a simple machine now
presents in his catalogue illustrations of the parts of other
machines used in the actual separation of the cream from the milk.
This comparison shows that his machine has fewer parts and
consequently will stay in repair longer and clean easier--two
important talking points.
Where a competing firm enters the field with a cheap quality of
goods that would react against the trade, it is sometimes policy to
put the facts before the prospective buyers.
This was done by a Winnipeg manufacturer of metal culverts after the
"Last May a firm manufacturing metal goods attempted to enter the
culvert field in Western Canada. We sent out a letter to every
Councilor in Manitoba and Saskatchewan showing the weakness of its
culverts. It looks as though our letter settled all chance of
selling the kind of culvert it was making, for it immediately quit
the campaign for business. We do not think a single culvert was
"The same company is again making an effort to enter the field, and
we would be pleased to see it get a nice business If it sold a good
culvert, but as long as it sells anything like the one now
advertised we shall most vigorously oppose it beoause we are certain
the culverts will not give satisfaction, and that will mean
purchasers will be very much disappointed, and will have a tendency,
as a result, to be opposed to all metal culverts; their
disappointment will be so great that it will react against our
"Look at the illustration in the magazines of the nestable
culvert--a man is pinching the metal on the lower section of the
culvert back upon itself. There are very few machine shops in the
country in which the heavy metal we use could be bent. At any rate,
to bend back our metal, you would require a machine shop wherever
you were doing your road work. Take a sledge hammer the next time
you see one of our culverts and prove to yourself the task that
would be before you to bend our culverts. You simply could not do
* * * * *
The farmer who receives such a letter, if not entirely convinced, is
at least reasonably certain to make an investigation before placing
an order with the firm selling culverts that can be bent by hand.
And it is probably a good thing for the mail-order business that
such efforts are being made to protect the public against inferior
Experience has shown that while offers to the farmer must be clear
cut, the chances of pulling an order are increased if he is given a
number of options as to price, plan of payment and different kinds
of items open to purchase. He does not like to be restricted to one
particular item, or one arbitrary form of payment. This fact was
long ago recognized by the large catalogue houses, for they aim to
offer several kinds and sizes under every item listed. It has been
found that where both the number of items and options in a line is
doubled or otherwise substantially increased, that the percentage of
sales immediately increases.
A company in Canton, Ohio, putting out a line of sprayers, offers on
the back of its order sheet four sprayers of different prices and
four forms of making payment for each sprayer. This gives the
prospect sixteen options--one of which will look best to him, when
he sends in his order.
This information is printed on the back of the order sheet, where it
can not get separated from it and where it will have a "last
The mail-order houses have been vieing with each other in trying to
find unique appeals to the farmer. To this end profit-sharing plans
and various premium schemes have been introduced, in some cases with
While the farmer is no different from the ordinary public in wanting
to get his money's worth he is open to conviction through smaller
devices than is his city brother. And the "novelty device" appeals
to him strongly.
An Ohio company putting out buggies as a main product, adds an
insurance policy as a clincher. The purchaser is himself insured for
one hundred dollars payable to his heirs in case of his death; the
buggy carries an indemnity--not to exceed fifty dollars--covering
accidents along the line of breakage or damage in accidents or
smash-ups. This insurance, under the policy given, is kept in force
This extra not only acts as a sales argument but a basis for a talk
"The S. & W. pleasure vehicles have been tested by insurance company
officials. They have been proved practically unbreakable, the
material and durability surprising the insurance officials.
Insurance is not issued on sickly persons, weak buildings nor on
inferior vehicles. It is because our vehicles are so well made that
insurance is permitted."
* * * * *
This makes a convincing talking point, particularly to the man who
is not familiar with accident indemnity, and to the young man who is
about to buy a "rig" in which he may attempt to demonstrate that no
other man can pass him on the road.
When it comes to framing up a campaign there are many points, minor
in themselves, but each having its significance, that it is well to
consider. It frequently happens that not enough attention is paid to
the stationery that is used for farmers, but all these things have
their influence in prejudicing the recipient for or against a new
"It is a good rule in writing the farmer to diversify your
stationery," says a mail-order man who has sold a wide range of
specialties. "The reason for this lies in the fact that when a
farmer has been drummed about so much he may grow resentful at the
persistence. We aim, not only to present the proposition very
differently each time, but we use different size envelopes,
different letterheads and markedly different enclosures in each
"Particularly along rural routes, where the men folks are in the
field when the carrier comes, I aim to change envelopes and
letterheads. I never want the housewife to be able to say to the man
of the house when he asks what mail came, that 'There's another
letter from the firm that's trying to sell you a cream separator'."
