13 Platinum Ideas About
Order Forms & Reply Devices
The bottom line is do you get the response. Period! That's all that really matters in marketing.
Did you get the lead. Traffic through the front door or to your
trade show stand. The donation. The order.
Does someone raise their hand and say "count me in"? Do they fax
back your form? Complete your application? Fill out your entry? Sign-up for your
publication or seminar? Return or redeem your coupon? Agree to a demo of your
product? Or a trial run of your newest service? Will they see your sales rep?
Call your toll-free number asking for more? Return your response card offering
more? Visit your web site or respond by E-mail?
Will they act? At an absolute minimum, will your audience, your
select marketplace, demonstrate a sincere interest in who you are and what you
offer? Asking, "what will you bring to my party? What do you offer to
fulfill my need?"
To me it's always been "funny" to see direct marketers postpone
thinking about the response device. And when they do get around to considering
it, doing it in more or less a casual way. Often late in the creative game.
Sure, everyone talks about offering several ways to respond. Yet, frequently the
effort put into this prime piece of real estate in your marketing program is
Yet, without the call to action, playing upon your offer and
your urge for something to happen, your marketing program will not be a
For about 6 weeks I looked at a wide variety of response
mechanisms. Business response cards and fax-back forms in direct mail packages.
Blow-ins from magazines. Free standing stuffers tumbling from newspapers.
Catalogue order forms - those that wrap, those that are saddle stitched in the
book, those that are a page.
What I found translated into this list ...13 Platinum Ideas
About Order Forms & Reply Devices.
Idea #1. Make your very best offer
Your reply device, in whatever format, is a call to action. You
want somebody to do something. One of the better ways to make that happen, is to
lead with your very best offer.
Why? Well, because your offer is a major reason most people will
consider doing business with you. So, in your copy and with your graphics -
including your creative on your response piece - let it be known what the gain
will be. And why they should do it now.
USA Today, the newspaper, has done a grand job of stating
their "deal". Both sides of their triple size business response card repeat the
message. In color, with big and readable type and bold graphics. These folks
have done it right.
Repeat your offer ... on your reply device. It pays.
Idea #2. Offer multiple ways to respond
Although you may prefer me to call you, give me more options
than just the telephone.
Allow me to get you by fax, by mail, by E-mail, through your web
site ... and if it's fitting - to walk through your front door. Why? Well,
because, even thou you may have a preference, if I get to you another way you've
still got someone to talk to. Me!
Skymall offers 4-ways to buy ... and numbers their list 1 - 2 -
3 - 4. Ditto Puritan's Pride. They use a combination of bold copy and graphics
to display their 4-ways.
Get the action anyway you can get it. And make it easy for your
prospect to become your customer.
Idea #3. Type and type size IS important
The reason 75-80% of us wear glasses or contacts is because we
can not see!
So, select a serif type face that is readable. Everyone knows,
because research has proven it time and again, things printed are more readable
with one of the 1800+ serif typefaces. So, use one!
And then make it large enough to be readable. Which, for most,
is a minimum of 11 points. Signals does many things well ... type is not one of
them. They use a san-serif type. Some reversed, and more tiny. Over all it is
not a friendly order form.
Norm Thompson has clear, crisp, clean serif type. With bold
heads for the key points.
The mail-order company Littleton Coin makes an American Eagle
Silver Dollar offer. The sell copy within the ad is probably 9 or 10 in size.
And on the response coupon 7-8! Far, far too small to be readable. What is
readable? Their name, large and bold.
What is truly crazy about the Littleton piece, is the
tip-in response envelope with the ad has plenty of room. It is not crowded. Is
very readable ... complete with their guarantee, their limited time offer - and
still space to write. An extremely nice job.
On the other side is The Sportsman's Guide, a great company.
Their order form is about as unreadable as anything I've seen recently. Type is
too small - plus, it is jammed together. The bold heads, their phone
number and a couple of graphics save it. Still . . . why do people do that?
Idea #4. Color is important
Both what you do with color ... and what you do not ... makes
Whether you like it or not, we live in a color world. There are
a pair of kids in my life who do not know black/white ever existed. And if it
did - it's "old". Or cheap. Or both! You make your 21st century reply device old
or cheap ... or both ... when it is black/white.
Very upscale (translation: expensive) Hillsdale College, with a
well written and very readable 2-color newsletter, has a B/W response envelope.
