Last week, I talked about how to write great sales letters every time by knowing what your customer knows before you start writing.
Because when you know what your customer knows, you’ll never have to speculate how to speak to her. You’ll know how to speak to her. And you can do this by looking at Eugene Schwartz’s “Five Levels of Customer Awareness,” which I show you in that same post.
But what do you do with that knowledge once you have it?
Match your customer awareness level with one of proven successful lead types.
These lead types, defined beautifully by John Forde and Michael Masterson in “Great Leads: The Six Easiest Ways to Start Any Sales Message,” are the key to creating a stellar sales letter every time. And they’re divided into two categories: direct vs. indirect. Here’s what they look like when plotted on the Awareness Scale:
When in question, follow this rule of thumb:
The more aware your customer is, the more direct you’ll want to go when writing your sales letter.
The less aware your customer is, the less direct you should be.
Now, on to the specific lead types:
1. The Offer Lead
This type of lead is as direct as it gets. Since your prospect already knows about your product and just wants to learn “the deal,” you don’t have to do any tiptoeing around it (in fact, if you do, it’ll hurt your chances of making the sale).
Simply get straight to the deal. Mention the product, the price, the discount (if there is one) very early in the lead or even in the headline.
Headline example of an offer lead: “Give me five days and I can give you a magnetic personality … let me prove it — FREE”
2. The Promise Lead
One of the most common lead types, the promise lead appeals to the customer who knows what you sell, but isn’t convinced it’s right for her.
It’s slightly less direct than the offer lead, and requires you to do some more convincing on why your product is right for your customer (rather than just telling her the offer, as you would in the offer lead). Still, you’ll want to spell out the offer and product benefits early on and touch on them throughout your sales letter.
Headline example of a promise lead: “How to Create Advertising That Sells”
3. The Problem-Solution Lead
When your customer has a need, but doesn’t know your product will satisfy that need, you might want to turn to the problem-solution lead.
Typically, this means delaying any talk of your product until you address your prospect’s biggest, emotionally-charged, and relevant issue. Then, make promises related to your product so that your customer is convinced your product will solve her biggest problems.
Headline example of a problem-solution lead: “Can’t Fall Asleep? Not Staying Asleep? Waking Too Early? Never Again”
4. The “Big Secret” Lead
When a prospective customer knows she has an unmet need or desire, but doesn’t know if there’s a solution to her problem, the “big secret” lead might be the solution.
Here, you’ll want to “tease” your prospect with hard to come by knowledge, a secret formula, or system. Spell out the benefits, and then position your product or service as the answer. In many cases, your customer will actually have to order the product to get the full solution to her problem with this lead type.
But don’t ever try to dupe your prospect — your product or service should actually address a problem she’s having, or she’ll be disappointed in her purchase, and you’ll most likely lose her as a future customer. Plus, it’s just not cool.
Headline example of a “big secret” lead: “The Only Investment Legally Obligated to Pay You 181% Gains By June 15, 2009”
5. The Proclamation Lead
Here’s where you start to get really indirect, appealing to either a problem-aware or completely unaware prospect.
In a proclamation lead, you want to surprise your reader, either with a surprising factoid, shocking forecast, or a bold statement. But it has to be really bold, or your reader will just gloss over your headline and lead and never finish reading your letter.
According to John Forde and Michael Masterson, “the goal is to disarm the prospect just long enough to work your way back into the product and your pitch.”
Headline example of a proclamation lead: “READ THIS OR DIE”
6. The Story Lead
The story lead may not only be the most indirect way to open a sales letter, it can also be the most powerful. Stories engage readers who don’t know you well and who would most likely flinch at a more direct offer. They tend to work well with fundraising letters, where emotion plays a big part in the decision to send money.
Look for stories in testimonials, track record, or historical proof. Just make sure to keep it relevant and brief if possible.
Headline example of a story lead: “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano — But When I Started to Play!”
The result? A stellar sales letter that wins your audience over every time. Go get em, tiger.
By the way, if you’re looking for a great in-depth resource on writing leads, be sure to check out Great Leads: The Six Easiest Ways to Start Any Sales Message.
It’ll rock your socks off.