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How to write better upgrade letters.

HOW TO WRITE BETTER UPGRADE LETTERS "I probably shouldn't say this," says Ivan Levison, a copywriter who specializes in direct response campaigns for software and hardware companies, "but you can get away with writing a pretty bad upgrade announcement and still get decent sales. For a lot of customers, an upgrade falls in the 'extremely high interest' category. They'll wade through really terrible writing because they want what you're selling."

Nevertheless, says Levison, putting a little extra effort into an upgrade offer can still yield a substantial payoff. The reason: "There are always users who see upgrades as a knife-edge decision. They like a couple of features, but it takes a strong sales message to push them off the fence." In fact, a well-crafted offer can boost upgrade sales by as much as a third, he says.

Direct mail packages typically include a letter, brochure, post card, and other pieces--but the letter is "the heart and soul of the package," he says. "That's the place people look for the overall story and the details of the offer." We asked Levison to describe a few techniques for improving upgrade letters. His advice:

* Get personal: "People buy from people they like," he says. "Right from the beginning, build the relationship between you and the reader. Say you're delighted that they use your product, and explain how enthusiastic you are about the new version. Just being cold and factual is a definite turnoff."

* Keep talking: "Don't assume that it's best to keep the letter short," says Levison. "Often, the more you tell, the more you sell. I recently read about a strictly controlled test conducted for the Playboy Book Club. They tested sales letters that were one, two, four, eight, and 12 pages in length. The 12-pager puller best. This doesn't surprise me in the least."

* Create a deadline: "Let readers know they can save money if they order by a given date. Forcing people to act quickly can have a tremendous impact on response rates." To reinforce the sense of urgency, Levison says the letter should encourage telephone orders, particularly by emphasizing an 800 number.

* Avoid a typeset look: "I have a bias toward a typewritten look," says Levison. "There's something about a typeset letter that's too slick." Direct mail tests also show that indented paragraphs, two-color printing, subheads, and liberal use of capital letters all enhance response rates, he says. Breaking text into short chunks--"no more than six or seven line"--is especially helpful, he adds.

* REpeat key points from the brochure: "The brochure is a good place to offload nitty-gritty details," says Levison, "but don't be afraid of duplicating what the brochure says about major features and benefits. Remember, there's no way to control which piece is going to be read first."

* Give detailed instructions: "Number the steps. Remove any doubt about what you want readers to do."

* Add a postscript: "Research proves that postscripts get seven times the readership of the letter's body copy," Levison notes. "Just like with letter lenght, if you're communicating important news of information, and can keep the reader with you, don't worry about length. I have written postscripts five sentences long and wouldn't cut a word."
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Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:writing the copy for software upgrade announcements
Publication:Soft-Letter
Date:Nov 7, 1990
Words:533
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