Lift notes boost response IF used correctly

in Associations - Membership,Copywriting - Nonprofit,Direct Mail

You can boost response to your direct mail packages with a lift note.  But only if you use it correctly.  First let me share an example that wasn’t completely correct.

Last week I received a direct mail package from a membership association that I belong to.  For the curious among you, the package offer was to purchase a life-time membership.

I had to chuckle though, when I saw the lift note (AKA: lift letter or publisher’s letter).  It used a tired line of teaser copy on the outside: “Please read only if you’re NOT accepting your status change today

Here’s another version of the phrase that may be closer to one you’ve seen in your own mail: Read this only if you’ve decided not to accept our offer.

I can only speak for myself … but when I read something like that I’m annoyed. I’m thinking thoughts like this:

  • Can’t they get anymore creative than that?
  • How dumb do they think I am that I can’t see through this ploy? (Oh, and I was annoyed by this phrase long before I became a professional copywriter.)
  • I’ve looked at the reply card.  I don’t want what they’re offering and nothing in that note is going to change the offer I just read on the reply card.
  • I’ve made up my mind.  I’m not taking time to read anything else.

Clearly I don’t like that phrase for a lift note.  In my opinion using that tired phrase was the first mistake this nonprofit made on their lift note.

The second mistake they made was writing “me-me-me” copy on the inside.  It was also written as though the writer was speaking to a large audience and not to me personally.  [Yes, I read the note even though I wasn’t going to respond.  That’s what copywriters do!]

Again, the copy was NOT centered on me, the member.  Here are a few offending excerpts from the note:

To be blunt – stepping up to Life Member status is a great way to support XXXX by helping us save money.”  [Me-me-me]

That means we can channel more money into helping officers and their families with fast, efficient answers on their military benefits …” [Speaking to the masses]

How could you convert that to member-centered copy? Here’s one possibility:

As a Life Member you’ll make more money available so you and your family receive fast answers to your military benefits questions.  In fact, you’ll help other members at the same time.

Granted, I didn’t like the copy.  But this association didn’t totally botch the lift note.

What they did right and partially right:

  • It was folded once and in a different color paper than the rest of the package
  • It was smaller than the main letter – note size
  • It emphasized one point which was to help save costs as a Life Member
  • It wasn’t signed by the same person who signed the main letter.  However, the note signer was subordinate to the letter signer.  Generally it is preferred to have someone with more authority sign the lift note; or someone outside the organization that has recognized status to the reader and also has a connection to the nonprofit.

Lift notes work.  I recommend you test them in your direct mail packages.  Just take time to be creative, write member-centered (or donor-centered) copy, and follow the other guidelines above to boost response.