Eastern Business Systems "Marketeer": User Manual [PDF]

Chapter 7: Writing Sales Letters

INTRODUCTION

It is not easy to write a good sales letter! Yet a good sales letter is probably the most vital component of any targeted mailshot. It can make or break that tenuous first connection between you and your prospect. If it is too long, he won't read it. If it does not convey enough about you and what you are offering, his road to commitment won't become established.

The goal in writing a good sales letter is ONE page! The prospect must see his name and address at the top and your signature at the bottom. Compacting a complete smooth-reading sales message in the space between is the whole underrated skill of the sales letter writer.

MARKETEER cannot compose the text of your sales letters for you. But it does provide every 'mechanical' assistance to make your job of outlining, building, drafting, reviewing, editing, tuning and honing your sales letters as easy as at all possible.

The Letter Writer program deals only with the actual content or text of your sales letter. It does not put in the names and addresses of the prospects to whom you are sending it. Neither does it put in the date, reference number or the name & title of the letter's author or signatory. All these are handled by other programs within the MARKETEER package which are described in other chapters.

OVERVIEW

MARKETEER's letter creation section contains two libraries: a Sales Letter Library (which holds up to 40 letters) and a Standard Paragraph Library (which holds up to 40 paragraphs). You may create, amend or delete any letter in the Letter Library or any paragraph in the Standard Paragraph Library.

You may write a standard paragraph for sales letters and place it in the Standard Paragraphs Library under a title of your choosing. You may write a complete sales letter and place it in the Sales Letter Library under a title of your choosing. You may import text from a word processor text file into the Letter or Paragraph Libraries under a title of your choosing.

You may build a draft sales letter from one or more standard paragraphs selected to appear in whichever order you choose. The selected paragraphs will then appear in a new letter in the Letter Library under the title NEW LETTER. You may then edit and add to this NEW LETTER to form a polished sales letter. You may then change its title to one of your choosing.

You may select, and place in the MAIL FILE, any ONE of these up to 40 letters (or paragraphs) at any one time. MARKETEER's Mail, Telex, FAX and Electronic Mail subsystems assume that the text of the letter or message they are supposed to print or transmit is that currently to be found in the MAIL FILE.

From MARKETEER's Main Menu, select Item 3 Letter Creation. You should now see the Letter Creation Menu. Use the vertical cursor control keys (up-arrow and down-arrow) to scan up and down this menu and read the help text on the right of the screen which describes each item.

THE LETTER LIBRARY

As a practical introduction to MARKETEER's letter creation section, let us now go through the exercise of 'test printing' the sample sales letter which we have placed on file for you prior to despatch. So now, please select Item 1 Sales Letter Library.

A list for up to 40 letter titles now appears. Only the first position has a letter title inside it, namely SAMPLE LETTER. We have written just one letter to serve as an example. To select a letter from this list, move the cursor opposite the title of the letter you require and press the Ins key to mark it and then the function key F2 to select it.

The text of the sample letter is now displayed on the screen and the function key options are shown at the bottom of the screen. Press the F1 function key to display the help screen and read what each function key command does.

PRINTING THE LETTER

[NOTE: You should have already set up the appropriate margin setting control codes in the printer control codes box in the Configuration Menu. The coding must be set to the left print margin to between 6 and 10 spaces in to suite your notepaper.]

Now switch on your printer, make sure there is A4 plain paper in the in-tray, then press the function key F8-PRNT (print). If you press F8 before switching on the printer, a red message 'device fault' is displayed above the text window. If you now switch on your printer, this message should disappear and printing will take place. If it does not, check the cable and power supply to the printer and see that the paper is properly placed in the printer's in-tray. A green message 'PRINTED' will appear as soon as all the text has been passed to the printer.

[NOTE: if your printer has a buffer memory, the green 'PRINTED' message will appear almost immediately while actual printing has barely begun. This is because the printer's memory has taken in all the text and the printer is printing from its own internal memory.]

When it has finished, take the paper from the printer. Please read the letter you have just printed out. Press the Esc key twice to take you back to the Letter Creation Menu.

