What would you say was the most important piece of copywriting in a direct marketing campaign? The envelope teaser? Could be. After all, if people don’t even open the pack, you’ve failed at the first hurdle.
How about the headline? Why not? This is where you catch your prospect and signal the benefits to come; or give them some news; or arouse their curiosity.
But surely, the body copy takes pride of place? If not, why do we all spend so much time on sales letters and brochures, crafting all those fine phrases to generate desire? Well, maybe. It is the substitute for the personal sales pitch, after all. But (didn’t you just know there was going to be a ‘But’?)…
Let’s suppose you’ve got them into the envelope (or into the email), aroused their interest, created desire, reassured them that it’s a good idea to act…now what? That’s right. The order form.
How to write a great order form
THIS is where your skills as a writer really come into their own. Why? Because at this point the fish is almost on the bank. All you have to do is keep the line taught and scoop it out of the water. So why do so many direct marketeers treat the order form as if it were an afterthought?
Here are a few things you could consider when writing your next order form:
1 Not putting the words ‘Order form’ at the top
This has always puzzled me. Nobody insists on writing ‘Front cover’ on the, er…front cover. Very few people write ‘Envelope’ on the outer, um…envelope.
So why this sudden anxiety that unless we label the order form as such, our reader will panic and run screaming into the street, leaving our form uncompleted? The clues are all there: the tick boxes, the payment details and address lines, the…well, you get the picture. And so does your reader! So here’s what I suggest instead.
Why not put your offer as the headline at the top of your orderform?
A big bold headline saying ‘Save 20% when you order before 31st January 2002’ is much more compelling and arresting. Or make it even more direct and say, ‘Order before 31st January 2002 and save 20%’. Now you’ve got an imperative sentence that ends with the saving.
2 The order of the sections
Everybody likes buying things they want; nobody likes paying for them. So get your prospect as far down the line as you can before you ask them to think about money. That means that the running order for your form should be:
1) Yes! I want the MegaCorp Widget 3000 starter kit. 2) Customer’s details. 3) Payment details. 4) Return address and contact details.
It’s my experience that designers are bored by order forms, or find them troublesome, or don’t really understand their significance for the client; so here are a few things that you need to watch for. One, is there enough space for the customer’s email address? Two, are the boxes/grids for the credit card number big enough? Three, is the space between the lines where they write their name and address sufficient?
You can go the ‘touch wood’ route or you can go the foolproof Sunfish route and fill in your own order form. Or better still, get your Auntie Margaret to do it (or your friend at MegaCorp, Inc. if you’re in business-to-business – though I still think Auntie Marge will give you a better result.)
Avoid it. The more complex the offer, the more complicated the form needed to express it, the more people are going to be put off at the crucial stage of the sales process. Never fall into the trap of trying to maximise ROI by cramming all sorts of unrelated offers and products onto your order form.
You’ve hooked the fish with the promise of a worm; that’s what it’s expecting. Don’t go suggesting it thinks about cheese and breadcrumbs or an ‘all you can eat’ caterpillar deal for just £2.99. ONCE it’s your customer, THEN go for cross-sell, upsell and renewal at birth.
This month’s message
Remember why you’re in direct marketing. To sell using the written word. And that means getting people to say ‘Yes’. The order form is where they do that, so make sure it’s simple, clear and unambiguous.
And as a final thought, why not write your order form first?