The Wall Street Journal’s $2bn Sales Letter Teardown

January 29, 2021

What would you do if someone comes to you and tells you that this sales letter remained the control for 28 years (with minor edits only) and yielded $2bn in sales?

I don't know what you'd do, but I'd definitely love to access that sales letter, analyze it, find out the underlying themes and hacks, and then use them while writing copy for my clients.

And that's what I did when I learned of this great sales letter that Martin Conroy wrote for The Wall Street Journal. I found the letter on Swiped.Co ( and I spent a lot of time reading that letter again and again and finding out the smart techniques that the deceased sales copywriter used while writing this letter.

And in this post, I will dissect that sales letter and show it inside out to you. 

A Teardown of The Wall Street Journal's $2bn Sales Letter

Now, before I go on and show you each and everything that works behind this one of history's most successful sales letters, in case you're interested in taking a look at all the teardowns that I've done so far, take a look:

And in case you love sales copy teardowns, sales copy tutorials, and other marketing/branding-related videos, you'd love to subscribe to my channel and this way you'd always be notified whenever I'd upload a new video. 

And as I always say, since the video is here to do the heavy-lifting, this will be a very brief post.

What's in this teardown?

This is a teardown of what many call "the greatest sales letter of all time".

Let’s suppose you're a copywriter, adman or marketing/branding expert. 

In that case, you should pay attention and watch the teardown because this letter is one of the best examples of the direct response copywriting. 

There is a LOT for you to learn - just like it was for me.

And even if you're not directly related with copywriting or advertising/marketing, but you own a business and you have a product to sell (digital or tangible), you should pay close attention because this you can learn the fine art of selling. 

One of the most notable findings is the fact that many persuasion tactics that Martin used are still very relevant today. This basically rejects the idea that today's advertising or copywriting is any different from what it was back in 60s or 40s or even 20s.


Unlike some very popular sales letters from that age and digital age, this sales letter’s apparent theme is not PAS, but AIDA. The narrator grabs the attention with a corny feel-good story, then grabs the readers' interest with explaining the differentiator or the solution, then he piques the desire by giving the readers' a bird eye view of the product, and lastly, urges them to take action in a few smart and clever ways.

It's a Good Ol' Story

Direct response sales letters from those days didn't use to have big, bold and read headlines and thus the first sentence was supposed to do the job. What job? Grabbing the readers by their proverbial collars and forcing 'em to read the next line and then the next one and then the next one - until the reader reads the last word of the sales page.

Many smart elements in the first sentence pique the reader's interest.

The narrator starts with an open-loop story and then finishes it in the last part.

The Differentiator

To make people believe that while everything was the same in the lives of both of those gentlemen, but one minor thing was making all the difference, the narrator creates a differentiator.

Suppose people buy the idea that only ONE factor made one of them the president of the company, while the other was just a manager of a small department. 

In that case, they'd also buy the next idea that the narrator's product is the best form of that particular differentiator or solution.


One of the few essential tactics that I could notice was authority. The narrator tried to achieve and show authority in many different ways. For example - consider claims like "ours is the only national business daily,” "it is put together by the biggest and best news staff" and, "it is the best source of business knowledge,” etc.

Multiple Closes

Just like it goes in every great sales letter, the narrator didn't just try to close the sale on one occasion, but he tried to do that on three times - one small offer, one big offer (both offers' unique benefits were smartly mentioned), and then an urgency-close.

Smart Guarantee 

Just like the crafty and smart sales copywriter he was, the narrator made sure that the only guarantee given to the customer was for the undelivered part, and then in the disclaimer section, the narrator reversed the risks by making harmless promises

This is it guys ...

Hope you liked the teardown.

Use the comment box below to let me know of your feedback ...

I'd soon be back with another teardown. 

Till then ...

About Bilal Ahmed

A direct response copywriter obsessed with persuasion techniques and hacks from great-grandpa Claude Hopkins's times till this date!


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