THE LIBRARY OF STANDARD PARAGRAPHS

Please select Item 2 of the Letter Creation Menu. A list of paragraph (or text frame) titles appears. This looks similar to the way the letter titles are listed in Item 1. Only 4 text frame titles are shown. This is because only 4 of the 40 possible paragraphs exist as yet.

Text Frames are generally synonymous with 'paragraphs'. Each text frame is originated, edited or deleted individually. Each frame can be given a title so that you can identify it at a glance in the Standard Paragraph Library list later on. Up to 40 different text frames can be held in the Standard Paragraph Library at any one time. Any sales letter may be made to comprise any number of these up to 40 possible text frames, and the frames can appear in the letter in any order.

Each frame can theoretically contain up to 200 words. However the limiting factor is the space within the actual text window on the screen which is 14 lines, with each line containing up to 70 characters (letters, numbers, punctuation marks etc.). This generally works out as 10 or 12 lines of text maximum per paragraph in a printed sales letter with a print width of 65 characters.

While the term 'text frame' refers specifically to a physical unit of text which can be independently identified, composed, edited or deleted, the term 'paragraph' refers to the corresponding 'logical' or 'semantic' unit of text which expresses a single integrated thought or idea. Generally, one paragraph is accommodated within one text frame, however, where appropriate, a text frame may hold two or three small paragraphs or an itemised list.

This limitation on the size of a text frame (and hence that of a paragraph) imposes the kind of discipline needed to make sure each point in your sales letter is put over concisely. It probably means that you cannot fit in what you want to say first time. It forces you to work at it. The result can only be a punchier, smoother flowing, more informative - and hence more effective - paragraph.

EDITING A TEXT FRAME

Within the confines of a text frame, MARKETEER provides editing facilities to enable you to write and play around with your text until you get it exactly right. But it does this without burdening you with the maze of control key functions associated with most word processors. In fact, all you need to know is shown on the screen.

So now let us have a look at one of the text frames which make up the letter you have just printed. With the cursor at the title of the first text frame entitled INTRODUCTION, please press the Ins key to mark it, then press the function key F2 to select it.

[NOTE: the title of a paragraph given in this list does not itself appear as part of the text of that paragraph. It is there simply as a memory trigger for you when you come to select the paragraphs you need for a particular sales letter.]

The text of this text frame now appears on the screen. You will recognise this text as the first part of the printed letter. Above the text window you are told which paragraph this is. Below the window are the currently effective function key commands. Please press the function key F6-EDIT. The cursor now appears at the top left of the text window and you may now edit the paragraph within this text frame.

CURSOR CONTROL

Just to recap, the cursor is the flashing line which is always on the screen when the computer is waiting for you to do something. It also indicates the position at which whatever you type-in will appear or where the next 'action' will take place.

So before you can edit any part of the text, you must position the flashing cursor to the place within the text where you want to make the alteration. The cursor is positioned by advancing it along the text using the right pointing arrow key, or returning it back again using the left pointing arrow key. If you have a long way to go in either direction, keep the appropriate key held down. The cursor will then travel along the text continuously in the appropriate direction.

Try it. Press and hold down the right pointing arrow key. The cursor skims along the text line by line. If the last word in a line is a long way short of the right hand edge of the screen, the cursor does not venture into the 'dead space' between the end of the word and the edge of the screen.

This is because that 'dead space' is not part of the actual text stream. Therefore you should never be able to get into a position to type in anything there. Should you wish to insert anything there, this is dealt with in another way which is discussed later. Notice that when the cursor reaches the very end of the existing text, it goes no further.

Now press and hold the left pointing arrow key. The cursor now skims back along its path until it reaches the beginning of the line. When it gets there, it refuses to go further. This is how you position the cursor so that it 'hovers' over the precise character at which you wish your editing actions to take effect.

The End key takes the cursor to the end of the text on the current line and the Home key takes the cursor to the start of the current line.

Now move the cursor to the middle of the first line using the right-pointing arrow key. Then press the down-arrow key. Each time you press this key, the cursor moves down to the line below. Keep pressing this down-arrow key until it reaches the bottom line. Now press the up-arrow key. This takes the cursor up to the line above. Keep doing this until the cursor reaches the top line again.

