It's Monday -- that means it's time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

“Sales letters are dead.”

…  Or so they’re telling me, Rainmaker.  Wanna know what I think?  Read on!

It’s Monday, that means I’m diggin’ in the ol’ mailbox, to answer YOUR questions!

And it’s funny, because I’ve had this question queued up for a couple weeks.   (Get your question in the queue by emailing it to me at [email protected].)

But today I was on the phone with a guy who has one foot in our entrepreneurial direct and internet marketing world…  And another foot in the upper echelons of the Silicon Valley money machine…

And he was wondering pretty much the exact same thing!

Before I go deep with my answer, here’s the question from my mailbox…

Hi Roy,

Thanks for all your incredible emails. Your book is excellent, as well — I really enjoyed it.

My question is simple: Is the traditional online sales letter dead? And if so, is the landing page the new sales letter?

Thanks so much!

Best regards,

Eddie S.

Okay, before I give my personal verdict, I’m going to try to present a few factors on both sides of the argument…

First, I’m going to imagine that the online “sales letter” is going the way of the dodo bird…  And consider the facts that support that point…

Then, I’ll imagine that the sales letter has some life left in it…  And weigh the facts in that direction…

Then I’ll reveal which side I fall on…

These trends suggest “Online sales letters ARE dead.”

First, landing pages that don’t look like sales letters are definitely the trend. 

I will absolutely concede to that.  There are a ton of websites and web pages out there, put out by businesses that are successful, that don’t look like sales letters.

My counterpoint to this is that there have ALWAYS been different formats used by marketers in all media, that weren’t necessarily working as well as the direct response formats were.

BUT it’s a very valid point.  If consumers end up trusting one format over another, that will impact response rates.

Which brings me to the second point.  In the 1990s, there was a huge trend in direct mail AWAY from the sales letter.

Up through the early 1990s, almost all high-level direct mail included a letter and order form, with a number of other optional elements that may or may not be found in any given piece.

Then, at least with the TOP direct mail marketers — especially publishers — they discovered a new format.  I think Gary Bencivenga is the guy that named them magalogs — because they looked like a magazine, but sold like a catalog.

And that’s about as succinct of a description as I can give!

What’s notable though to this conversation is that magalogs are almost always more nicely-designed than a letter.  You’d get something in the mail that effectively did look like a magazine.  But as you got hooked into the content and read deeper, you’d realize that they had a product to sell.

I think the distinguishing factor here that must really be considered though is a lesson I learned from Gary B., that the reason these worked was because people really wanted to read magazines.  They saw the media as containing valuable content.  So as much as you were able to mimic that in how you put together your magalog, you’d get readers.  And someone has to read before they buy.

I think in that regard, a landing page has no advantage over an online sales letter.

Next point: production value is going up across the board. 

There is the argument that people are more likely to consume things that look like they could come from peers versus from a corporate production house.

This was the crux of Gary Halbert’s famous “A-pile, B-pile” speech.  But what happens when a teenager with a retail video camera and a mid-level laptop can make movies at a production quality as high or higher than Hollywood was doing in the 1980s?  The expectation is for higher production values.

(In fact, I believe most of Jeff Walker’s recent videos promoting his Product Launch Video were shot and edited by his son.  And the quality was definitely top notch!)

This doesn’t just apply to videos, either.  Production value has gone up in all media, now that we all have laptops and even tablets that can do high-level multimedia.

This can’t be ignored.

Also, webinars are being presented as the latest and greatest conversion medium…

And while this doesn’t match the original question, it was part of my other conversation on this topic.

Webinars are definitely being sold as a powerful way to convert your audience, and my personal experience bears this out.

The point is that people are using lots of different avenues than the traditional sales letter to move prospects to become buyers.


These trends suggest “Long live the sales letter!”

First, remember that personal, one-to-one communication is by far still the most powerful way to convert.

You’re reading this right now because it feels — at least on some level — like a personal, one-to-one communication.  That’s a power of sales letters that a well-designed landing page doesn’t have.

Incidentally, magalogs don’t have that feel, either — an important point.

I would think more important than how the page is laid out, is the voice that comes through.

Can you pull off something that has that real connection with the reader without writing a letter?

Another point: The world’s TOP direct marketers are still using long-form direct response copy that’s written like a letter…

I’ll admit, it’s easy to get stuck in our own way of doing things.  And even previously innovative, entrepreneurial direct response companies are as guilty of this as anyone else.

But these folks also spend a TON of money testing.  And they’re open to whatever the test results tell them.

So while it may not be the BEST format…  It’s worth noting that if the world’s biggest, most successful direct response marketers are still using promotions written and presented a lot like a letter, that the format probably isn’t “dead.”

Recent stat: the mobile video experience is disjointed enough that copy on page seems to work betters…

I heard this on a podcast recently.  And it doesn’t totally fall on the “pro sales letters” side of the debate.  But it’s worth considering here.

Recent test data suggests that sending mobile users to a text-driven sales page is outperforming video pages.  The thinking seems to be that the mobile video experience is inconsistent.

While this can apply to landing pages, too, it’s worth considering in the broader context.

Oh no, it’s press time!

I didn’t mean to leave you with a cliff hanger, but now that I’m doing it, I like the idea.

Tune in tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel, where I’ll reveal what I think of the future of the online sales letter, and if it’s dead or not!

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets