9 Ways to Improve the Order Card
The role of the order card in the direct mail piece has always been important. "The main purpose is to state (or restate) the offer clearly and simply, so it's easy and effortless for the recipient to say, 'Yes.' The sole purpose of the order card is to get the order!" states Heidi Wells, a freelance copywriter based in Chicago.
Now, in this current cramped economic climate, the order card's role is heightened. For a mailing to garner solid response rates amid a prospect base that's increasingly choosy with its money, it needs to perform brilliantly. "Because packages are getting leaner every time we take a breath, OCs are forced to do some selling as well," adds Ruth Sheldon, a New York City-based copywriter and president of Ruth K. Sheldon & Associates.
In the standard order card, prospects should be guided through the ordering process in a strategic and organized manner, comments Todd Lerner, copywriter/designer and owner of Todd Lerner Advertising in Farmington Hills, Mich. "But just because past order cards for a product functioned a certain way doesn't mean things can't be taken to another level. We are always searching for opportunity to make responding easier," he relates.
In other words, push the prospect toward the mail-in, phone or Web site response. Here are nine ways to do exactly that.
1. Keep Them in the Package!
First of all, in this age of cutting the package down, some direct mail campaigns aiming for Web or phone responses take the dangerous step of removing the order card. Don't do it. "I've heard of tests where mailings WITH order cards/reply cards outperformed those without ... even if most responses came in by phone," says Pat Friesen, a copywriter based in Leawood, Kan.
Just as important, Friesen reminds that the order card is also your "offer card." It's the one place where the entire offer is summarized (in very few words) as a reminder of why people should respond and what they get when they do so.
2. Use These Reminders
Reminding prospects why they should respond is fundamental to an effective order card. "Discount. No obligation. Guarantee. Free shipping. Limited time deadline," lists Friesen, who also says that order cards should carry phone numbers and URLs, especially if this is how most people respond.
According to Friesen, in classic solo mailings, the order card/reply is often the ONE piece of the mailing that is kept for later response. "If you don't remind the person of why she/he kept it, you limit your opportunity to response success," she describes.
3. Create Economic Attraction
You also need to describe what prospects get in exchange for their replies. Sheldon refers to order cards that display grids with both percentage and price savings, highlighted cost-effective options and mini-benefit summaries.
"Savings must be highlighted. I'm a big proponent of involvement devices, respond-by dates and the effective use of credit," agrees Elaine Tyson, copywriter and president of Tyson Associates in Brookfield, Conn. She also recommends the use of the power word "free," and if you use a premium, make sure it appears to have value and is a part of the order form.
4. Make It Simple for the Prospect
Of course, one tendency that needs to be avoided is littering the order card with too much copy and too many ways to respond. Friesen says mailers should be testing and monitoring how the majority of their responses come in, then include the top two or three ways to respond. "Don't give too many options or you'll confuse people by forcing them to make a decision," she asserts.
Tyson concurs, "Simple, easy-to-use order cards always work best, except for sweeps where the more, the merrier."
5. Make It Stand Out
Too many order cards look like, yes, another vanilla order card. Blah. If they're so important - they are - then make them stand out. "Include something visual to draw the eye to the card ... a photo of the free kit they'll receive, a picture of the product in someone's hand. Remember, people are drawn to images of people, hands, eyes and other human elements," describes Friesen, who also recommends using clever design techniques - certificate borders, colored paper stock, background tints - to make the card look both valuable and interesting.
6. Spice It Up
Sometimes, copywriters may consider pushing the envelope in the order form. Wells says, "If there's room on an order card, I like to add a fascination, secret or question with a call to action: 'For the answer, see page XX of your free preview book.' Or I like to drive the reader to the order card by putting the answers to a quiz on the order card, which naturally gets them closer to responding."
7. Go Hybrid
Sour or super economic conditions, there's a noticeable decline in people reading their mail thoroughly. Thus the need for an order card that covers all the bases, says Wells. In a renewal package she's writing for a major publisher, Wells is using a hybrid, four-color order form with graphics, a list of benefits, call to action, as well as the obligatory commit copy. "It's an all-in-one approach, even though there's a letter included in the package."
Friesen emphasizes that you must test variations of your response device to make sure it's doing its work. "Test color, card stock, prefilled personalization vs. fill-in-the-blanks. Then measure, track and analyze response. If you don't, you're not doing direct marketing ... you're doing mailings," she comments.
9. Write It Well
Like many valuable things, say hiking the football, the order card looks like it writes itself, but that's far from the truth. Hire a quality copywriter to make sure this vital job is done right. "Traditionally, the reply/order card has played a very important role in direct mail because it originally brought in the order. For this reason, some copywriters write it first," explains Friesen.
Indeed, the way an offer is stated has a great deal to do with how successful the effort will be, says Tyson. "Good writers state and restate the offer throughout the package. But the order card is the last chance to make the sale, so it needs to be as perfect as you can make it."