You will no doubt have noticed that when a line of text was shorter than the original position of the cursor, the cursor moved leftwards to the end of the short line. However, when you moved it further down to a long line, the cursor resumed its original position along the line. This is because the cursor is never allowed outside the text stream where you cannot legitimately type.

INSERTING TEXT

Let us now insert a couple of words into this text. Position the cursor to the letter 'f' of the word 'for' on the first line. Now press the 'Ins' key. You will see the word 'INSERT' at the top of the screen.

Now type-in the words 'very much '. Don't forget the space after the word 'much'! Instead of starting off 'Thank you for your enquiry' the letter now starts off 'Thank you very much for your enquiry'. You have inserted the words 'very much ' almost at the beginning of the letter without having to re-type the whole lot.

Notice that as you typed in each new character, all the words in the rest of the paragraph instantly moved up and re-arranged themselves as necessary. You can insert single characters, words, phrases, sentences, lists or even paragraphs anywhere within a text frame by this means. You cancel the INSERT mode either by moving the cursor or by pressing the 'Ins' key again.

SAVING AMENDED TEXT

If you wish this amended version of your text to be preserved in place of the original for possible future inclusion within a sales letter, press the function key F2. If you wish not to preserve the changes you have just made, but leave the original in place, then press F3 instead. Do not do either for the moment.

DELETING TEXT

We shall now delete the words we previously inserted. Now move the cursor to the letter 'v' of 'very' which you inserted. Now press the 'Del' key. The letter 'v' disappears. You are left with the word 'ery'. Keep pressing this key until the words 'very much ' have disappeared. Don't forget the space at the end of the word 'much '. You are now back to the original text.

You can use this key to delete any character or group of characters within the text. If you have a lot to delete in one run, hold down the 'Del' key firmly. Try it now! Never mind if it makes a mess of the text on the screen. Notice how the text beyond the cursor appears to be sucked continuously into an insatiable 'black hole'.

Notice also that it all stops when you let go of the key. To re-set the paragraph, excluding the deleted text, press the function key F7. The remaining text is re-set correctly within the text frame. We don't want to store this mess, so let's just leave the original text in place so you or one of your colleagues can go through this exercise again at some other time. Now press the F3 key to escape from the editing function without storing the changed text. The original text now reappears in the text window.

It is useful to remember what you have just done. Sometimes, when you have recalled an old text frame and started to edit it, you find that you have ended up with a total mess. Rather than try and make something out of what is now on the screen, you would rather abort the whole thing and start again from the original.

RECALLING THE OTHER TEXT FRAMES

There are two ways of accessing the other text frames in the Standard Paragraph Library. You can scan through the text frames in turn by pressing the function key F3-NEXT (or F4-PREV to scan in the reverse direction). Alternatively you can press the Esc key to get back to the Standard Paragraph Library list and select another text frame by title.

Use F3 to scan through and read the existing paragraphs. You will see that these paragraphs are all parts of the sales letter which you have just printed. Notice that the order in which the frames appear in the letter is slightly different from the order in which they are listed here. This is simply to illustrate that when forming a sales letter, you are not tied to the order in which you originated the paragraphs. Now please press the Esc key to get back to the list of Standard Paragraph Titles.

WRITING A NEW TEXT FRAME

Move the cursor down to a position where no title exists and press the function key F2. The beep indicates that you cannot select at this position. Now press the function key F4 to enter a new paragraph title. As a test piece, let's call our new text frame 'BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP'!

Please press the F4-EDIT function key. This places the cursor in the title field ready for you to enter the paragraph title. The editing functions available to you while typing in a new title or amending an existing one are the same as those for editing the text of a paragraph described earlier. So type in 'BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP' and press the carriage return (or Enter) key. The title is then stored. Now mark this title by pressing the Ins key and then select it by pressing the function key F2. The text window then appears.