Don't do that to yourself.
High end Smithsonian has a B/W order form and envelope combo.
The only color is red for the name of the product, and the prices! All the
photographs are grayish black/white. Really unattractive. Bad!
If your ad or catalogue or insert is 4-color, then your response
device should be
4-color. If your package is 2-color ... then your reply card,
fax-back form, coupon can be 2-color.
Clever Gear, a nice color catalogue, have an order form that is
ugly B/W. On the other extreme is The Lifestyle Fascination catalogue. Color
through-out. So, on the "sell" side of their order form they've held full color.
And went to 2-color on the inside, the part you fill out to mail or fax.
AutoSport did the same thing. Each a nice job.
Oh, black ink on a colored stock does not make a 2-color
piece! And neither does blue ink on white...as the vitamin company Puritan's
Pride has done. Use color. It is not an option.
Idea #5. Use ALL the space you have
A very nice 2-color newsletter publication, selling their
advertising space, has designed their order form in black/white. And then used
only one side of the sheet of paper. What a horrible piece! Of course, it is
horrible on only one side. The other side is empty.
Use all the space you have. In this example the rates could have
been on one side, with a graphic of the special offer.
Lane Bryant, a ladies clothing and accessories house, includes a
very complete "old" and "new" size chart. From 12 to 64, including
2 sizes! With options for how tall you
are and your body measurements. Norm Thompson does a similar layout. Each, very
Do not do what Patagonia does; fill every corner with copy. Some
of it screened and thus very difficult to read. Plus, they list all their
dealers - which sounds like a grand idea. Yet, the type is so tiny it takes a
magnifying glass to read ... and I am not stretching the truth.
What you can do is repeat your base message and your call to
action. Your phone number, E-mail address, web site. Remember, repetition builds
Item #6. Give me enough room to write
Sure, most mail orders, donations to a cause, response to a lead
generation program, come electronically, over the phone or via fax. Today, fewer
responses come by post than in the past.
So, why then do mail-order companies, catalogue organizations
and lead generation programs continue to include a response form with each
marketing effort? For at least two reasons;
#1). your response device "says" you are supposed to reply, to
do something - it is a marketing device, and
#2). your audience knows what to do, how to do it, in which
order ... as your form guides and gives direction.
Pacific Spirit, an accessories and decoration company, does it
right. Lots of room, big spaces. Brookstone uses space well. Their order form is
giant - with lots of white space. Good job.
Research indicates many fill out the form, even when they're
going to phone in their response. It helps your buyer get ready to buy. So, give
me enough room to get ready to spend my money with you.
Idea #7. Use paper you can write on
Again, not many will mail in your form. Still, use a paper stock
that absorbs ink and pencil marks.
The best at this are the credit card offers. Banks and the like.
Who - even when they print small and jam the space - use paper that allows the
pen to leave a mark. The Advanta Platinum Business Card offer I received recently
is a good example.
Some publications are good, too Examples are Bottom Line,
an information newsletter. And Cruising Rider, a motorcyclist magazine.
Who are the worst? One is a favorite of mine ... Fairytale
Brownies. Great brownies - the best. Still, their order form is a page in their
catalogue ... and the stock is slick. Not good! Ditto Diamond Essence Company.
Above I told you Brookstone does a great job with space. Here I
tell you they've done a horrid job with paper. A glossy stock does not cut it
for getting a response.
Another not so hot is the American Teleservices Association.
Their direct mail piece is seeking exhibitors for a conference in Phoenix,
Arizona. My guess is the design was donated, the printing was donated. And zero
thought was given to how members were going to write on a glossy and slick piece
Of course, these people are in the telemarketing business. They
expect everyone to phone! Don't YOU expect everyone to phone.
Idea #8. The DM techniques you use elsewhere, repeat 'em
If you use "handwriting" on elements of your direct mail
your print ad - on your web site ... use them with your
response, too. The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine subscription card does just
If you use stickers or stamps or seals or scratch-offs as part
of your campaign, use them as part of your reply. If you have a guarantee or a
warrantee or a limited time offer - put these on your reply device. Norm
Thompson and Puritan's Pride each have very complete order forms - including
If you use photography on your printed or web pages - use photos
on your response page. Ditto cartoons, or a graphic theme, or color scheme. If
you use jumbo sizes, make your response jumbo.
