The Anatomy of a Sales Letter

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When you are looking for an internet marketing product (or reviewing them like me), the sales pages can often blur into one generic sales page from hell.

In fact, most sales pages follow a very similar structure, and share very specific elements.

This is of course because they most likely work and also because new marketers tend to copy existing marketers that they believe are successful.

I want to take you through a random marketing product’s sales page and explain exactly why each element is being used.

The Breakdown of a Sales Letter

The product I am going to use is Secret Affiliate Sniper. It doesn’t contain every element, but I will include the missing ones for completeness. I also must say that I am only using it as an example and not every one of my comments will directly relate to that product.

You can use the resulting information for good or evil, that’s completely up to you!

Don't Be Evil

1. Eye Catching Headlines

Anatomy of a Sales Letter - Headlines

The initial headlines must be large, boldly coloured and in a display font. It helps if the headline also contains a drop shadow and maybe a border too!

The headline must also contain a dramatic or outrageous claim to catch a person’s attention before they hit that old back button.

It is most definitely important to have that first enticing headline, without it your readers will likely move on.

My only issue with what most marketers tend to do is that the claims made in that headline are usually pure fiction.

2. Liberal use of bolded and highlighted text

Anatomy of a Sales Letter - Highlighted Text

My favourite part of any sales page is seeing how many words and sentences are highlighted and bolded.

Some sales letters tend to go really over the top with these.

The purpose is of course to catch the attention of skim readers, which is most of us. While there is an argument whether few people read long form online or not, most people do tend to skim at least at first.

The point of the highlighting is to get key words and information picked up on, which is why you tend to find that things that will trigger a reaction are highlighted. For example the following appeals to me as I am inherently lazy:

Anatomy of a Sales Letter -  No Skills

3. Using a large random number for potential profit earnings

This element is generally only used in the “make money online” niche. The key to it is picking a random number, the larger the better and saying you can earn it in a very short period of time.

Of course this is generally nonsense!

The likelihood of anyone earning $153, 2159.54 (I just made that up, see how easy it is?) a day/week/month is incredibly remote.

That’s not the purpose though; it is there to excite the inner greed monster inside you. I mean who wouldn’t want to earn that much?

IF you are new to internet marketing you can easily fall afoul of this tactic and get drawn in on the hope of earning vast quantities of money.

Even if you have been around the internet marketing block, it is sometimes hard to not get excited, especially if you haven’t already reached your monetary goals.

4. Advising that a lack of skills is OK

This one gets my goat! When a sales letter advises that you need nothing else than the ability to breathe and type (often the typing isn’t needed either!) then I know that the product is likely to be dodgy.

Of course, the tactic here is to dampen a newbies fear of having to learn something new, or that they don’t know enough to begin with.

This could be a great thing, if it was worded well and supported by amazing tutorials and guides within the product.

It never happens that way, instead of saying “This guide will teach you from start to finish of making money online, no previous experience necessary” and then providing the information to do it, they just say “You don’t need to learn, just press this button and magical unicorns will deposit money into your account!”.

5. Proof of earning screenshots

Anatomy of a Sales Letter - Proof of Earnings

Another tactic used to lure in unsuspecting customers is the use of screenshots or photos of earning reports and cheques.

The purpose behind these is to provide legitimacy to the product at hand, to give the customer a real life example of the product earning money.

The problem is that these can never ever be attributed to the product in question.

In fact it is more likely that this “proof” is as a result of previous product sales, or *gasp* a bit of Photoshop!

6. Testimonials

Ahhh the good old testimonial, used for years by genuine marketing companies and snake oil salesmen alike.

Like the proof of earnings, a testimonial is there to help legitimize the product, to say to the customer that look, other real people out there have spent their money on this and have had amazing life changing returns.

Now, some testimonials are likely true and real, that cannot be discounted. However often these are merely just fake people, made up on the spot or paid a $5 bucks via Fiverr.com to provide a “genuine” testimonial.

Video testimonials are the absolute worst for using Fiverr actors. You can spot a mile away that they are reading from a script or are just plain bad actors.

7. Images of wealth

More often found within sales videos, images of wealth abound in internet marketing sales pitches especially for the make money niche.

Pictures of fast cars, mansions, and a successful looking guy surrounded by bikini clad babes are common place.

These are there to generate envy and desire. Why should that schmuck have all of that, when I deserve it more?

If it doesn’t fill you with envy (yey for you!) then it might at least increase your desire for the product based on the imagined wealth you can earn.

