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The Direct Marketing Center presents: Direct Response Articles

How important is your order form? Whether in print or on a webpage, it’s the final transaction hurdle a customer must clear. Your sales hinge on its effectiveness.

With no salesperson to usher your prospect through the sales process, even simple mistakes trigger significant sales losses. It’s always best to keep an order form on track with these proven rules.

This issue gives you rules 9–16 of order form design. If you need copies of the first 8, please contact us to receive the prior issue.

The order form (online or offline) will make or break your package results more quickly than any other component in your direct selling presentation. It directs the final decisions your prospect must make before committing to the sale.

Thus, the order form must smoothly carry your prospect through all the steps in the buying process, anticipate and preempt lingering concerns and close the sale. Any failure in this process, regardless of size, will lose sales presumably earned through these final steps.

The 16 rules presented in this and the previous article have proven themselves time and again. You will be wise to use them all.

To recap the previous 8 rules, your order form must:

Be easy to read, use and understand
Incorporate direct response graphic devices
Restate and summarize important sales information
Stand on its own as a sales tool
Use photos for credibility
Incorporate a certificate border
State a simple offer, without too many options
Sell only one product

Always put a positive acceptance statement on your order form

In this example, all required components are present. (Because it’s a free information request, no guarantee is required.) Everything a reader needs to know is clearly presented. In fact, after reading it yourself, you could make a choice to respond—as we did.

In the above example, which is written out below for clarity, the copy recaps Unique Selling Proposition (USP), the preemptive margin of benefit (PMB) and what the reader can expect by responding:

“Yes, I want to learn more about unseen Internet use problems and how to solve them.

“I want to see what’s really going on in my company—who’s spending time on which websites, who’s sending inappropriate email, who’s plugging up the network pipelines with MP3 downloads and how to improve our company security. Plus I want to discover how I can stop web abuse without limiting access to harmless sites.

“I understand I’ll receive the report Creating an Internet Policy: 6 Steps You Can’t Afford to Skip FREE and with NO OBLIGATION, and I’ll get information on how to get a Free 30-day trial of SuperScout Email and/or Web Filtering software.

“Plus, if I respond in the next 10 days, I’ll receive the Free Bonus Report: How Web and Email Filtering Can Save You Millions in Lost Productivity.”

Make sure your postal, Internet (URL) and email addresses, as well as your phone and fax numbers, are on your order form so everyone will know how to contact you.

Order forms often get separated from the rest of direct mail packages.

When you have all this information on your order form, your prospects will know how to contact you, so you won’t lose orders or income if they happen to mislay your business reply envelope. When you give a phone number, include your hours of operation or say, “Call anytime, 24 hours a day.” When mailing internationally, 24-hour-a-day operation is a must.

If appropriate, always put a complete money-back guarantee next to your order certificate on your order form so your prospects know your product or service is fully guaranteed!

An example of a subscription guarantee could read:

“Your No-Risk Money-Back Double Guarantee: We insist you must be completely satisfied with (name of your product or service). I will have it no other way. If you are not, you may cancel this subscription anytime for a full refund. No questions asked. No further obligation. Should you cancel, the FREE bonuses you’ve received are yours to keep. What could be fairer than that?”

Your prospects need this additional reassurance of a guarantee on the order form even though the guarantee is stated in your letter and the components of a direct mail piece. It should be printed where they can see it easily…at the point of decision.

Never use copy, art or type that is unattractive and/or difficult to read. Keep it simple and free from clutter.

Is your type large enough to be read easily by all your prospects whose eyesight may vary? Make sure that the type size on your order form is at least 12 points with leading. Always use serif type because it is much easier to read than sans serif type. Never use reverse type, and be very careful using color type on a color background.

Use a typeface that is extremely EASY TO READ. (Editor’s note: See lead sales article about type styles in Direct Response Volume XVI, Number 1.)

Never forget to display the word “FREE” and/or “FREE GIFT” very prominently.

These are the most powerful words you can use in advertising…so be sure to cash in on them whenever you can!

Make sure your free offers are clear and dramatic. These drive response, and it’s worth the paper to get a complete story presented, even if it means creating a two-column order form as required in this example. But keep the payment information on the same page as the item information.

Whenever possible, place an expiration date (or time limit) on an order form to instill a sense of urgency in the call to action.

Time limits must be attached to offers, particularly if they are value offers such as a free premium or discount. Do not allow the reader to postpone a decision. For an additional incentive to respond quickly, or as an alternate to a deadline, offer a free bonus for a response within 10 days.

Never ask for extra information from your prospects, such as demographics or psychographics.

Anything unnecessary you ask for is sure to depress results…and you don’t want that!

Our tests have proven that using the back of your order form is a GREAT WAY to receive extra benefits by including additional testimonials.

So…it pays you extra dividends not to follow traditional direct mail theory that says, “do not put anything on the back of your order form.”

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Craig Huey

Craig Huey is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in direct response marketing. He is the winner of 78 major marketing awards for breakthrough campaigns that led to multimillion-dollar sales.


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