Normally this would be blank. However, if you once had a previous paragraph text in this title position within the Standard Paragraph Library list, then that old text will reappear. This is because a paragraph (or letter) is deleted by deleting its title. The text remains but is rendered inaccessible. It becomes accessible again when a new title is entered in its original title position. This is a safeguard so that a paragraph deleted inadvertently can be 'undeleted' by re-entering its title (or any other title for that matter) in the position originally held by its title.

Please press the function key F6-EDIT and type-in the nursery rhyme. We have not reproduced it here since most people can remember it. But if you really can't remember it, please try another nursery rhyme instead! We suggest you type it out as straight prose rather than as lines of poetry. As confirmed by the instructions shown at the bottom of the screen, all the functions which were available to you while editing are available to you now for originating a new piece of text. When you have finished typing in your nursery rhyme, press the F2-SAVE function key to store the text. Then press the Esc key twice to get back to the Letter Creation Menu.

FIXED FRAME v SCROLLING

Unlike most word processing systems (and indeed MARKETEER's own letter editor, MARKETEER's text frame editor operates on a 'fixed frame' basis. When you have filled the text frame, you cannot enter any more text into the frame (unless of course you delete some first). The text does not scroll upwards out of view to make room for more text at the bottom. This is intentional.

The prime market for word processors is general office work. In that environment, the content or wording of what is to be typed into the word processor is normally decided and finalised in advance before it is entered. The purpose of the word processor is merely to store, recall, organise and sometimes edit pieces of prescribed text. The operator is usually a typist who deals only with syntax rather than with the semantics of what is being entered.

The user of MARKETEER on the other hand is a writer of sales letters who is definitely interested in what is being said and how it can be improved. The function of MARKETEER'S Letter Writer is to help the user DEVELOP the wording and content of a letter - paragraph by paragraph. The concern is primarily with the semantics of (the meaning carried by) the words being written.

When actually composing and developing text, you need to keep constantly in view the text, the whole text, and nothing but the text pertaining to the one set of closely related points about which you are currently concerned. In other words you need to be able to extend or edit the paragraph while being able to glance back over any of the foregoing words relating to your current train of thought. And for this, the 'fixed frame' system used in MARKETEER is the obvious choice.

PLANNING YOUR OWN SALES LETTER

It is now time to think about your first real sales letter for MARKETEER. What is going to be the theme of your next mailshot? Are you going to enclose a catalogue or product brochure with your letter? What points must you get over in the letter?

Naturally, you know the questions which you ask yourself when setting out to prepare a new sales letter. But however you prefer to go about it, you should end up with a list of distinct points which you feel you ought to get over in the letter. Then you will probably arrange these points into groups such that each group can be dealt with in a single paragraph. Perhaps in some paragraphs you will put over only one vital point.

The important thing is to finish up knowing exactly what you want to say in each paragraph, bearing in mind that you will have only four or five paragraphs worth of space available in the entire letter.

Now, in order to prepare for composing the actual wording of each paragraph on MARKETEER, please write down the points pertaining to each planned paragraph on a separate sheet of paper. Then think hard about the points you have made on each sheet and mull them over with your colleagues until you are all satisfied that they are correct and exactly the way you want them. Finally, number each sheet, and write a 'paragraph title' which expresses the collective essence of all the points made thereon.

COMPOSING YOUR SALES LETTER

From the Letter Creation menu, select the Standard Paragraph Library (Item 2). Move the cursor to a spare title slot on the Letter Library title list and press F4. Enter the 'paragraph title' from your first sheet of paper, then press the 'Enter' key to store the new title. Now press the Ins key to mark the new title then press F2 to select it.

The empty text frame appears. Now for the skilful part! From the points you have written down on your first piece of paper, compose the text for the first paragraph of your sales letter.

It will probably take you some time to acquire a skill in using MARKETEER'S text entry, insertion and deletion facilities to maximum advantage. But it will come - probably quicker than you think. With them, for instance, a sudden flash of inspiration after the event can be slotted in back 'up stream' almost instantly, whereas if you were writing, typing or dictating instead, you might well be tempted just to let it go.

