HOW TO WRITE THE BUSINESS LETTER: _24 chapters on preparing to write
the letter and finding the proper viewpoint; how to open the letter,
present the proposition convincingly, make an effective close; how
to acquire a forceful style and inject originality; how to adapt
selling appeal to different prospects and get orders by letter -
proved principles and practical schemes illustrated by extracts from
217 actual letters_
_Preparing to Write the Letter_
1: What You Can Do With a Postage Stamp
2: The Advantages of Doing Business by Letter
3: Gathering Material and Picking Out Talking Points
4: When You Sit Down to Write
_How to Write the Letter_
5: How to Begin a Business Letter
6: How to Present Your Proposition
7: How to Bring the Letter to a Close
_Style - Making the Letter Readable_
8: "Style" in Letter Writing - And How to Acquire It
9: Making the Letter Hang Together
10: How to Make Letters Original
11: Making the Form Letter Personal
_The Dress of a Business Letter_
12: Making Letterheads and Envelopes Distinctive
13: The Typographical Make-up of Business Letters
14: Getting a Uniform Policy and Quality in Letters
15: Making Letters Uniform in Appearance
_Writing the Sales Letter_
16: How to Write the Letter That Will "Land" the Order
17: The Letter That Will Bring An Inquiry
18: How to Close Sales by Letter
19: What to Enclose With Sales Letters
20: Bringing in New Business by Post Card
21: Making it Easy for the Prospect to Answer
_The Appeal to Different Classes_
22: How to Write Letters That Appeal to Women
23: How to Write Letters That Appeal to Men
24: How to Write Letters That Appeal to Farmers
What You Can _Do_ With a
PART I - PREPARING TO WRITE THE LETTER - CHAPTER 1
_Last year  fifteen billion letters were handled by the post
office - one hundred and fifty for every person. Just as a thousand
years ago practically all trade was cash, and now only seven per
cent involves currency, so nine-tenths of the business is done today
by letter while even a few decades ago it was by personal word. You
can get your prospect, turn him into a customer, sell him goods,
settle complaints, investigate credit standing, collect your
money_ - ALL BY LETTER. _And often better than by word of mouth. For,
when talking, you speak to only one or two; by letter you can talk
to a hundred thousand in a sincere, personal way. So the letter is
the_ MOST IMPORTANT TOOL _in modern business - good letter writing is
the business man's_ FIRST REQUIREMENT.
* * * * *
There is a firm in Chicago, with a most interesting bit of inside
history. It is not a large firm. Ten years ago it consisted of one
man. Today there are some three hundred employees, but it is still a
one-man business. It has never employed a salesman on the road; the
head of the firm has never been out to call on any of his customers.
But here is a singular thing: you may drop in to see a business man
in Syracuse or San Francisco, in Jacksonville or Walla Walla, and
should you casually mention this man's name, the chances are the
other will reply: "Oh, yes. I know him very well. That is, I've had
several letters from him and I feel as though I know him."
Sitting alone in his little office, this man was one of the first to
foresee, ten years ago, the real possibilities of the letter. He saw
that if he could write a man a thousand miles away the right kind of
a letter he could do business with him as well as he could with the
man in the next block.
So he began _talking_ by mail to men whom he thought might buy his
goods - talking to them in sane, human, you-and-me English. Through
those letters he sold goods. Nor did he stop there. In the same
human way he collected the money for them. He adjusted any
complaints that arose. He did everything that any business man could
do with customers. In five years he was talking not to a thousand
men but to a million. And today, though not fifty men in the million
have ever met him, this man's personality has swept like a tidal
wave across the country and left its impression in office, store and
factory - through letters - letters _alone_.
This instance is not cited because it marks the employment of a new
medium, but because it shows how the letter has become a universal
implement of trade; how a commonplace tool has been developed into a
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.
Analyze for a moment the departments of your own business. See how
many points there are at which you could use _right_ letters to
good advantage. See if you have not been overlooking some
opportunities that the letter, at a small cost, will help develop.
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.
But the letter is not only a direct salesman, it is a supporter of
every personal sales force. Judiciously centered upon a given
territory, letters pave the way for the salesman's coming; they
serve as his introduction. After his call, they keep reminding the
prospect or customer of the house and its goods.
Or, trained by the sales manager upon his men, letters keep them in
touch with the house and key up their loyalty. With regular and
special letters, the sales manager is able to extend his own
enthusiasm to the farthest limits of his territory.
