Direct Mail 101: The Order Form

By Travis Lee

Order forms are a key component of any direct mail piece and we could easily fill an afternoon on them, both online and offline.  Frankly, most marketers don’t spend nearly enough time on them.  Don’t think this only applies to an exchange of money.  If you’re doing lead generation marketing where no money is exchanging hands, the techniques and strategies are identical.

So why are order forms so important?  Because they’re often one of the first pieces read.  We know that a lot of people will go directly to the order form, even search out one in the direct mail package if they believe they’re being sold something.  Why do they do this?  Simply, we’ve been programmed to go there to look for the price!

I’ve included a great example of a direct mail order from right here.  It comes from Joe Polish for his“I Love Marketing” live event.  I suggest you go read it, and then come back here for further analysis.

First, you never want to call it an order form, at least in the literature that you send your clients, it has negative connotations.  You’ll notice Joe calls it a “No-Risk Enrollment.”  You could also call it, “Risk FREE Action Form,” “I Love Marketing Acceptance Form,” or even “100% Risk Free Activation Form.”

Next, you want to think of the order form as a selling device itself, where the recipient never read the sales letter.  You want to restate the major benefits, restate the offer, restate the bonus(es) and premiums, and restate the GUARANTEE (This is a BIGGIE!).  You’ll notice Joe does this in his form by restating his “Better than risk free guarantee,” right on the enrollment, drawing attention to it with bolds and italics.

You want to write it in the customers own, excited voice and state ordering in a positive way.  Joe does an excellent job of this.  He uses, “YES, Joe and Dean!  Sign me up!  I’m excited to come to your new “I love marketing event so I can…”  I’ve also used, “Yes, Travis!  I’d be absolutely crazy no to…”  The best performing order forms use some form of this language.

Joe also gives clear and easy to understand payment instructions under the sub-head, “There are two easy ways to sign up now.”  He further gives a small discount for faxing in the enrollment.  This is obviously the behavior he wants to reinforce, so he rewards it.  Typically you want to give multiple ways to respond, but my guess is Joe has tested this extensively and has found that his two best options are fax (which he obviously prefers) or by phone.  Notice there’s no website, I’m sure this is not by accident.

I’ve also seen marketers give incentives such as free shipping, or added bonuses for using a preferred payment method, like credit cards.  When American Express was the ‘gold standard’ for credit cards, you’d often seen marketers add further discounts or bonuses for using their Am Ex (why’s that?  No credit limits, the order was virtually guaranteed to go through).

There’s incentive to respond right away, with an expiration date tied to a price increase.  You’ll often see marketers take away premiums or bonuses the later you respond (not done here).  He also gives payment option (almost always a good idea), and an immediately upsell to bring a guest for $297.

The immediate and one-time upsell is often overlooked as well.  I’ve seen direct mailers upsell a product for as much as $3,000, with no mention of the product even in the sales letter, by simply adding it to the enrollment or response form!

Lastly, this particular enrollment is a standard 8.5” x 11.”  I’ve often used (and prefer to use) 8.5” x 14.”  This gives me ample room to get every piece of pertinent information on my form, and still give the prospect or client plenty of room to complete the written portion of the form.  Don’t overlook this!  If they start to fill it out and cannot get all their information written, they likely will STOP.  Buyers can extremely fickle, and will abandon a purchase at the drop of a hat.

Marketing Tip Readers Only Special

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