Well I’m sorry to tell you this, but most of these mansions, cars and babes are rented.

8. It goes on and on and on…

It can come as a surprise to new marketers that effective sales pages are so long! In fact it is common for a sales letter to be well over a thousand words, often many more than that.

People want to be convinced about something, and the only way to do that is to explain each and every aspect of how the product can do that.

In fact David Ogilvy (an old time and very successful pre-internet marketer) found that increasing the word count often increased the number of sales.

9. It’s a secret

References to hidden or secret tools/methods/strategies are encountered a lot as well. This is especially true when the sales letter doesn’t actually tell you anything about what the product does.

By emphasising the secret aspect, the marketer not only helps obfuscate the fact that they are blind selling, but it also helps raise a sense of mystique.

If too you can become privy to this secret knowledge, and play with the big boys of internet marketing and maybe be with one of those babes you saw earlier.

Let’s face the facts, if it was truly an amazing secret that can earn you oodles of cash: They. Would. Not. Give. It. Away!

The reality is that most products are very similar and/or provide information that is already out there.

From time to time, a product will truly provide something new and amazing, but it’s a rare day when that happens.

10. Scarcity tactic

Anatomy of a Sales Letter - Scarcity Tactics

Scarcity tactics come in a few different forms:

  • A timer until the sale of the product stops.
  • A limited number of products available.
  • A dime sale, where the price increases every few sales.

Each of these tactics is there to expedite the purchase of the product. If you think that you will not be able to get it after a certain point, you are more likely to make an impulse purchase.

Depending on the product and marketer, some of these are held to and the sale will end/price go up etc. Other marketers tend to use it as just a tactic, when in fact it will never be taken off the market.

Obviously from a reputation point of view, standing by your sales spiel is better than saying something and then not following through with it.

11. “Guarantees”

Anatomy of a Sales Letter - Guarantee

Many types of digital product don’t allow a refund, because they cannot confirm you are no longer using the product.

Internet marketing products tend to flip this on its head and often offer a 30 day (it varies) no quibbles money back guarantee.

Why would they do this?

Well firstly they are hoping you won’t! They are hoping that you will find enough value in the product to decide it’s not worth the hassle of recovering your money.

Secondly, by offering a refund they are hoping that any problems related to the product won’t get aired on the internet or to organizations such as the BBB.

Thirdly, and most importantly from an actual sales perspective, it invokes a sense of trust with the customer. If they know that they can (probably) get their money back if it turns out to be a rubbish product, they are more likely to purchase the product.

12. PS, PPS, PPPS

Anatomy of a Sales Letter - PS
When I first started looking at sales copy, I never understood the reason why so many sales pages use a PS, PPS and even an occasional PPPS.

Then I read an article over on CopyBlogger, and it opened my mind.

The too long, didn’t read is that your brain generally remembers the first part of something, an unusual part of something and the last part of something.

The last bit will be your PS message.

Having a PS on a sales letter is then incredibly important, though I have my doubts about the PPPS’!

13. Exit pop ups

As effective as they are annoying, an exit pop up is a JavaScript alert box that pops up when you try to leave the page.

These can be beneficial to the marketer to either promote a different thing such as free gift that will get people signed up to their mailing list.

It can also be used to offer the product at a discounted rate (known as a downsell).

In fact from a customer point of view, it’s often worth seeing if the exit pop ups exist as you can sometimes get a $49 product for $9 or $7 bucks, which is a significant discount.

14. Videos

Generally if the sales page is a long form letter, they don’t include a video or only include a short video that re-iterates aspects of the sales pitch.

However the sales page can also just be a video. It will still have most of the elements mentioned above, but within the video itself. You will see the “proof” of earnings, the testimonials, the cars, the fictitious earning amounts, and so on.

They will also generally be much more hammed up in my humble opinion.

With increased internet speed, more sales pitches are being converted into video format. It’s beneficial in that you can also upload it to YouTube, Vimeo etc., where it could gather more traffic. As well as that can allow your affiliates to embed the video in their pre-sale spiel.

PS. Wrapping Up

Every sales letter you read has been carefully crafted from a variety of elements to intrigue, fear, and even shame you into buying the product.

While you may scoff at the use of some of these tactics, they do work because if they didn’t they would quickly disappear.

I hope that this breakdown will help you understand a sales letter in more depth and understand how each element is designed to increase the chances of a sale.

I also hope that this article can help you both make more informed decision when buying from a  sales letter, and even write better (and perhaps more ethical) sales letters if you are into online marketing.

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