Three Solid Ways to Start a Sales Letter

This post is an authorized reprint of a COPYWRITER’S ROUNDTABLE article published and sent to me on July 3, 2012. Copywriter’s Roundtable is owned and managed by John Forde. The article’s author is colleague of John Forde and fellow copywriter, Jason Strachen who has done a masterful in job delivering such a powerful piece.

On this eve of our nation’s independence, what could be a better celebration than a discourse on honing your own entrepreneurial skills, strategies and business acumen? It is my opinion that the Sales Letter is singly THE most important tool a Web Marketing Entrepreneur can have in his/her toolkit; And a superbly composed sales letter puts you heads and shoulders above your competition. So here we go!


Copywriters and article writers are often pre-occupied with the best ways to start an article or sales letter, so it’s not uncommon for questions lke, ‘what’s the perfect opening line?’ to recur frequently. While the answer is not “Call me Ishmael”, and the opening thought is hardly, “Was your Dad a baker? ‘Cause you’ve got a nice set of buns”, the true answer to such a question is, there isn’t one. At least not one that’s perfect for every situation.

There are some, however, that work a lot more reliably than others. And we’re fortunate to have copywriter Jason Strachan show us three of the best ways to start a sales letter. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this free lesson in sales letter writing, titled…


by Jason Strachan


Why is the start of the direct mail letter so important? Here is the answer in a nutshell: Because when reading begins your target customer will be glaring point-blank into the loaded barrel of your promotion. You are NEVER going to get such a great chance to get her interest again.

So what are you waiting for? When you start your letter or email, or video, go ahead and fire the most powerful, single most seductive message you possibly can! Because the cold truth is, as corny as it may sound, if you don’t get her (or him) at hello’ you wont get her at all.

Now In this article I’ve selected my 3 most tried and tested letter openings that I’ve used with a lot of success in my career. You could call them my ‘old faithfuls.’ Because if my life was on the line, and I was in a position where I had to write a letter that worked, or I’d be executed by firing squad, I would use one of these three openings, everytime. So here’s the first one…


i.e. If you’re like me, you spend way too much time in front of your computer…

Now there are two distinct reasons why I like this opening. First: because it is an approach that works for practically ANY market place. And second: because it establishes immediate rapport.

The whole tone of “If you’re like me” immediately conjures up the feeling of a trusted friend wrapping her arm around your shoulder to give you a bit of counsel. And it causes your prospect to just drop her guard a little, while she starts to read what you have to say.

Now even though a LOT of marketers have discovered how powerful this opening is and have started using it a lot. It’s STILL very effective in the marketplace today. Just as long as its expressed with sincerity. So in other words, don’t attempt to write an “If you’re like me” opening if you’re actually nothing like your customer.

*TIP: Remember what David Ogilvy famously said: ‘The customer is NOT a moron – she’s your wife’


Okay – here’s where we step into some dangerous territory…

You see, a lot of people who attempt to write sales copy understand how to write a question. It’s the qualifier ‘provocative’, that they do not seem to get a handle on. However if you get it right, it works like a charm!

First let me show you how most marketing agencies mess it up.

The way they get it wrong is by opening the letter with a question that has no relevance to your prospect, so they dismiss it straight away. For example: If I open a letter with, ‘Do you know the name of the ancient Greek God of sunshine?’

Your response will likely be: A) Are you nuts?’ B) ‘Who cares?” or worse C) Something’s wrong with you, and If I did know the ancient Greek God of sunshine there’d be something wrong with ME.”

A provocative question is a question that really triggers some type of dominant emotion inside your target customers. Here are some examples…

*Can we really expect those who make money from our illnesses to always have our best interests at heart?

*When was the last time YOU hired a copywriter capable of doubling… tripling… or even quadrupling your business profits?

*Does the endless talk of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter make you feel as if you’re ‘missing a trick’ In growing your business?


‘ What if openings can be VERY effective when used correctly. Let me show you.

Now the key with ‘What If openings’ is to link your concept to something your target customer already believes or knows or can easily imagine. Examples are:

  • What If you had bought Miami Beach property in the 1920’s?
  • What if you had bought Microsoft shares when they were at $6 per share
  • What if you had been burgled while you slept soundly asleep last night?
  • What If’s” are also good if you want to use them to challenge the readers perceptions like this.
  • What If I could PROVE you can make a thousand pounds before sundown today?
  • What If I could DOUBLE your reading speed?
  • What If I could slash your marketing costs by 40% and still DOUBLE your business profits this
    year – with ZERO financial risk?

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of ways to open your emails and letters. As I said these are 3 really successful ones. Here’s another “bonus” opener that’s really effective:


Now this type of opening is really presumptuous and can back fire pretty easily. The power in this type of opening comes from the way it establishes rapport with your prospect by mirroring his own beliefs. BUT. To make this opening work there are two crucial aspects to consider.

#1: You have to make sure you know your prospect inside out. As if you make a ‘As You Know’ statement, and your prospect then disagrees with what you say next – then your message will get binned or deleted straight away.

#2: You have to make 100% sure that what you say after “As you know” is either deadly interesting or deeply worrying to your prospect. If your prospect reads what you write after it and says “Yeah – so what?” you’re toast!

Can you handle more?

Okay – here’s another favorite opener example:


This short and sweet opening can work surprising miracles in any medium. And works just as well in face to face, telephone conversions too. It’s very much a “hard business” type of opening though. The type you’d use when writing renewal letters/emails to your subscribers.

It works because it immediately says to your prospect “ Look I am not going to waste your time.” Which makes it stand out from all the other ‘guff’ your prospect normally gets in the mail. In fact a great example of this opening was used successfully for The Wall Street Journal – and ran for many years like this:


I’ll get right to the point. Your subscription to ABC publication is up for renewal now. And if you reply now, this will be the last renewal notice you’ll receive. No follow-ups. And your subscription will continue without interruption.

Here’s Why Renewing Promptly Is To Your Advantage.’

And then the letter goes onto offer the prospect a few reasons why it would benefit him or her to renew their Wall Street Journal subscription.

Now… there are literally hundreds and HUNDREDS of ways to open your emails and letters. These are only a few tried and tested successful ones that I use. However I would advise you to start building up a collection of your own powerful openers. Why?

  • It’ll help you write copy faster.
  • It’ll help you recognize what ‘effective openings look like…
  • You will get GREATER measurable results from your e-mails… direct mail… and video scripts… and you’ll make lots more money for yourself and your clients!

And isn’t that the great win/win you’re after?

For more surefire headlines visit Jason’s blog-site at: Hey, speaking of bonuses, Jason has one that he’s giving away here: The Power of Reason website! I encourage you to check it out!

I hope you enjoyed the post, but more importantly, I hope you found in it something you can use in your own marketing campaigns. If you found the post interesting enough to want more, you can sign up for $78 worth of free gifts and more copywriting articles at Copywriter’s RoundTable