Closing the lid on the direct mail toolbox

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I began this series by telling you that the best direct mail craftsmen always have a "toolbox" filled to the brim with techniques. Having accumulated thousands of these selling tools, I wanted to share 99 of them with you.

I've covered prospects, offers, guarantees, envelopes, letters, brochures and am halfway through order forms. And now, without further ado, I finish with a few more tools for order forms plus three little tools for business reply envelopes.

90. Use a certificate border. It might seem a little old-fashioned, but a certificate border does add value. In fact, use anything that will appear valuable to your prospect: visual elements from paper money or certificates; valuable looking colors, such as green; and icons such as dollar signs andstately buildings.

91. Create a sense of urgency. Encourage an immediate order by saying something like "Call now" or "Order today." Remind your prospect of your deadline with "Offer ends ..." and a specific date, or just use a generic "Offer good while supplies last" or "Hurry! This is a limited time offer."

92. Show the product. A little picture of your product right on the order form can boost response. Your prospect can't examine your product before ordering. A picture on the order form reassures your prospect that you'll deliver what you promise.

93. Use just one side. Don't make an order form two-sided. Make it bigger if you must. If you go for two sides, you'll get more incomplete forms than usual.

94. Include a statement of acceptance. The form should include a line written from the customer's point of view as if the customer is confirming an understanding of the deal. It should contain an affirmation, a benefit statement, request for the item, summary of the offer, sweeteners and guarantee.

95. Offer fax response for businesses. Most businesses have a fax.

Some statistics show that half or more of all business orders arrive via fax. Why? It's easy to fill out an order form and hand it to an assistant. Make sure your order form will easily go through a fax and print legibly on your end. Test it before you mail.

96. Rename your order form. As one entertainer might say, "You can calls it an Enrollment Application. You can calls it a Free Examination Offer. You can calls it a Savings Coupon. Buts you don't gots to call it an Order Form." Use words that are significant to your prospect and add value to the offer. (And if you recognize the entertainer I'm mimicking, you're admitting your age.)

97. Include a business reply envelope if you ask for confidential information. When you ask for credit card numbers or other personal information, you must ensure the privacy of that information by enclosing it in an envelope. If you don't, you'll lose a ton of orders from prospects, who will forever think of you as completely insensitive to their privacy.

98. Put selling copy in the upper left corner of the BRE. A business reply envelope must be carefully designed to meet postal regulations. However, the upper left corner is free space you can use any way you choose. Use it for a special last-minute offer, a confirming testimonial or a rush-order message. You can even put the name of the letter signer there to assure that the order will be handled personally.

99. Confirm the order with copy on the back of your BRE. Car manufacturers spend millions assuring customers that they've made wise purchases. Why not do the same for your customers? After all, the deal isn't done until the check arrives.

And there you have it: 99 handy tools to boost your direct mail response. They're all powerful. But you don't necessarily have to use them all at once. Selling is, after all, a craft. Just as an electrician or carpenter chooses tools carefully, so should you.

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