How to Lift Your Response Rates with Lift Notes

direct mail lift notesFor once, the headline of my blog isn’t a pun – it just sounds like one.

That’s because lift notes – or lift letters – are supposed to lift your response rates, and were named accordingly.

“Marketing Behemoth, Inc”, where I once worked (names have been changed to protect the blogger), always called them Lift Notes, so that is what I will do.  “MB, Inc” was managed solely by wise Ivy League MBAs, so they probably knew what they were talking about.

A huge direct mail firm that sent out millions of brochures each year, they were devoted to lift notes. This must have been based on successful experience, since they tracked response rates to the fifth decimal and their motto was test, test, and test again. Oh, and have I mentioned they were hugely profitable for decades? All of which can only mean that lift notes worked very well for them.

So, what is a lift note?  Very simply, it is a note that appears to have been slipped into a mail piece casually, even personally. It often appears to be at least partially handwritten, with an enticing teaser that can be scrawled in a handwriting font across the face. The note is usually printed – surprise! – on note-sized paper, folded in half and tucked in as if it were an afterthought.

The ideal lift note stands out from the main cover letter and other documents in a variety of ways:

  1. Appearance. Print on colored or textured stock that is 8.5 x 5.5 or 5 x 7; fold it in half for additional punch.  It will tend to drop out of the rest of the contents as the envelope is opened, for eye-catching effect, and should have a compelling teaser to make reading it irresistible.
  2. Personalization. It’s not necessary to personalize the lift note with the individual’s name if that is cost-prohibitive – though that never hurts. But it must appear personal. Handwriting fonts, casual language, and the sense of a confidential note written specifically to the recipient are critical.
  3. Distinction.  Lift notes should always be from someone other than the author of the cover letter. There is no point to having two letters from the same individual in one package.
  4. Focus. A lift note must zoom in on one specific quality, concept, or idea. Simply repeating what was said in the cover letter or brochure will not improve response.

Item four, the focus of the lift note, will require the most attention.  Appealing to a specific emotion in the reader is always the most effective. No two marketing people seem to agree on a standard list of emotions, but we all know that creating a strong, motivating feeling is the key. 

The feeling could be regret: the sad tale of someone who passed up a similar offer.  Or fear: a valuable bonus that will be lost forever if an order isn’t placed today.  Impressive features can be emphasized, great benefits touted, possible objections anticipated and slain: any one important point can be explored using a hot button emotion to grab the reader’s attention.

Above all, you must zoom in on your point with laser-like attention – and it must be only one point. Vagueness, scattered thinking, or a laundry list of qualities will not cut it.

Last but not least: lift notes are the easiest things in the world to test. Split test a mailpiece so only half the packages have a lift note, or try two (or more) different lift notes.  You will be pleasantly surprised by how much you learn.

The biggest surprise of all? How a cleverly-crafted lift note will have a most – umm — uplifting effect on your response rates.