20 business letters, examples and tips
Creating a well-structured business letter can help you achieve an array of strategic objectives for your project or company. This blog will show you how to think about and improve your professional and business writing, and to create a variety of business letters to use for clients, customers, and prospects.
What all strong business letters have in common
According to Bill Birchard of the Harvard Business Review, the best business letters “create an aha moment” for the intended audience.
Doling out “sudden ‘pops’ of insight” that build on your well-told story keeps readers engaged and anticipating what’s next. Successful examples of business writing tend to share common core characteristics and competencies, and while utilizing proven formulas and templates to organize information is vital, it’s just one part of the equation. Thoughtful pacing and clear prose are also critical to a well-written business letter.
Consider the tips below when thinking out your business writing templates and objectives to create business letters that readers will find insightful and convincing.
Know your business, know your audience
Before getting started, gather proposal examples from your industry or your competitors. You want to be sure your proposal reflects the standards and approach common to your industry, but remember that even though you’re writing for business, your letter is still for a reading audience. Take the time to research and understand their experience, expectations, and needs.
Your business objective should guide how you approach your readers and write your letter. It’s the “why” for both you and your audience. When beginning your business letter, always ask yourself:
- What is your goal?
- What is needed to overcome the problem?
- How will the project support the business strategy?
Clarity is key, context is king
Relying on “business speak” might seem like an easy way to create an aura of authority when communicating with a business audience. However, there is a difference between good technical writing and the overuse of “jargon.”
Your audience will often have a strong technical background, and often want to read a clear connection to how your proposal or business letter helps accomplish their objective. Executives often look for input from technical experts before coming to a decision. Technical professionals will read your white paper, and it should be sufficiently detailed and fact-based for them to appreciate the content. In your business letter, technical-minded professionals will be seeking detailed and fact-based content to help guide their decisions.
However, you’ll need to “walk a fine line between high-level business ideas and on-the-ground technical details.” Your business letter should be accessible for business decision-makers like executives or department heads who hold a high-level understanding of the technical side of their business, but who may not be familiar with every bit of technical minutiae.
More than anything, context is vital to the people reading your letter. Through the entire experience, the reader of your business letter should know not only “the what,” but also “the why and how” of how your proposal helps them in their broader strategies and objectives. Follow these tips for making your case through a clear and contextually appropriate business letter:
- Be brief and convey only the essentials.
- Make it interesting, clear, and concise.
- Eliminate conjecture and minimize jargon.
- Describe your vision of the future.
- Demonstrate the value and benefits the project brings to the business.
- Ensure consistent style and readability.
Clean and functional design
A business letter can incorporate photography, charts, and infographics, but it is critical that all these elements be utilized to inform and not just to illustrate what can otherwise be read within your letter’s text. Business letter design should be clean and professional — with no filler!
Functionality is also key to demonstrating competence and building trust with your business audience. Your business letter should always be available as an easily accessible and downloadable PDF. The parts and sections of a business letter vary depending on your business needs and approach, but in all scenarios your letter will need to be easy to read and intuitively understandable by readers.
Tell your story
Be certain to write your business letter with an active voice and use concise sentences. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Most of the rules you learned in school —`Show, don’t tell’ or `Use the active voice’ — still hold.” Your prose should be clear, and your proposals easy to read, so don’t use excessive, overly descriptive language or too many adjectives. The flow of your business letter — the very story you are guiding your readers through — requires that you maintain their attention.
The Harvard Business review states:
“When you incorporate stories into your communications, big payoffs can result. Consider research that Melissa Lynne Murphy did at the University of Texas, looking at business crowdfunding campaigns. She found that study participants formed more-favorable impressions of the pitches that had richer narratives, giving them higher marks for entrepreneur credibility and business legitimacy. Study participants also expressed more willingness to invest in the projects and share information about them. The implication: No stories, no great funding success.”
Get to the point
At both the beginning and the end of your business letter, your audience should know why they are reading it and what they will get out of it. When taking on business writing, never forget what your reader needs most — the point.
If you are making a proposal, let them know exactly what you are proposing or offering, and what their options are. Consider presenting a variety of responses and solutions to your readers’ needs, teeing them up to make informed and empowered decisions based on your business letter.
Top examples of business letters and professional writing scenarios
Different strategies and objectives require varying approaches to creating your business letter. The different types of business letters below represent some of the common examples of business writing.
Executive summaries begin with a concise encapsulation of the subject matter of your business letter or proposal. This summary should always contain the key takeaways and main ideas of your communication piece. The contents of an executive summary should always be entirely understandable and accessible to a non-technical audience.
As part of a longer or more complex business letter, it is often the first section of the piece, and the last written. It is a succinct summary of the entire business letter, conveying vital information and the end-to-end story to the reader.
A sales letter is one of the most basic and effective forms of direct marketing outreach. Applicable to many types of industries and businesses, this type of business letter plays a significant part in professional communication between companies and their prospects and clients, serving as an introduction to you and your company or product.
Sales letters tend to run the length of a single page, and respect strict formatting rules to make them as concise and approachable as possible. Common components of a sales letter include:
- Letterhead or sender’s address. Start with your letterhead or, if you’re not using one, your address.
- Recipient’s address. Address your letter to a specific person. Use the appropriate personal title, like “Mr.” or “Ms.” If appropriate, use the correct professional title, such as “Hon.” or “Commissioner.”
- Salutation. Use the personal title and last name of the recipient, or their full name if you’re unsure of their gender (“Dear Mr. Black” or “Dear Jamie Smith”). For professional titles, use the correct title and the last name (“Dear Dr. Jones”). If you personally know the recipient, you can use their first name (“Dear Jim”).
- Body. Make sure your letter is concise and to the point.
- Closing. Reiterate your main point and thank the recipient for their consideration. Close with a respectful salutation on a new line, such as “Sincerely yours,” followed by your signature and typed name.
- Enclosures or attachments. Whether a printed letter or a digital message, be sure to list any enclosed documents or attached files.
Request for proposal (RFP) documents
When you are the one who needs to hire a business or contractor for a project, you’ll need to create a request for proposal, widely known as an “RFP.”
To write a great RFP, you’ll need to include various types of important information about the specific needs of your company’s project. Your RFP should serve as an outline for potential contractors to review and should give them a good idea of the project’s scope so that they can create an effective proposal.
Some key inclusions of your RFP are:
- An introduction to your company and background information on the project
- The project goals and scope of services needed
- A deadline for receiving bids
- A timeline for when you expect to select a winning proposal
- What specific elements you would like included in the proposal
- Any specific challenges you’d like the contractors to solve
- Your estimated budget range for the project
Used across many industries, a white paper is a “persuasive essay that uses evidence, facts and reasoning to help a business audience understand a specific topic or particular problem.” They encourage target audiences like potential customers, donors, or business partners to consider approaching a challenge or problem in a recommended way, or to come to a specific conclusion in analyzing the subject matter covered. White papers are usually offered to a reading audience in the early or middle stages of a project or business cycle and are typically between 3,000 and 5,000 words in length.
Create engaging and convincing business letters with these free templates
Explore customizable free business letter templates to bring your professional writing to the next level with concise and eye-catching layouts to make your perfect business case.