Nowadays, writing a letter can seem completely archaic. I mean, do people even send mail anymore? Or do they only communicate through email and messaging?
In the business world, though, letters are actually still crucial for collaboration. To convince someone to offer you a job, you need to write them a compelling cover letter. And to persuade someone to speak at your company’s event, you need to write a gripping pitch.
A lot of professionals overlook the importance of writing high-quality business letters because they seem outdated. As a result, most people don’t actually know how to write one.
Fortunately, if you're in the same boat, we've got you covered. Below, we'll teach you how to craft a persuasive business letter for any purpose and situation.
How to Format a Business Letter
Write the date and your recipient's name, company, and address.
Choose a professional greeting, like “Dear,”.
Craft a compelling introduction.
State your intent in the letter’s body text.
End your letter with a strong call-to-action.
Choose a professional closing, like “Sincerely,”.
Physically sign the letter with your signature.
Type your name, address, phone number, and email address.
To teach you how to write a business letter in more detail than the snippet above, let's take a look at a letter I wrote to Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot’s CTO, when I was a wide-eyed college student trying to convince him to speak at my school.
I’ll analyze the most important parts of my letter -- the introduction, body text, and call-to-action -- and explain how and why they can strengthen your own business letters.
Business Letter Example
October 1, 2016
25 First Street,
Cambridge, MA 02141
Dear Mr. Shah,
When my freshman year of college ended, I was fortunate enough to work as a digital marketing intern at a startup called SlideBatch. They were introducing a new content marketing tool to the market, and my job was to apply that tool to their clients’ social media marketing campaigns and prove that SlideBatch was an effective marketing solution. I was so excited to get to work, but I had one small problem. I didn’t know what content marketing was. So, I did some research on the Internet and discovered HubSpot’s Marketing blog.
Fast forward a year and half, and I’m still reading HubSpot’s Marketing blog and leveraging its insights at my third digital marketing internship. Reading your blogs changed my life. I entered college believing financial advising was my destiny. But, after learning about HubSpot’s inbound marketing philosophy -- how helping people is the ultimate way to increase brand trust and engagement -- I was hooked. Shortly after my internship with SlideBatch ended, I decided to pursue digital marketing instead of financial advising. I’ve haven’t looked back since.
HubSpot’s influence on my life is the reason I’m writing to you today. I’m certain if you spoke at my school, DePauw University, about your life, HubSpot, and the inbound marketing philosophy, there would be hundreds of undecided students who start pursuing digital marketing. I know this because DePauw’s McDermond Speaker Series is one of the best platforms for business leaders to showcase their passion for their industry, company, and work. Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics, Angie Hicks of Angie’s List, and Bill Rasmussen of ESPN have all successfully used the McDermond Speaker Series to inspire the world’s next generation of business leaders, and I know you could, too.
We would be honored if you spoke at our school. Thank you for your time and consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you!
313 South Locust St.
Greencastle, IN 46136
Introduction (first and second paragraphs)
To instantly grab Dharmesh’s attention and entice him to read the rest of my letter, you'll notice I didn’t lead with the standard "I’m writing to you today because…” introduction. Instead, I engaged him with a story about how I discovered HubSpot and how his company changed my life. I thought this would strongly resonate with him because I assumed, as a co-founder of HubSpot, he would love to see how his life’s work has benefited others.
In your own business letters, you don’t necessarily need to tell a story to immediately hook your reader and persuade her to read on. But you should definitely describe how she’s made an impact on your life. This is what will truly grab and hold her attention.
Body text (third paragraph)
After my introduction, I swiftly segued into why I was writing to Dharmesh -- to ask him to speak at my school. Personal anecdotes are an effective way to engage readers, but I’d lose Dharmesh’s attention if I didn’t cut to the chase.
Once I stated my letter’s intent, I quickly pitched the benefits of speaking at my school and bolstered the reputation of my school’s speaker series. By emphasizing how speaking at my school could inspire hundreds of students to pursue digital marketing and highlighting the group of impressive speakers Dharmesh could join, I focused on the dividends he would reap from being a McDermond Series Speaker, rather than how my school would benefit from his guest appearance.
So whether you’re trying to convince someone to hire you or speak at your school, you must first persuade your reader that doing what you ask of them will ultimately benefit them and be in their best interest.
Call-to-action (fourth paragraph)
In my last paragraph, I politely ask Dharmesh to speak at my school again. Even though I already asked him this earlier, it's important I end my letter with a clear next step. It packs more of a punch and crystalizes the desired action in his mind.
Strong call-to-actions are a crucial element of a persuasive business letter. Because if you don't tell your reader what to do next, you might as well have never written your letter in the first place.
Originally published Nov 1, 2018 7:00:00 AM, updated July 24 2019