The Art of Successful Letter Writing Part 4
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"Syllables govern the World."—John Selden.
I HAVE shown that there are three chief kinds of letters used in business, i. e., "Inquiry-Bringers" or "Canvassing" letters, "Answering" or "Sales" letters, and "Follow-Up" letters.
It may be said that a correct mail-order plan follows the rule indicated by the sequence of the letters; first, it gets the INQUIRY (by the "Inquiry-bringer") , then it attempts the direct sale (by the sales letter) and, if that attempt is not immediately successful, it "Follows-up" by the "Follow-Up" Letter.
To be logical, therefore, we should treat the various groups of letters in their right order, and this of course brings us to a consideration of the "Inquiry-Bringer."
Inquiries are the seed from which spring sales. A good inquiry-bringing letter can easily double or treble the volume of sales by bringing in double or treble the past ratio of inquiries. As we proceed we will see that ALL well written letters (Inquiry-Bringers, Sales and Follow-Ups) are governed by one set of principles in their construction. They must each arouse Attention, create Interest, stimulate Desire, and bring about Action.
To my mind a good letter, accomplishing the purpose for which it is intended, compares in principle exactly with the principle of the wedge, and this may be illustrated as follows, the wedge being the letter itself, and the divisions different parts of that letter.
The opening paragraph is the sharp end of the wedge, representing the Attention section; as perusal proceeds Attention deepens to Interest, then to Desire, and finally, around the last paragraph, to Action.
Let us take a typical "Inquiry-Bringer" and see if we can observe these principles working out in mathematical sequence—the following letter brought forty per cent. inquiries on an investment proposition—an extraordinarily high percentage in a field where the average ATTENTION "Inquiry-Bringer" secures about 2 to 6 per cent. only of inquiries.
Observe how closely the letter follows mentally the "wedge" principle that we illustrate physically. This is one secret of its success.
If the letter is carefully studied another secret for its success will disclose itself, constituting a second and very effective principle to use in "Inquiry-Getting" letters, provided it is not carried too far.
I consider this second principle of great importance and I want you, Reader, to find it yourself, out of the letter, if you can.
Apart from the construction and wording of this letter, what made it "pull" the inquiries as it did? What factor in human nature was played on so that readers fairly "itched" to answer it? The factor worked upon can be expressed in one word —what is that word? If, after reading the letter, you feel as if you would like to answer it and get the reply, ask yourself why. Ask yourself what urge the letter contains to make you feel that way. If you come at the matter this way it is safe to say I will have succeeded in getting a principle of successful letter writing into your mind that you will never forget, but, on the contrary, will use to your profit year after year.
Our next chapter will tell you the second factor that made the letter pull. Try and anticipate that information so that you may compare notes.
Men made iron and steel for many years, yet it remained to the latter half of the nineteenth century to revolutionize the industry and to give growth and multiplication to "A thousand millionaires."
Men "In steel" while this magic change was in progress, made fortunes, literally "in a night"; its history has proven a romance of industry.
And it is about to be duplicated—not in steel, but in another industry that stands in the same position that steel stood half a century ago.
It is ripe for revolution—and revolution is upon it—it also will make "A thousand millionaires."
Today it presents one of the most promising openings for capital—large or small—it is possible to conceive.
The conditions governing it are extraordinary, unique—its promise is spectacular—it will not alone duplicate, but exceed the marvelous record of steel.
May we tell you more about it?
You can share with us in the rewards just ahead.
We have prepared a brochure for limited distribution among men we believe will be interested in the FACTS ; it is expensive, and we do not wish to mail it to you without the assurance that it will be at least READ. If you would like to read it, and will make request on enclosed postal, this brochure will be mailed to you entirely without expense or obligation.
May we send it?
Very truly yours,
It will be perceived that the object of this letter was not to make a sale but to produce an inquiry. In producing an inquiry that ultimately turned to a sale the letter became of course part of the sales campaign, and of course the ultimate sale was its final objective. The important thing to grasp here is that the act of selling to a man buying is arrived at by a series of steps not usually apparent to the buyer, and sometimes not even apparent to the seller. Many salesmen are splendid result-producers yet cannot tell exactly how they make their sales. If their methods are examined, however, it will be seen that they all, by different ways, methods, manners and ideas, pass the "prospect" through the stages of Attention, Interest, Desire and Action, "Closing" when, in their judgment, they have the man before them at the final stage.
The reader may be interested with a bit of history connected with this letter and the material that followed it. The man that ordered it had a big idea, but nothing in the way of assets; he had, in fact, hardly sufficient capital to pay for the material he ordered. The letter, as previously stated, proved remarkably successful in bringing in the inquiries from the right class of people (carefully selected in advance.)
The writer received a letter from him some time later containing the following extracts:
"I am writing this letter to you personally as I desire at this time some advice as to my future plans. * * * I want to say I have succeeded in placing practically all the issue of bonds at par. This will enable the factory to fully carry out their plans to install their plant and will also enable the writer to retain 98 per cent of all the stock.
* * * I found it an advantage to have more than one kind of bond to handle. I saw an opportunity to purchase a telephone company at much less than the actual value of the plant. I purchased this with a cash expenditure of a few thousand dollars, bonding it for enough to completely pay for the company, sold the bonds above par so as to net the telephone company par, and now own the telephone company clear, all out of debt, and have $10,000 cash for the extensions—this all secured by means of the bonds issued on the telephone plant."
Thus this man, with but a few hundred dollars capital (sufficient to pay for the presentation literature), found himself almost over night made wealthy and independent through the power of a few letters and a booklet! The original success turned his head; he went into promotion work on a diversified scale, cutting himself off from in-formation or advice, and achieved, on the reputation of his original success, other successes which turned to failure through rank inexperience, and he died, eventually, a disappointed, broken man in an obscure mining camp—not the first time by any means that I have seen a man go down to ruin through a success achieved too easily and too suddenly by a series of well planned letters and booklets.
In the next chapter we will make reference to this letter again and you will probably be interested in studying it anew in the light of information and knowledge yet to come.