The Copywriter's Crucible

The 5 Step ‘Sideways Sales Letter’ Method

5 step sales letter

Yesterday when I was working from a coffee shop when I overheard a conversation between a marketing consultant and a client.

Let me tell you, it was painful listening.

The consultant was trying to convince a rightly cynical client that social media was the ‘new way’ of marketing. That nobody read emails or visited corporate websites anymore and the client needed a flow of Facebook updates, Tweets and hashtags to shift his wares. I think the consultant may even have called it ‘content marketing’.

After spitting coffee all over my laptop, I was forced to change seats. Partly because my battery was running low and I needed a wall socket. But mainly because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sit in silence much longer without sharing some poignant facts:

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Never build your farm on rented land

As I’ve mentioned multiple times at the Crucible: ‘never build your farm on rented land’. In other words, building up Fans and followers puts you at the mercy of whatever changes the owner of that platform wants to make.

When Facebook tweaked their algorithm to limit the number of times people viewed ‘promotional’ posts it made a lot of social media marketers look sheepish. And best not to mention Google+ around anyone who does marketing for Starbucks.

With, an email list you keep control over how and when you can contact subscribers for as long as they stay subscribed, enabling you to keeping selling and promoting your services whatever disruption happens in the social media world.

So we’re agreed: a large social media following is nice to have, and it can be effective when numbers run into the tens of thousands (on Twitter, anyway). But it’s dirt poor engagement rate make it a questionable sales channel compared to email’s massive (and quantifiable) ROI.

Using Email as a Sideways Sales Letter

Now, I’m not just writing to you to vent. I also wanted to share a strategy for maximizing your email marketing success. After all, it’s easy to quote studies and stats on email, but the best way to guarantee success is to have a clear strategy.

Clients often ask me to write just one email, but I always tell them that five is better. Not to inflate my fee (you cynical types), but because any salesman worth his salt will tell you that the majority of sales come after the fifth contact.

So you should also structure campaigns so that prospects are contacted multiple times, whether it’s by email, letter, postcard or biting the bullet and using for phone for something other than Whatsapp (or is it Telegram, these days?) and Words with Friends.

Anyway, let’s say we’re focusing on email and we’ve built a list after running a lead generation campaign with a lead magnet. So we’ve given away something valuable to get people registered but haven’t done anything yet to sell to them.

A smart approach would be to structure your emails so they follow the awareness scale, and take people from clueless about what you do to interested then convinced then whipping out their credit card before your stocks run dry. Jeff Walker coined this as using email like a ‘sideways sales letter’.

You could structure your emails like this:

Email 1 – Unaware – Introduce yourself, tell them what you do and what’s coming up in future emails (a.k.a. an ‘onboarding’ email).

Email 2 – Problem Aware – Rub salt in their wound by addressing the problem discussed in your lead magnet. Remind them how this problem is holding them back from the good life.

Email 3 – Solution Aware – Discuss their options for solving their problem. More importantly, mention why the existing solutions aren’t working and they need something better.

Email 4 – Product Aware – Introduce your product or service as the optimum solution that can answer all their worries and their fears. The future looks brighter with it in their life.

Email 5 – Most Aware – Make an offer. Remind them of the problems they face if they do nothing and what they have to look forward to if they decide to buy (the crossroads method).

Following this email structure enables you to deliver a long sales pitch in delicious fun size portions that are easier for today’s attention shy consumer to digest and respond to.

So if you ever find yourself within earshot of a social media consultant, consider politely tapping them on the shoulder and showing them this post. Hopefully, it may persuade them that they need a copywriter and digital sales warhorse, like yourself, sat alongside them the next time they pitch.

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