So in every phase of selling, the letter makes it possible for you
to keep your finger constantly upon the pulse of trade.
If you are a wholesaler or manufacturer, letters enable you to keep
your dealers in line. If you are a retailer, they offer you a medium
through which to keep your customers in the proper mental attitude
toward your store, the subtle factor upon which retail credit so
largely depends. If you sell on instalments, letters automatically
follow up the accounts and maintain the inward flow of payments at a
fraction of what any other system of collecting entails.
Do you have occasion to investigate the credit of your customers?
The letter will quietly and quickly secure the information. Knowing
the possible sources of the data you desire you can send forth half
a dozen letters and a few days later have upon your desk a
comprehensive report upon the worth and reliability of almost any
concern or individual asking credit favors. And the letter will get
this information where a representative would often fail because it
comes full-fledged in the frankness and dignity of your house.
Does your business involve in any way the collecting of money?
Letters today bring in ten dollars for every one that collectors
receive on their monotonous round of homes and cashiers' cages.
Without the collection letter the whole credit system would be
toppling about our ears.
* * * * *
BUILDS UP LISTS
ELIMINATES DEAD WOOD
CLASSIFIES LIVE PROSPECTS
OPENS UP NEW TERRITORY
SHOWS POSSIBLE PROFIT
INTRODUCES NEW LINES
AID TO SALESMEN
KEEPS LINED UP
AID TO DEALERS
DRUMS UP TRADE
DEVELOPS NEW BUSINESS
HOW TO SYSTEMIZE WORK
MERCANTILE ACTS - RETAIL ACTS - INSTALLMENT ACTS - PETTY ACTS
EMPHASIZE HOUSE POLICY
EMPHASIZE ADVANTTAGAE OF GOODS
ESTABLISHMENT OF FORCED COLLECTIONS
COST OF FORCED COLLECTIONS
EXTENSION OF ACCOMMODATION
OF SHUTTING OFF CREDIT
OF WRITING TO REFERENCES
THROUGH LEGAL AVENUES
THROUGH LEGAL AGENCIES
HOUSE COLLECTION BUREAUS
REGULAR COLLECTION BUREAUS
HANDLES LONG RANGE CUSTOMERS
SUPPLIES PERSONAL CONTACT
SHOWS INTEREST IN CUSTOMER
DEVELOPS RE-ORDER SCHEMES
BUILDS UP STEADY TRADE
MAKES CAPITAL OUT OF COMPLAINTS
WINS BACK CUSTOMERS
GIVES PERSONALITY TO BUSINESS
BUILDS UP GOOD WILL
PAVES WAY FOR NEW CUSTOMERS
_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_
* * * * *
Do you find it necessary to adjust the complaint of a client or a
customer? A diplomatic letter at the first intimation of
dissatisfaction will save many an order from cancellation. It will
soothe ruffled feelings, wipe out imagined grievances and even lay
the basis for firmer relations in the future.
So you may run the gamut of your own business or any other. At every
point that marks a transaction between concerns or individuals, you
will find some way in which the letter rightly used, can play a
There is a romance about the postage stamp as fascinating as any
story - not the romance contained in sweet scented notes, but the
romance of big things accomplished; organizations developed,
businesses built, great commercial houses founded.
In 1902 a couple of men secured the agency for a firm manufacturing
extracts and toilet preparations. They organized an agency force
through letters and within a year the manufacturers were swamped
with business, unable to fill the orders.
Then the men added one or two other lines, still operating from one
small office. Soon a storage room was added; then a packing and
shipping room was necessary and additional warehouse facilities were
needed. Space was rented in the next building; a couple of rooms
were secured across the street, and one department was located over
the river - wherever rooms could be found.
Next the management decided to issue a regular mail-order catalogue
and move to larger quarters where the business could be centered
under one roof. A floor in a new building was rented - a whole floor.
The employees thought it was extravagance; the managers were
dubious, for when the business was gathered in from seven different
parts of the city, there was still much vacant floor space.
One year later it was again necessary to rent outside space. The
management then decided to erect a permanent home and today the
business occupies two large buildings and the firm is known all over
the country as one of the big factors of mail-order merchandising.
It has all been done by postage stamps.
When the financial world suddenly tightened up in 1907 a wholesale
dry goods house found itself hard pressed for ready money. The
credit manager wrote to the customers and begged them to pay up at
once. But the retailers were scared and doggedly held onto their
cash. Even the merchants who were well rated and whose bills were
due, played for time.
