Stealing the Thunder

I’ve been working with our copywriters on a daily basis for about six months now. I have noticed that many of them make a lot of the same mistakes.

Today, I will focus on one of them. I call it “Stealing the Thunder.”

Here’s an example. The following is a lift note that was meant to lead into a successful promotion we are running. (By “lift note,” I mean a note that sits on top of or is linked to a full-sized promotion. It is sometimes called a “lead letter.”)

From: Total Health Breakthroughs

Date: Thu, 28 Jan 2010 06:44:39 -0500

Subject: THIS Is Your Second Greatest Wealth

Dear THB Reader,

Your greatest wealth in this world is your health. But a lot can be said for the freedom, security, and peace of mind that come with financial well being.

With substantial and growing financial wealth, you can afford the very best organic food for your family… you can treat yourself to spa vacations and healing retreats… you can buy your dream house in the country or the mountains… and you will have the freedom to focus on personal growth, instead of always chasing dollars.

And that is why I am writing to you today.

My colleagues at Investor’s Daily Edge have discovered an investment that could potentially put $466 in your pocket for every dollar you invest!

That might sound far-fetched. But this company has discovered a rich vein of silver that stretches 186 miles. Estimates are that it contains more than 30 billion ounces of silver. At today’s prices, that amount of silver would be worth more than $500 billion.

Yet, this company’s market capitalization is well under a billion dollars today. Similar discoveries have handed investors gains of 950%… 1,160%… 2,433% and more.

And the best part is that you can get your hands on all the details — plus 12 months of potentially profitable investment research — for about the cost of one monthly cable bill. I urge you to take just a few minutes to learn more.

To Your Success,

Jon Herring

Editorial Director

Total Health Breakthroughs

What’s wrong with this lift note?

Aside from the awkward and emotionally unconvincing transition from health to investing, it steals thunder from the promotion it introduces.

Take a look at the lead of that promotion:

Special Report:

American Company Discovers Massive

‘Silver Vein’… Below China’s Great Wall

Govt. surveys confirm 186 mile-long strike containing up to 30 billion ounces… worth as much as $514 billion…

Estimates indicate 4,662% potential gains for investors who get in before next month…

Here’s how you join them…

Dear Reader,

Hundreds of miles south of Beijing…

Deep in the remote foothills beneath the Great Wall of China…

An American junior mining company has made an amazing discovery.

This silver strike stretches 186 miles. It could contain, by our estimates, 30.2 billion ounces of silver.

That’s enough to feed world demand for the next 32 years, according to the World Silver Survey…

Enough to double current global stockpiles… 214 times.

And enough to make one tiny mining company $514 billion richer…

For now, the company trades around $7. But that could change, very quickly.

The value of this single, massive discovery could be enough to push the company’s market cap 4,662% higher. (You’ll see how in a moment.)

The time to act is right now. But you’ll want to have all the information.

For example: How did a junior miner from America discover the world’s biggest silver deposit halfway around the world? How does it plan to extract this massive silver vein from beneath the Great Wall of China?

And how exactly could some investors turn this opportunity into huge gains, just days from now?

Here’s the whole story…

Do you see the problem?

As I wrote to the copywriter who composed this lift note:

“I have seen us make this mistake many times. I have taken the time to correct it several times. But, so far, no one has apparently understood what I am saying.

“The mistake is that by replicating a powerful lead in fewer words, you end up with a weaker lead (the lead being the lift note). With a weaker lead, you will get fewer people to read on. And those who do read on will find the lead less powerful.

“Imagine introducing a comic by telling a shortened version of his first joke.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are using a promise lead, a secret lead, or a story lead… you don’t want to dilute its power by summarizing it in a lift note.”

Stealing the lead’s thunder is bad. But I’ve seen lift notes that do something even worse:

  • I’ve seen lift notes to secret leads that give away the secret!
  • I’ve seen lift notes to promise leads that diminish the promise!
  • I’ve seen lift notes to story leads that summarize the story!

Summarizing, by the way, is always a bad idea.

Why? Because summaries are like action movies without the action or porn movies without the good stuff.

I’ve been doing a little testing of lift notes and I’ve discovered that the best ones are frequently the shortest.

This is entirely understandable, if you think about it. The lift note functions the same way as teaser copy on an envelope. And the purpose of envelope teaser copy is twofold:

  • To get the prospect to read the sales letter…
  • With the right emotional orientation.

A good copywriter can usually do that in 20 words or less. Filling up the surface of an envelope with 50 to 100 words almost never works.

In fact, the very best envelope teaser or lift note would probably contain just five or six words: Read the letter below. It’s Important!

It could be argued that lift notes should be entirely abolished. Marketers at Agora (ETR’s parent company) have done extensive testing on the relative value of using lift notes compared to simply sending the full promotion — and I am told that all of those tests demonstrated that there is no reliably significant difference between the two.

So why should we bother to use lift notes?

For openers, I’d question the conclusion that it’s never worth using a lift note. Though most of the lift notes tested at Agora did not appear to increase response, some of them did. Meanwhile, I have had the benefit of seeing 10 times as many tests comparing a blank, number 10 envelope to an envelope with teaser copy. And I know for certain that teaser copy can sometimes double or even triple the response of a blank envelope. The same may be true with lift notes. I can imagine, for example, that a strong lift note coming from a credible publisher would have a positive impact.

Another reason to use lift notes: For variety. You don’t need to be a marketing genius to know that it is always good to mix things up, to keep your readers guessing.

So here are some rules for lift notes:

1. Don’t feel compelled to use them.

2. Don’t use them all the time.

3. When you use them, have a good reason.

4. Put that reason — why you are asking your readers to spend their valuable time on your promotion — in the lift note.

5. Be selective in the benefits/proof/credibility you provide. (One good example is better than five mediocre ones.)

6. Limit the lift note to one good idea.

7. Never steal the promotion’s thunder.

8. Never rain on the promotion’s parade by giving away the secret, diminishing the promise, or summarizing the story.

That said, here are two examples of good, well-written lift notes:

Dear Michael,

Our records show you won’t be at Bootcamp this year.

(If this is an error, please let us know.)

We’re sorry we won’t see you there, but here’s something we’ve arranged especially for you… so you don’t miss a single writing tip or marketing nugget from any of the presentations.

All the details are right here.

And be sure to read all the way to the end…

There’s something in the P.S. you won’t want to miss — and it won’t be there after tomorrow.


Katie Yeakle

Executive Director, AWAI


Dear Investor’s Daily Edge Reader,

Good Sunday morning!

Do you have 4 minutes to spare today? If so, I promise I’ll make it worth your while…

I’m going to show how you could turn $500 into $5,343… with less risk than buying coins, commodities, exchange traded funds, or even plain old stocks.

How can I be so sure?

The proof is in the full write-up below.

To Your Wealth, Ted Peroulakis, Investor’s Daily Edge

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]