The Lift Note: Direct Mail’s Secret Weapon to Boost Response

Today, I’m going to talk about a component of direct-mail packages that usually doesn’t get the attention it deserves: the lift note.

In a recent article in “The Newsletter on Newsletters” (August 8, 2007), Craig Huey – president of the Creative Direct Marketing Group – called the lift note “direct mail’s secret weapon to boost response.” He points out that it can boost response by an impressive 5 to 25 percent.

What is a lift note?

A lift note is a short, handwritten or typed letter, often from someone other than the writer of the main letter. Its sole purpose is to “lift” response, hence the name. And it often does so by talking about the product from an entirely different perspective.

What does this mean to you as the direct-mail designer?

  1. If the direct-mail envelope package you are designing does not have a lift note, you may want to talk to your client about including one. Adding a lift note not only benefits the client by boosting response, it also benefits your pocketbook since you get to design another component.

  2. Lift notes increase costs for things like printing and insertion. However, they don’t have to break the bank.

    For example, to inexpensively add extra pop to your design, you could use colored paper for the lift note and black or dark blue for the text. But choose the paper color carefully. For instance, stay away from pink when the lift note targets a male audience.

  3. When designing a direct-mail package, you’re often under tremendous deadline pressure. Your client spends a lot of time with the copywriter getting the copy just right. As a result, there’s little time left for you to do the layout.

    So even though it’s tempting to treat the lift note as a last-minute component, remember the statistics. Because a lift note has the potential to increase response by as much as 25 percent, make sure you give it enough time and attention before submitting to the client.

  4. The lift note should be simple and clean. You don’t need to use any fancy design tricks or graphics. However, make sure the copy is easy to read, with breaks in the right places.

  5. A lift note is a great place to add testimonials or endorsements in a way that makes them really pop. If you see that the sales letter does not contain many testimonials, suggest this to your client.

  6. One final consideration about the lift note: If the package you are designing mails First Class, adding even a small element like a lift note may push the weight over the 1-ounce limit. And that can mean a dramatic increase in postage costs.

    Check with your client. Pointing this out will make you look good in front of him … showing that you care about his costs.

    If it turns out that adding a lift note will, indeed, push the package over the weight limit, that doesn’t mean you have to eliminate it. And here is where your direct-mail design knowledge really sets you apart from other designers.

    One way to solve the problem is to suggest bringing the weight down by using slightly thinner paper for the sales letter. If your client tells you that’s not an option, consider designing the main components of the package slightly smaller, and have the printer trim them. Aside from lowering the weight, there’s a bonus benefit when you do this: The slightly smaller dimensions make your design stand out from all the typical 8.5 x 11 inch letters.

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Published: September 20, 2007

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