The house could not borrow the money it needed and almost in despair
the president sat down and wrote a letter to his customers; it was
no routine collection letter, but a heart-to-heart talk, telling
them that if they did not come to his rescue the business that he
had spent thirty years in building would be wiped out and he would
be left penniless because he could not collect _his_ money. He had
the bookkeepers go through every important account and they found
that there was hardly a customer who had not, for one reason or
another, at some time asked for an extension of credit. And to each
customer the president dictated a personal paragraph, reminding him
of the time accommodation had been asked and granted. Then the
appeal was made straight from the heart: "Now, when I need help, not
merely to tide me over a few weeks but to save me from ruin, will
you not strain a point, put forth some special effort to help me
out, just as I helped you at such and such a time?"
"If we can collect $20,000," he had assured his associates, "I know
we can borrow $20,000, and that will probably pull us through."
The third day after his letters went out several checks came in; the
fourth day the cashier banked over $22,000; within ten days $68,000
had come in, several merchants paying up accounts that were not yet
due; a few even offered to "help out the firm."
The business was saved - by postage stamps.
Formality to the winds; stereotyped phrases were forgotten;
traditional appeals were discarded and a plain talk, man-to-man,
just as if the two were closeted together in an office brought
hundreds of customers rushing to the assistance of the house with
which they had been dealing.
Sixty-eight thousand dollars collected within two weeks when money
was almost invisible - and by letter. Truly there is romance in the
Twenty-five years ago a station agent wrote to other agents along
the line about a watch that he could sell them at a low price. When
an order came in he bought a watch, sent it to the customer and used
his profit to buy stamps for more letters. After a while he put in
each letter a folder advertising charms, fobs and chains; then
rings, cuff buttons and a general line of jewelry was added. It soon
became necessary to give up his position on the railroad and devote
all his time to the business and one line after another was added to
the stock he carried.
Today the house that started in this way has customers in the
farthermost parts of civilization; it sells every conceivable
product from toothpicks to automobiles and knockdown houses. Two
thousand people do nothing but handle mail; over 22,000 orders are
received and filled every day; 36,000 men and women are on the
It has all been done by mail. Postage stamps bring to the house
every year business in excess of $65,000,000.
One day the head correspondent in an old established wholesale house
in the east had occasion to go through some files of ten and twelve
years before. He was at once struck with the number of names with
which he was not familiar - former customers who were no longer
buying from the house. He put a couple of girls at work making a
list of these old customers and checking them up in the mercantile
directories to see how many were still in business.
Then he sat down and wrote to them, asking as a personal favor that
they write and tell him why they no longer bought of the house;
whether its goods or service had not been satisfactory, whether some
complaint had not been adjusted. There must be a reason, would they
not tell him personally just what it was?
Eighty per cent of the men addressed replied to this personal
appeal; many had complaints that were straightened out; others had
drifted to other houses for no special reason. The majority were
worked back into the "customer" files. Three years later the
accounting department checked up the orders received from these
re-found customers. The gross was over a million dollars. The
business all sprung from one letter.
Yes, there is romance in the postage stamp; there is a latent power
in it that few men realize - a power that will remove commercial
mountains and erect industrial pyramids.
The ADVANTAGES Of Doing
_Business_ By Letter
PART I - PREPARING TO WRITE THE LETTER - CHAPTER 2
_Letters have their limitations and their advantages. The
correspondent who is anxious to secure the best results should
recognize the inherent weakness of a letter due to its lack of
personality in order to reinforce these places. Equally essential is
an understanding of the letter's great_ NATURAL ADVANTAGES _so that
the writer can turn them to account - make the most of them. It
possesses qualities the personal representative lacks and this
chapter tells how to take advantage of them_
* * * * *
While it is necessary to know how to write a strong letter, it is
likewise essential to understand both the limitations of letters and
their advantages. It is necessary, on the one hand, to take into
account the handicaps that a letter has in competition with a
personal solicitor. Offsetting this are many distinct advantages the
letter has over the salesman. To write a really effective letter, a
correspondent must thoroughly understand its carrying capacity.
A salesman often wins an audience and secures an order by the force
of a dominating personality. The letter can minimize this handicap
by an attractive dress and force attention through the impression of
quality. The letter lacks the animation of a person but there can be
an individuality about its appearance that will assure a respectful
hearing for its message.
The personal representative can time his call, knowing that under
certain circumstances he may find his man in a favorable frame of
mind, or even at the door he may decide it is the part of diplomacy
to withdraw and wait a more propitious hour. The letter cannot back
out of the prospect's office; it cannot shape its canvass to meet
the needs of the occasion or make capital out of the mood or the
comments of the prospect.