DEVELOPING YOUR TEXT

Once you have covered all the points planned for this paragraph, read it over on the screen and try to improve it. Mould and tune the wording to give the right amount of punch, persuasiveness and smoothness of flow. Try to cut out verbosity, but without sacrificing clarity or completeness.

It is a good idea to terminate your paragraphs with two carriage-returns. This will in effect put a blank line between this paragraph and the next when the paragraphs are printed in the letter. This gives a good visual appearance to the finished letter. The automatic spacing done by the program which deals with putting the signatory's name and title on the letter assumes there will be a blank line at the end of the last paragraph.

Once you are completely satisfied with the paragraph, press F2-SAVE to store your new paragraph, then press the Esc key to return to the Paragraph Library titles list. Now go through the same procedure for writing the other paragraphs of your sales letter.

BUILDING YOUR SALES LETTER

Your sales letter is constructed by bringing together the paragraphs you have just composed and developed. You may place the paragraphs within the letter in any order you choose. You do not need to keep to the order in which you wrote them.

Go back to the Letter Creation Menu and select Item 3 BUILD A NEW SALES LETTER. A Title Entry display now appears which is similar to the one for new paragraphs (text frames). Decide the order in which you wish the paragraphs to appear, then move the cursor to the one you have chosen to be first and press the Ins key to mark it. An asterisk appears to show that it is now marked. Now move the cursor to the paragraph you have chosen to appear second in your letter and mark that one. Do the same for the other paragraphs. Then press F2 to build the letter.

Press Esc to return to the Letter Creation Menu and then select Item 1 Sales Letter Library. In the library list you should now see a letter title 'NEW LETTER'. Move the cursor to this title and press the F4 key. Now overtype 'NEW LETTER' with an appropriate title for your new letter and press the carriage return key to store it. Then press the Ins key to mark it and the F2 key to select it. The text of your letter should now be displayed in the text window.

CHECKING YOUR SALES LETTER

It is not the job of MARKETEER'S Letter Writer program to print the finished sales letter complete with reference, date, name & address of prospect and name & title of signatory. Here, we can only view or 'test print' the main text of the letter. However, the test print facility does centre the text to the middle of the note paper where it will appear later in the actual sales letter itself.

Please press the F6-EDIT key. You can now use the PgUp and PgDn keys to scroll through the whole letter in order to read it and check it. At this stage, your sales letter comprises a simple concatenation of standard paragraphs - text which for the most part does not change. So normally you would now topicalise your letter by editing and adding to the standard text to make it relate more fully to the marketing or sales exercise of which it is a part.

MOVING TEXT AROUND

As you are editing your letter you may decide that you wish to change the order in which parts of it appear. To do this, move the cursor to the first of some lines of text you wish to move and press F3. The line goes red. Keep pressing F3 until all the lines you wish to move are red. Then move the cursor to where you want to put them and press F6. The marked lines then appear at their new location.

If the text you wish to move starts or ends with a partial line, move the cursor to where you wish to start marking and press the carriage return key twice. Then move the cursor to where you wish to finish marking and do the same. This isolates the text you wish to move. Then move the cursor back to the beginning of the text you wish to move and press F7 to tidy it into a paragraph. Then move it. Come back to where you moved it from and use F7 in the same way to tidy up that area of text also.

BOLD & UNDERLINE

Fashions come and go. One fashion in sales letters is the use (usually overuse) of bolding, underlining, banner headings and an ever-increasing list of other fanciful graphics tricks featured in printing devices. Use with caution: the more graphic finery you have in a sales letter, the less personal it looks and the less likely it is to be read by a recipient. It can easily look like a cheap brochure or leaflet and be 'filed' accordingly! It is better to leave image projection through graphic arts to an attached or enclose high quality brochure or leaflet.

However, Marketeer does provide normal bolding or underlining of key parts of the text in your sales letter. If you do feel the need to go overboard, Marketeer provides the facility for importing a letter text prepared on an external work processor or, if you are technically inclined, you can implant within the text the appropriate literal control codes for things like banner headings and type-style changes.

