First used in the publishing world, the "publisher's note" or "publisher's letter" was added to a direct mail package that already included a sales letter, often from the magazine's editor. Usually on the small size, both in length and paper size, and signed by the publisher, it came to be known as the "lift letter" because it lifted (increased) response.
Times have changed, of course. In the age of slimming mail pieces due to rising postal and production costs, the lift letter increasingly has disappeared from the repertoire.
"These days the inclination is to strip away things from packages to reduce cost," says Gary Hennerberg, a copywriter and direct marketing consultant. "And let's not forget that maybe a lift letter doesn't work like it used to, and those dropping them have tested it. Or, it could be that the art of creating a great lift letter has been lost."
If the latter explanation is true, here are five reasons why the lift letter perhaps deserves a rebirth and, at the very least, deserves to go back into test packages.
1. The right prospects do read.
Another reason for the vanishing lift notes is that many marketing folks believe prospects no longer read, asserts Peggy Greenawalt, president and creative director of the direct marketing agency Tomarkin/Greenawalt. "But I'm as convinced as ever that people do read, if they are interested in buying. If they aren't interested in buying, it doesn't really matter if they read or not," she explains.
2. Make it "different" to seal the deal.
For top-level copywriters, wielding a second letter in the package can be a powerful weapon. "The lift gives you a chance to come at the prospect from a different angle, to change voice and shift perspective," explains copywriter Ken Scheck, who says many writers simply restate the offer. But he considers that an opportunity to get the prospect's attention is wasted on restating: "It may be your last chance to seal the deal."