The correspondent cannot afford to ignore these handicaps under
which his letter enters the prospect's office. Rather, he should
keep these things constantly in mind in order to overcome the
obstacles just as far as possible, reinforcing the letter so it will
be prepared for any situation it may encounter at its destination.
Explanations must be so clear that questions are unnecessary;
objections must be anticipated and answered in advance; the fact
that the recipient is busy must be taken into account and the
message made just as brief as possible; the reader must be treated
with respect and diplomatically brought around to see the
relationship between _his_ needs and _your_ product.
But while the letter has these disadvantages, it possesses qualities
that the salesman lacks. The letter, once it lies open before the
man to whom you wish to talk, is your counterpart, speaking in your
words just as you would talk to him if you were in his office or in
his home. That is, the _right_ letter. It reflects your personality
and not that of some third person who may be working for a
competitor next year.
The letter, if clearly written, will not misrepresent your
proposition; its desire for a commission or for increased sales will
not lead it to make exaggerated statements or unauthorized promises.
The letter will reach the prospect just as it left your desk, with
the same amount of enthusiasm and freshness. It will not be tired
and sleepy because it had to catch a midnight train; it will not be
out of sorts because of the poor coffee and the cold potatoes served
at the Grand hotel for breakfast; it will not be peeved because it
lost a big sale across the street; it will not be in a hurry to make
the 11:30 local; it will not be discouraged because a competitor is
making inroads into the territory.
You have the satisfaction of knowing that the letter is immune from
these ills and weaknesses to which flesh is heir and will deliver
your message faithfully, promptly, loyally. It will not have to
resort to clever devices to get past the glass door, nor will it be
told in frigid tones by the guard on watch to call some other day.
The courtesy of the mail will take your letter to the proper
authority. If it goes out in a dignified dress and presents its
proposition concisely it is assured of a considerate hearing.
It will deliver its message just as readily to some Garcia in the
mountains of Cuba as to the man in the next block. The salesman who
makes a dozen calls a day is doing good work; letters can present
your proposition to a hundred thousand prospects on the one
forenoon. They can cover the same territory a week later and call
again and again just as often as you desire. You cannot time the
letter's call to the hour but you can make sure it reaches the
prospect on the day of the week and the time of the month when he is
most likely to give it consideration. You know exactly the kind of
canvass every letter is making; you know that every call on the list
The salesman must look well to his laurels if he hopes to compete
successfully with the letter as a selling medium. Put the points of
advantage in parallel columns and the letter has the best of it;
consider, in addition, the item of expense and it is no wonder
letters are becoming a greater factor in business.
The country over, there are comparatively few houses that appreciate
the full possibilities of doing business by mail. Not many
appreciate that certain basic principles underlie letter writing,
applicable alike to the beginner who is just struggling to get a
foothold and to the great mail-order house with its tons of mail
daily. They are not mere theories; they are fundamental principles
that have been put to the test, proved out in thousands of letters
and on an infinite number of propositions.
The correspondent who is ambitious to do by mail what others do by
person, must understand these principles and how to apply them. He
must know the order and position of the essential elements; he must
take account of the letter's impersonal character and make the most
of its natural advantages.
Writing letters that pull is not intuition; it is an art that anyone
can acquire. But this is the point: _it must be acquired_. It will
not come to one without effort on his part. Fundamental principles
must be understood; ways of presenting a proposition must be
studied, various angles must be tried out; the effectiveness of
appeals must be tested; new schemes for getting attention and
arousing interest must be devised; clear, concise description and
explanation must come from continual practice; methods for getting
the prospect to order now must be developed. It is not a game of
chance; there is nothing mysterious about it - nothing impossible, it
is solely a matter of study, hard work and the intelligent
application of proved-up principles.
_Gathering_ MATERIAL And _Picking_
Out TALKING Points
PART I - PREPARING TO WRITE THE LETTER - CHAPTER 3
_Arguments - prices, styles, terms, quality or whatever they may
be - are effective only when used on the right "prospect" at the
right time. The correspondent who has some message of value to carry
gathers together a mass of "raw material" - facts, figures and
specifications on which to base his arguments - and then he selects
the particular talking points that will appeal to his prospect. By
systematic tests, the relative values of various arguments may be
determined almost to a scientific nicety. How to gather and classify
this material and how to determine what points are most effective is