An unremarkable undergrad at an unremarkable college is in talks with a prestigious Wall Street investment firm for a coveted internship, on the strength of the cover letter he sent with his resume. The letter has been called the ‘best cover letter ever’ and has gone viral throughout the investment world and on the Internet.
The article reporting the story put it this way:
“Rather than inflating his qualifications and bragging about his grades or past job experiences, the humble applicant simply stated his case and matter-of-factly asked for an internship–even if it meant shining shoes.”
He added: “I have no unbelievably special skills or genius eccentricities.”
You can read the letter and the rest of the story here.
So, great story, huh? Boy meets (investment) world. Boy lands big internship. Boy makes his mom proud.
Nice. But what does it have to do with marketing legal services?
It deftly illustrates a timeless direct marketing principle–the supremacy of the sales letter. It wasn’t this young man’s resume that got the job. It was the letter. Similarly, your CV or list of accomplishments won’t get clients to hire you. Not by itself. You need a sales letter.
Let me show you what I mean by taking you on a stroll down memory lane.
Remember back before email when we all got a lot of direct mail solicitations in our mailboxes? For various goods and services, magazines, record clubs, insurance, and such? The mailing has several components and each plays a role in getting the sale.
First, the envelope.
Oh yes, the envelope is a sales tool. Direct mail experts consider (and test) the size and shape of the envelope, the color, the stamp, the address (label, print, or hand written), and the copy–the words printed on the outside of the envelope. It is those words that get the recipient to open the envelope (or not). Envelope copy grabs you (or doesn’t) and that determines whether or not you open the dang thing. Just like the “subject” line in an email today.
Inside the envelope is the sales letter and other documents. These may include a brochure or leaflet, a booklet of testimonials, a guarantee, an order form, a return envelope, and perhaps various “involvement devices” like stamps or tokens you’re supposed to affix to a the order form to indicate your preference.
Let’s compare that package to your web site.
You get people to “open” your web site with your “envelope copy”–the title and description of your site in search engines or in an ad, for example. Your description or ad piques their interest and they click through to your site.
In a mailing, the brochure and other components provide supporting materials: facts, details, proof. People buy for emotional reasons and justify their decision with logic and facts. The brochure supplies the latter.
On your web site, your brochure takes form in articles, FAQs, and a list of accomplishments. This is the supporting data that helps people justify their decision to take the next step towards hiring you.
Other content that supports this might be a page that offers a pledge or guarantee, involvement devices like polls (or results), videos, checklists, forms, and the like. These get people to spend more time on your site.
All of this content helps. But it is the sales letter that gets them to act.
On your web site, your sales letter might be on a welcome page or your “About” page. It might be a video. You greet the visitor and tell them what you can do for them. You tell them about yourself and do your best to connect with them. You want them to feel good about you and trust you. If they do, they’ll read some of your other content to learn the details.
The sales letter is the most important part of the mail package and your web site. It has to connect with the reader and do a complete sales job. There’s no sales person sitting with them or on the phone so the letter has to do all the talking. It has to tell the story, answer questions, overcome objections, and close the deal. In a mailing package, it has to get the order. On your web site, your sales letter has to get the visitor to call, fill out a form, or opt into your email list.
Now, how did this young college student with ostensibly no sales or marketing experience write such an effective sales letter? How did he stand out in a sea of competition?
He did it by ignoring what everyone else does and what conventional wisdom says he should do.
He wrote from the heart. Straight talk. No hype, no pretense. “Here I am, nothing special. I’m reasonably intelligent and I’ll work hard. Give me any job, I want to learn.”
He told the “buyer” what they wanted wanted to hear. Not because he knew what they wanted to hear, but because he didn’t know what else to say except the unvarnished truth.
It worked because he was refreshingly honest.
People don’t want “canned” and “commercial”. They want “real” and “believable.” If you can deliver that, they’ll pay attention, and if they want what you offer, they’ll buy.
The most critical job of the sales letter is getting the reader to pay attention. Employers sort resumes with a bias towards trashing them. They read only a handful that have a cover letter that catches their attention.
Web visitors do the same thing. When they arrive at a web site, they look for reasons to click away. Your “sales letter” has to get them to stay.
When you write your sales letter, you should do what this young man did. Be yourself. Tell your story, warts and all. Okay, maybe you can hide some of the warts, but keep it real and talk to them from the page like you would if you were talking face to face.
Don’t give them the packaged and polished (and boring) stuff you see coming from most attorneys. If you don’t grab them, you’ve lost them. If you don’t get their attention, it won’t matter how impressive your accomplishments might be, nobody will see them.
So here’s what I want you to do. Write a letter to a prospective client. Tell him why he should hire you. Tell him what you can do for him or his company and how you’ll work hard to do it. Imagine you’re sitting with him in a coffee shop, just the two of you. What would you say to get his attention and make your case?
Write that down.
I’m not suggesting that you’ll write something brilliant that will go viral on the Internet and be called the “greatest lawyer letter ever”. In fact, nobody will see this letter because you’re not going to send it to anyone.
But you might just get some ideas you can use on your web site or the next time you write an email or a blog post. You might just write something that reaches out and touches someone and makes them want to hear more.
Human beings are starved for real communication. A lot of people don’t even talk on the phone anymore, they “talk” with their thumbs. So when they hear a real person who speaks plainly and openly, without pretense or affectation, they listen.
To college students, and even to lawyers.
Learn more. Earn more. Get the Attorney Marketing Formula.