To embolden text, move the cursor to the start of the text you wish to embolden, press the Ins key, then, while holding down the Alt key, type the number 24 on the numeric keypad on the right of the keyboard. An upward-pointing arrow appears in the text indicating the point at which bolding will start. Then move the cursor to the end of the text you wish to embolden and do the same. To underline the text instead, type the number 25 instead of 24. Underlining is shown as a downward-pointing arrow. All this assumes that you entered the bolding and underlining control codes appropriate for your printer in the Configuration Section (Main Menu Item 9, submenu Item 3).

Once you have finished checking and editing your letter, press F2 to store it, and then go through the same procedure as you did at the beginning of this chapter when you printed our sample sales letter. Note the comments on the right below the text display window. This shows the advised maximum number of lines you should have in a letter for it to sit neatly on your company notepaper, and also shows how many lines are in your letter as it stands.

MARKETEER has been programmed to present perfectly formatted sales letters with adequate and balanced name & address and signature space top and bottom of the text. So if you exceed the advised maximum number of text lines, you may have to edit down one or more of your paragraphs. We think you will welcome this imposition when you see the final sales letters it disciplines you and your sales office into producing.

There is no technical reason why your letter should not flow over onto a second page - or even more. If it does, however, you will have to load the printer's automatic sheet feeder with the appropriate sequence of notepaper when doing a mailshot. For example, if your letter flows on to 3 pages, you will have to load the sheet feeder with a repeated sequence of one headed note sheet followed by two continuation sheets.

You will also have to put page break controls in the letter text to suit the artwork of your company notepaper. This is primarily why the letter editor has line numbers down the left-hand side of the text. To place a page-throw control character on the line on which you wish the page-break to occur, move the cursor to the beginning of that line, then, while holding down the Alt key, type the number 12 on the numeric keypad on the right of the keyboard. The page-throw character appears on the screen as a biology 'female' sign.

Now print out the letter as previously described, then please read it thoroughly to see how it hangs together. If you need to make any further changes, please edit the appropriate paragraphs and the letter as necessary and repeat the process.

Please remember that when you come to write your next sales letter, you can use any of the paragraphs you have already produced simply by including their numbers along with the numbers of your new paragraphs when you come to the 'BUILD A NEW SALES LETTER' procedure.

LETTER & PARAGRAPH DUPLICATION

Often when you need to send a quick letter or mailshot, one of the letters you use regularly is almost right, but not quite. In this case, get the letter that is almost right into the text window as if you were going to edit it, then press the F2-DUPL key. This places a copy of the letter concerned into the next spare position in the letter library and then automatically goes to that position so that the letter text displayed in the text window is now the copy which you can edit into the variant you require. Its title is automatically set in the Library List the same as the one it was copied from prefixed with an '&'.

Before you leave MARKETEER'S Letter Writer, you might like to delete all our sample paragraphs to make room for the future paragraphs of other sales letters. However, please bear in mind that perhaps some of your colleagues may also wish to go through these exercises. If so, you had better leave them on file for the time being.

PRINT & DISPLAY FORMATS

The width of the text galley as displayed on the screen and printed in the finished letter, and the maximum number of lines allowed in a printed sales letter can be adjusted separately using Item 4. Please select Item 4. The values shown are those we have set up. They are what are normally the most suitable. However, you may change them if you wish by following the instructions on the screen.

IMPORTING FROM AN EXTERNAL WORD PROCESSOR

If you have some standard letters produced on an external word processor, you can import them into Marketeer's Letter Library as follows. 1) Make sure that the line width of the external letters is less than or equal to the line width settings within Marketeer (See previous paragraph). 2) For word processors which do not work directly on text files, get them to output the letter as an ASCII file [known also as a text file or print file]. 3) Select Item 1 on the Letter Creation Menu and move the cursor to a spare position in the Library List. Then press F4 and enter a title for the letter to be imported and press carriage return to store the title. Then press F5-IMPORT. The cursor moves to a new field beneath the Library List. There enter the DOS path and file name of the word processor file containing the text you wish to import. The text should then be in the appropriate position in the Letter Library. You can import a paragraph in a similar way.

This completes your introduction to MARKETEER'S Letter Writer.