3 Ways to Improve Your Direct Mail Order Form

Pity the poor order form. If there’s one element of a typical direct mail package that doesn’t get enough attention in examining what works, that has to be it. A good design is crucial to a mailing’s success. It has to make sense to the recipient, and support the intent of the letter or other components: to generate a positive response (i.e., an order or a donation).

Pity the poor order form. If there’s one element of a typical direct mail package that doesn’t get enough attention in examining what works, that has to be it. A good design is crucial to a mailing’s success. It has to make sense to the recipient, and support the intent of the letter or other components: to generate a positive response (i.e., an order or a donation).

A review of some mailings received over the last few months by Who’s Mailing What!, the world’s most complete library of direct mail (and email) samples, shows reply forms don’t have to conform the same-old same-old look in order to capture a reader’s attention. There are many tips that can improve an order form; here are just three that are supported by these recent examples.

1. Keep It Simple
An order form, in the words of Malcolm Decker, should be “Simple, clear, direct, and — if you can possibly imagine it — foolproof.” This application from American Express for its Gold Delta SkyMiles Card (see the first image in the mediaplayer) has a lot going for it. The terms of the offer are briefly stated above the big blocks on the right side of the page, each block tabbed with can’t-miss numbers. The background image, a beach, reinforces the connection made between the card and the travel that can be earned by using it.

The whole life insurance sign-up form from Gerber Life also lays out easy-to-follow steps in the upper right corner (see the second image in the mediaplayer). Pink and purple are often considered feminine colors (the target is female), which may explain their use as background and accent colors on this form; like in a grid that restates the benefit amounts directly above the check-off boxes.

Two other things the Gerber Life sign-up form one gets right: 1) the prospect has to peel off a sticker from the first page of the letter and apply it to get the premium (a calendar); 2) some of the customer’s information is pre-filled.

2. Use Symbols
Symbols work because they can link to an action or a thing that it represents on an unconscious level. They’re a staple of direct mail forms; just think of all the times you’ve seen a scissors icon along a dotted line, or a telephone icon next to a phone number.

PSE&G, a New Jersey utility, has been mailing well-designed order forms that make it easy for a customer to sign up and know exactly what they’re getting. This is one (see the third image in the mediaplayer) that spans two panels of a self-mailer PSE&G mailed to promote its WorryFree appliance repair packages. The numbers next to each plan (and the covered appliances) correspond to a 4-color cutaway chart of a house on the remaining three panels of the mailer.

3. Restate the Pitch
An order form should stand on its own, so even if the rest of the package is separated from it, it can close the sale. One of the ASPCA’s top membership appeals includes a legal-sized form (see the fourth image in the mediaplayer) that equates donation amounts with their impact. Each impact statement is accompanied by a photo of a dog or cat that was rescued by the group, further reinforcing the message.

The bottom line is this: with more color and bigger, easier to act on steps, your order forms will invite more involvement and interest from your prospects and customers, and be successful for you.

Paul Bobnak is the director of research at Who’s Mailing What!, which houses the most complete, searchable (and fully online) library of direct mail and mail in the world. To learn more about joining, go to www.whosmailingwhat.com. Reach him at pbobnak@napco.com.

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