The lost art of the lift letter

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Lift letters aren't a new idea. Greystone Press pioneered this concept in the 1960s, and some think the lift has been overused. Now this technique appears to have fallen from favor.

In the beginning, most of these components used some variation of the first lift letter's “Frankly I'm Puzzled” copy on the fold with the letter inside going on to say the writer couldn't believe anyone would actually refuse the amazing offer presented. This phrase instantly became the in-joke at creative meetings where all you needed to do was utter it to have colleagues laughing hysterically and falling off chairs.

But the increased response generated by this component made the lift letter no laughing matter. Suddenly, every direct marketer was investigating this idea.

Used appropriately, lift letters are still good strategy if you want a low-cost, efficient method to boost response to your promotion. The truth is they have been misused more than overused. When you remember why this lowly little enclosure works so well, you discover clues to help you plan and create lift letters that actually do their job and make your job a little easier.

Lift letters, viewed as a way to solve various copywriting problems, will strengthen and expand your sales story, thus increasing response to the promotion. Consider these reasons for the lift letter's success: it can strengthen the credibility of your offer, provide another reason to buy from an entirely different viewpoint, give you an extra speaker's platform for introducing a new benefit or highlighting an important benefit and introduce another tone of voice. Here are a few ways to use this technique to your advantage.

Testimonials don't always fit handily into a sales letter, so let the lift letter present them. Lift letters can also make a third-party endorsement stand out: “Hi. I'm Mike Hammer. If you've been putting off those home repairs you were planning…”

Free tips and ideas can reinforce the offer, price savings and money-back guarantee — “Inside: Some 10 minute no-sweat exercises from Us to You.” Lifts can overcome inertia with messages like, “P.S. A rewarding test of your reaction time,” which push your respond-by date.

If you've got it, flaunt it. “Break the Seal to Find Out How Much Extra Cash You Could Win” is a nice touch for a sweeps. Finally, “I Dare You Not to Open This…” is a sure way to get young, male prospects to check out an offer.

Don't limit your thinking when planning a lift letter. Sometimes a wacky, offbeat idea helps lift response. Frankly, I'm puzzled more marketers don't take advantage of the lift.

Elaine Tyson is the president of Tyson Associates Inc. Reach her at

This is a 40 Under 40 Profile. Click here to see all profiles as well as previous year's winners.

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