Why business letters are important to your business – 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.
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.
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.
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.
Why business letters are important to your business
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 human nature.
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 objections.
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.
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 correspondents