Select Comfort Direct, a mattress company, does a good job with
their coupon. Their advertisement is complete, and in color. Their offer of a
free video and brochure fits. Their telephone number is bold - and all is
repeated within their coupon. And is repeated again, in more detail, on both the
front and back of the tip-in card nested with their ad.
Idea #9. Graphics support the text
Even on the order form, the graphics are to support the words.
To make them more readable, more understandable.
Such simple things as a phone graphic by the telephone number,
the credit card bugs in the number area can be important. Logos from member
associations and affiliations spruce up a piece and make it more interesting.
The Lighter Side Co. does all of these.
Pictures and art to support the theme, product or service are
always good. The sweeps people are very good at this. And many of the clothing
folks, too. Such as Lands' End.
What you don't want to do is to use screened or shaded
backgrounds - and then print copy on top. Ditto for photography - don't run text
on top of graphics. When that happens, two things happen;
... first, you ruin the graphic, and
... second, the words are unreadable.
Include graphics as a support to your copy.
Idea #10. Your response form must look like who you are
If you're Ferrari you had better look rich. If you're The
Salvation Army you must look poor.
www.skymall.com is a collection of mostly mid to upper end
catalogue operators. Gathered together in a single book available in airline
pocket seats. And although it is a collection - each company retains their
identity. Each looks like what they are.
i.e., Sharper Image looks like their fancy digs retail
establishments. And their catalogue.
Signals is part of the Chicago based Marshall Field's family.
And their catalogue and order form look like it. 3M uses their colors to offer
custom printed Post-It notes.
Your response element is an extension of the rest of you. Make
certain it looks like who you are, too.
Idea #11. Lead logically
Lay things out in a way that is comfortable for the reader. And
leads them through your process in a logical way.
One of the best ways to do this is with numbers. People will
follow your 1, 2, 3 directions. A number beside each important element to be
Color mixed in and about helps, too. And very light screen
backgrounds, with bold copy is another way to lead people through your
process. Lands' End does a super job here.
Reader's Digest offers, including product, their magazine and
sweeps, all do a good job. They mix blue and white and black and high-lite
yellow, plus stickers or stamps, to lead the reader through their form.
You need to decide how many places your "4 Easy Ways To Order"
info goes. At the top? At the bottom? On both sides? And . . . ? The Lighter
Side Co., has everything in only one place. Not good! Publishers Clearing House
has theirs once on the front, once on the back of their sweeps form. Much
Idea #12. Be clear about what you want me to do
If you want me to phone you, say so. List your telephone number
first ... and have it in a number of locations. If you want me to visit your web
site and then respond - make certain that direction is crystal clear.
If you have a limited time offer (LTO) - repeat that message. As
you are telling me I need to respond by "X" date in order to take advantage of
this opportunity. The sweeps people do this with every campaign - they give a
drop dead date.
When your product is seasonal ... tied to a holiday or time of
the year, it "automatically" becomes a LTO. When you're exhibiting at a trade
show or speaking at a conference, it is a LTO situation. So, always, remind your
reader. And do so on your response device, too.
If you know you need to demonstrate your product to make the
sale - tell me to set an appointment for a FREE demo - and a no strings attached
trial offer. Select Comfort offers a 30-Night In-Home Trial ... as they know
nothing sells their product better than the product itself.
Whatever it is you need me to do - be direct about it.
Idea #13. Include the K.I.S.S. philosophy
KeepItSimple,Stupid ... the
K.I.S.S. principle. It's been around a long time. It is not new - and it is
The more difficult it is to do business with you, beginning with
how I respond, the fewer responses you'll enjoy. Look to the financial community
to make it the most difficult. Insurance, loan companies, real estate, the
banks, brokerage houses all have more paper work than wall paper.
A few others who make working with them tough are medicine, the
law, education and the government. As I write this I'm in the middle of a
medical issue. And one of the young ladies in my life is in education. I "see"
this stuff daily. It is not good.
Some will tell you K.I.S.S. really means Keep It
Short & Simple. Not so. Short is never the issue. If you use
the first dozen tips in this list, short does not matter. As things are not short, nor are they long. They are either interesting,
So, do everything to be simple.
Well, that's it. 13 Platinum Ideas About Order Forms & Reply
Devices. Go to it.