To make ordering easier and to get the farmer to "act now" a coupon
or an enclosed postal card, good for a limited number of days is
widely used. This makes it easier to send for catalogue or a free
trial or whatever is advertised. It is a spur to action and results
in adding to the mailing list, names of many persons who might never
respond if they had to wait until they found pen or pencil and
paper--and a convenient opportunity.
A rebate check is another popular scheme for inducing the customer
to order. An old mail-order house calls attention in the first form
letter sent out with a catalogue to the fact that accompanying it is
a check for one dollar to apply on the first order.
This order is made out in the form of a personal check, filled in
with the prospect's name. It is, to all intents and purposes, a
personal check, only payable in goods instead of cash.
Similar use of the check method of exciting interest is also used by
a Detroit incubator manufacturer, who finds that many who have
resisted other appeals answer to the chance to convert a check into
This same firm also adds as a clincher an offer to pay the freight
on certain lines of goods, so that the catalogue price becomes
actual cost instead of cost plus freight charges. Such inducements
come home to the farmer; anything on the "something-for-nothing"
order appeals to him.
Aside from the nature of the proposition and the way it is
presented, there is the all-important element of seasonableness. The
man who has always lived in the city might understand the general
principles of mail-order selling and have a good proposition, but
his success would be indifferent unless he understood the meaning of
timeliness in reaching the farmer. If your letter or advertisement
catches the eye of the farmer he will in all probability put it away
in the shoe box back of the chimney until ready to buy; it would be
almost impossible to train enough guns on him during the rush season
to force his interest. It is a common experience with mail-order
houses to receive replies to letters or advertisements six months or
a year after they are sent out--sometimes years afterwards. The
message was timely; it wormed its way into the farmer's "mental want
list" and blossomed forth when he felt that he could afford the
Only a carefully kept record-of-returns sheet or book will show when
sales can best be made on a particular item, and the shrewd manager
will test out different items at different seasons before launching
a big campaign which may be ill-timed.
"The winter months are the best time for comprehensive information
to soak in--but the letter generally is not the place for this. Put
personality in the letter--specifications in the circular." This is
the advice of an experienced correspondent whose length of service
enables him to speak authoritatively.
"A winter letter may be long, verbose and full of interesting
information; the farmer will read it carefully. This is the time to
get in specifications, estimates, complicated diagrams and long
arguments which require study. Letters for the work months need to
be short and snappy, both to insure reading and to act on a tired
And then finally the proposition must be made so plain that there is
no possibility of its being misinterpreted. What a city man who is a
wide reader gets at a glance, the ordinary farm owner or farmer's
boy--often with only a rudimentary knowledge of English--must study
"So needful is the observance of this principle in our business,"
says this manager, "that our sales letters have come to be almost a
formula. First we state our proposition. We then proceed to take up
each element of the offer and make it as plain and plausible as
In this case the elements are:
1. The thing offered.
2. Time of trial.
3. Freight paid.
4. Return privilege.
"All the letter is a plain exposition of 1, 2, 3, 4--the preceding
paragraphs are summarized and connected. For instance, after the
item offered has been treated and the length of trial made clear,
the two are summarized thus:
"The _separator_ we offer is not only the best that money can buy
but it is _just what you need_--no wonder we are willing to give you
30 days in which to try it.
"But what about freight?"
* * * * *
"Then we explain freight paid and return privilege. This gives a
continuous and increasing summary straight through the letter, which
closes with a recapitulation of the proposition.
"The aim of putting several summaries of the proposition in all
sales matter is so that there can be no possible mistake about the
proposition, for thousands of propositions are turned down by people
on farms simply because the reader does not quite understand
The farmer is in constant dread of "being caught" and there is
little likelihood of his taking advantage of any offer that is not
absolutely clear in his mind. The letter writer must realize what a
point this is with the average farmer. What a city man does he can
keep to himself; if he buys a gold brick he gets rid of it and
forgets the transaction just as quickly as possible. But what the
farmer does is neighborhood gossip. If one of those "slick city
fellers" sells him something he can't use, every one knows it.
Make the proposition clear--so clear that every one in the family
can understand it, for usually purchases are talked over for days
before an order is finally sent out. Take into account the farmer's
suspicious nature and bear down heavily on the utility of the
article. There is no hidden mystery in reaching the rural prospects
but they must be handled with discretion and with an understanding
of the prejudices, characteristics and viewpoints of the farmer.
End of Business Correspondence, by Anonymous
*** END OF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENCE ***
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