Encouraging Useful Feedback
Typically the lift letter, also known as the publisher's letter, serves the purpose of talking to the undecided--those prospects who aren't sure if they want to take your offer--and giving them a little nudge.
Freelance copywriter and direct mail consultant Richard Jordan collaborated with Cary Castle, then Marketing Director of the American Museum of Natural History, to create a cross between a lift letter and a customer survey for the Museum and its long-term control. Specifically, the piece asks prospects three questions: 1) Were you correctly identified as a prime candidate for this offer; 2) Were the benefits of being a Museum member clearly communicated; and 3) Was the Museum's scientific mission adequately explained?
By making fence-sitters carefully consider the offer again, the Museum may persuade a few more prospects to join. And, naysayers are asked to cut their names and addresses from the order card, attach them to the questionnaire and return the pages in the BRE provided; if prospects truly did not think the offer was right for them, the Museum can now revise its future mailing plans.
Castle, now director of fund raising for Consumers Union, has teamed up again with his "favorite copywriter," Jordan, to adapt this concept for the nonprofit's raffle offer.
Consumers Union conducts a yearly direct mail raffle to entice Consumer Reports subscribers to support the organization and its consumer research magazine. Entry into the raffle, of course, requires no donation; lift pieces from previous years' efforts reminded subscribers of the no-obligation raffle, but urged them to consider making a gift when responding.
Perhaps due to the recent crackdown on sweepstakes techniques as well as the never-ending quest to know what keeps donors from responding, mailings for this year's raffle included a new lift piece created by Jordan.
Consumers Union has mailed both 9&Mac253; x 12&Mac253; and a 4&Mac253; x 8&Mac253; envelope packages (601CONUN1299X) for the raffle since late last summer. The jumbo mailings feature a larger lift note, á lá Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, and the smaller mailings contain a tri-fold version. The handwritten note on the cover of the bright yellow piece speaks directly to "no" people.
Inside, the copy questions subscribers' decision not to enter the raffle by likening that reaction to holding a lottery ticket, but not checking to see if you have the winning number--an effective comparison that reminds recipients that this raffle is real and not just a direct mail solicitation.
After a couple paragraphs detail why Consumers Union would appreciate a donation and how there is no donation required for entry, Jordan gets to the nitty gritty of the lift piece: Asking recipients who still do not plan to respond to jot their reason for not entering the raffle on the back of the lift piece and send it back in the courtesy envelope. The flip side of the lift piece offers blanks for the recipient's name and address, if they would like to be identified; such information will help Consumers Union prioritize future mailings but by not making it mandatory, the nonprofit encourages prospect feedback.
Consumers Union had two objectives for the lift piece, says Castle: 1) find out why some recipients don't respond to the raffle mailing; 2) and give disinterested recipients a chance to opt out of receiving future raffle mailings.
The majority of people who responded told Consumers Union that, for various reasons, they didn't want to receive the raffle mailing, says Castle. For example, people who have lived through the Depression don't believe anything is free, so they don't trust raffles.
Regardless of the reason, Consumers Union is able to take those respondents who identified themselves by name and address and put them on a special "do not promote" list--something that's not only cost-effective for the nonprofit but also helps it comply with new sweepstakes legislation.
Castle says he and Jordan have already tweaked and re-tested the lift piece to change the message from asking why Consumer Reports subscribers don't like raffles to telling them how to opt out of receiving future raffle mailings if they don't like contests for any reason.