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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

Writing effective letters, Part 2

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After you’ve worked through the initial questions we discussed in Part 1, you’re ready to write the first draft of your letter. One method you can use is called the AIDA formula. This method can help ensure that your message captures the reader’s attention and motivates the reader to respond.

AIDA stands for:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these AIDA steps.

In your opening paragraph or paragraphs, you’ll introduce relevant reader benefits and capture attention right off the bat. You’ll do this by focusing on the reader.

Many times, we’re tempted to jump into writing about why we’re qualified to send the letter in the first place, giving a bio, extolling credentials, etc. Avoid this temptation. Instead, immediately speak to the reader and his or her wants and needs.

There are different ways to capture attention. Here are some ideas for the opening paragraph or paragraphs of your letter:

  • Make a comparison or tell a story. For example, if you’re writing a letter to your existing female clients to tell them about the benefits of annuities, you may begin your letter with, “Your neighbor may already own one. No wonder why she’s so confident!”
  • Speak to an event in the reader’s life. For example, if you’re writing a letter to potential clients around ages 55-65, you may want to talk about retirement in the opening paragraphs. “You’re about to retire. Congratulations! With the second half of your life ahead of you, wouldn’t it be comforting to know how much money you can safely spend on all of the things you want to do?”
  • Rhetorical question. With this technique, you ask a question and then answer it for them. “What are the main characteristics of retirees today? A recent Gallup survey found that seven out of 10 retirees don’t know how much money they’ll need in retirement. Do you?”
  • Product fact. You can capture attention in the initial paragraphs by pairing a need or concern with a product feature. “Not a single annuity owner has lost money on their contract during the last six months.”
  • Surprise question. Here’s another example combining a need with an annuity product feature. “Guarantees! How do those sound in today’s economy?”
  • Challenge question. With this final idea starter, you challenge your reader to see himself or herself as owning the benefit you’re promoting. “Savings. Guarantees. Ongoing cost reductions. Ways to improve your health. Yours, when your own XYZ product.”

Now, let’s turn to the second part of the AIDA method: Interest. After you’ve piqued the reader’s attention, you’ll move on to increasing their interest and awareness of your project, product, service or problem. In other words, you’ll present the main idea of your letter. And you’ll do this by appealing to the reader’s senses by keying in on direct or indirect benefits.

For example:

  • Asking your client to make an appointment for a life policy review so they can have peace of mind about protecting their loved ones.
  • Asking your client to schedule a retirement income analysis that can help them improve their retirement readiness and increase the likelihood that they feel confident that they can retire “on time.”

Once you’ve captured attention and interest, you move on to the third part of the method: Desire. Here, you’ll support or “prove” your main idea and why it can be a benefit to your reader. You’ll want to reinforce the reader benefits by offering testimonials, listing research findings, listing product benefits, and/or explaining how the service works. In this section of your letter, you’ll also want to handle potential reader concerns. You can do this by:

  • Developing the main idea and then listing key benefits.
  • Enclosing brochures or product fact sheets about the product or service you’re offering.
  • Explaining how a product or service can have an impact on the reader’s time, money, health, and/or family.

The fourth and final component of the AIDA method is: Action. Here’s where most letter writers wimp out. They meekly end the letter with “Call for more information.” Don’t do this. It won’t work. Don’t be afraid to call out the action you’re wanting – the response you want your reader to take.

  • Clearly state your call to action.
  • Be specific. Make it easy for the reader to respond by giving them the phone number and your office hours, by including a link for online registration to your workshop, or by enclosing an RSVP card that they can quickly fill out and return by mail.
  • Give an additional reason to respond. “And when you register for my workshop, I’ll send you a complimentary income planning workbook.”
  • Restate your “Attention and Interest” paragraphs by clearly repeating the benefits of responding.
  • PS – Reinforce the reader benefit in the PS. Letter recipients often read this last line of the letter first!

Edit for clarity. Once you’ve written a first draft, walk away from it for some time. Then go back to it and ask yourself if your one key message stands out and is well-supported with details. Also, ask yourself if you’ve made it easy for the reader to respond. If your answer is not a resounding “Yes,” then go back to the drawing board. Feel stuck? Ask a co-worker or friend to read your message and to provide feedback.

Edit for mechanics. Don’t let misspelled or misused words distract readers from getting your message. Once you’re confident about your letter’s content, take the time to run your word-processing tools. Plus, ask a co-worker or friend to read your letter with “fresh eyes” before it goes to the mailbox.

Whether you’re communicating with existing clients or potential clients, a well-written personal letter can be a great way to capture attention. The challenge lies in writing a letter that stands out amidst mailboxes that are often crammed full of competing messages. Using these step-by-step suggestions for writing effective letters can help you stand out in a crowd and increase the number of responses you receive.

For additional marketing tips from Amy Kennel, visit


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