Mastering the Hidden Power of Lift Notes

Well thought out lift notes carry power many copywriters don’t understand. If you understand and harness this power, you will not only improve response, you’ll also gain a significant advantage over other copywriters.

Lift notes – also known as lift letters – are short, one- or two-sided notes enclosed in a direct-mail package to “lift” response rates. As simple as they might seem, they can push reluctant buyers to your side of the fence.

They can be quick to produce, and are often the first thing direct-mail prospects read. And yet – as simple as they are – a good lift note can sometimes boost response rates by 25% or more.

You can apply the lift note concept to all different kinds of formats, in all different kinds of ways.

Lift notes are used most often in envelope packages. They’re usually from someone other than the person who signs the main letter. It could be the company president, a celebrity endorser, a happy user, or the head of an independent testing company.

These have to be real people, and you cannot use their names without first getting their permission. And after writing the lift note, you have to get their okay on what you’ve written.

For self-mailers – a format that doesn’t require an envelope – the lift note might be done as a cover-wrap, as a faux Post-It (R) note, or as an added note on the inside front cover.

In e-letter promotions, lift notes are frequently neglected. However, they can be just as effective here as on print promotions.

E-letter lift notes typically sit above or to the side of the body copy. They can also be on a separate webpage connected by a hyperlink. In this case, have them open in a separate, smaller page. Don’t have them appear as pop-ups, since many browsers filter these.

Of course, the same rules of strong copywriting apply to lift notes. For instance, personal is far better than impersonal. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. And focus on core promise and benefits.

Special Things a Lift Note Can Do for Your Promotion

Here are just a few ideas. Use a lift note to …

  • Counter key buying objections.
  • Test your “second-best” or alternate promo headline or approach.
  • Give readers an extra testimonial.
  • Make your message sound even more important by getting your company president to sign it. (But don’t make the lift note sound “corporate.”)
  • Get a more personal feeling by neatly handwriting it or by using an unfamiliar script font.
  • Emphasize the time deadline.
  • Focus on the best aspect of the offer (the premium, guarantee, discount, etc.).
  • Emphasize long-standing credibility.
  • Cover a recent event, giving the promotion a greater sense of immediacy.
  • Underscore your USP – the ONE THING that really gives your product an edge over everyone else’s.
  • Emphasize track record, unusual and impressive credentials, or to make the benefits of the most important package feature especially clear.

Let’s Look at Theory in Practice

Copywriter David Yale wrote a lift note to boost sales of a book by a lesser-known golf pro.

“It was tested,” Yale said, “and the results speak for themselves. The lift note boosted response by more than 25% … and added almost 33% profit per piece mailed.”

How did it work?

Johnny Miller, a well-known golf pro, had written the foreword to the book. It included a glowing endorsement. Yale just adapted Miller’s foreword and turned it into a lift note, complete with his photo.

Now … here’s how you can take advantage of the lift note idea right now. Find a working promo that doesn’t have a lift note – one that’s been around a few times … and offer to write a lift note for it.

Someone did that with one of my own packages. He charged the publisher $300. I complained, but the complaints fell on deaf ears.

His lift note had boosted the response of the package by 30%!

[EDITOR’S NOTE: In addition to being one of the head copywriters for Agora Publishing and an AWAI Board member, John Forde shares insights into our business in his weekly e-letter, The Copywriter’s Roundtable. It’s a great resource for novices and pros alike. I highly recommend it … for the content as well as for John’s engaging and personal style of writing. To register, send him an e-mail at: signup@jackforde.com]

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: June 5, 2006

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