Ripping Apart The “Prevention” Example Sales Letter (Part 1)

Last post I shared with you a PDF file called The Greatest Sales Letters Of All Time, edited by John Jantsch. (You can download it here if you haven’t already done so.)

Today, let’s go through one of the sales letters, to see why it worked so well. The one I’d like to review is Sales Letter #5, which sells a subscription to Prevention magazine. (This, by the way, is a direct mail letter that was actually mailed out.)

The first thing that immediately stands out to me is that…

There is no headline. The letter assumes it already has the reader’s attention, by virtue of the fact that they are reading the letter. This probably works best for a physical letter, because if you’ve already opened the envelope, you’ve already made a commitment to yourself to at least look at the letter.

Notice also the friendly, personal tone. It’s written almost like one friend writing to another, and it ends with a signature from the writer, Sandy Gibb.

It begins by immediately telling a story, which is something we humans like to hear.

What I liked about the story is that, while Sandy Gibb highlighted the wisdom of her grandmother (in recommending only the healthy stuff), she was quick to deal with the mental objection that “grandmother was hopelessly out of date” – by recalling back to how healthy they were back then, compared to what was happening with food and chemicals in the present time.

Notice also how Sandy’s observations are sufficiently vague, to allow readers to recall their own specific examples. For example…

I was stunned by the number of foods that were almost completely “fake” – most of the good things had been taken out and chemical substitutes put in.

By making it Sandy’s observation, it becomes a fact that can’t be disputed. We could perhaps dispute the nature of Sandy’s observation, but we can’t dispute that Sandy was “stunned” by her observation.

The next sentence builds upon this, and makes it an indisputable fact:

You read about threats and dangers to your health like these every day. In almost every newspaper and magazine you open.

So by this point, it is assumed the reader accepts that there are “threats” and “dangers” to their health – the problem has been explained (and hopefully accepted), and now they are in a better position to accept the solution.

In Part 2 we’ll examine how the solution is presented, in such a way as to build desire for the product. You won’t want to miss it, so make sure you’re signed up to receive free updates to this CopySnips blog.

Are These The Greatest Sales Letters Of All Time?

I recently came across a great little resource edited by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing, and since he gave permission to distribute it freely, I thought I’d share it with you good folks here at the blog.

It’s a 25 page PDF document called The Greatest Sales Letters Of All Time… and it contains 5 actual sales letters, written to sell products such as a subscription to Newsweek magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and a 20 volume Popular Mechanics Do-It-Yourself Encyclopedia.

These are “sales letters” in the traditional sense of the world – in other words, actual letters posted out to a mailing list. Still, regardless of whether you write to sell for the Web or in print, or even if you’re just here to learn about how to write copy, this is a great resource – you get to see the persuasive devices used by these well-known companies to sell their products through the written word.

We can learn a lot from these sales letters. You’ll notice, for example, the lack of hype. Yes, they’re enthusiastic for their products. (I’d particularly like to buy those Do-It-Yourself Encylopedias!) But they all carefully stay within the bounds of credibility. (Perhaps they can do so easily because these companies are, for the most part, pretty well known.)

Keep this resource handy on your computer, because I’ll be referring to it over the coming days and weeks, as I point out some of the specific persuasive devices being used, so make sure you’re subscribed to this blog as well.

You can download The Greatest Sales Letters Of All Time here.

In return, I’d be grateful if you could refer your friends and colleagues to this post, so we can expand the conversation about it here at