Rebuilding a Letter: Reply Form
I’m back with a few more good-versus-bad methods to handle your direct marketing copy. Today, the topic is reply forms, and once again, I’m using the SAC letter as a starting point.
The SAC Federal Credit Union members’ letter, first described in my August 19 post, has a reply form on the bottom of the 8.5 x 14-inch letter.
I called the header ultra generic. It says, “Reply Form For Account Holders.” How impersonal. At a time when many financial institutions are trying to convince customers they’re not “numbers,” here they’re called “Account Holders.” A credit union should at least use the friendly term “members.”
How could the header be better? First, replace “Reply Form” with Activation Certificate, Acceptance Certificate, or something similar. Give the reader an impression this is an important document. Remember, the prospect will likely scan the reply form before reading the details in the letter.
Add a checkbox to take advantage of the interactive factor and to lend more authority to the form. Again, because the reader scans the form before reading the letter, use this as an opportunity to state your offer. Here’s an example of checkbox copy:
Yes! I want all the money-saving benefits and advantages Savings Plus offers me. Sign me up today and send me my FREE $20.00 Wal-Mart Gift Card!
If that doesn’t help get the prospect to read the rest of the letter, then she’s just not a good prospect.
Also, note, my checkbox copy focuses on the prospect by repeating personal pronouns like “me.” Your copy should always focus on the prospect and how your product benefits her.
Mentioning the gift card in the checkbox copy reinforces the text about the card on the right side of the form. The interactive device, asking the reader to place the sticker on the reply form to activate the offer, is an excellent direct marketing tool that’s rarely used by financial institutions.
“Must be signed and returned by.” Here’s another line of copy written by a lawyer instead of a copywriter. Don’t make it sound threatening. Use it to your advantage to generate response. Like this:
Act Now! This Special Offer ends…
Please — Sign and Return no later than…
I recommend you avoid saying your offer “expires.”
Another deal-busting line on this reply form is: “Do not bring to any store locations.” Even if the card fulfillment is handled by a third party (ACTON Marketing offers this service to our clients), you should offer as many ways as possible for your prospects to respond to your offer. They should be able to walk in and apply. If you don’t keep gift cards on hand, while it’s not the best situation, your staff can explain the card will be sent by mail. Same for in-bound phone activations. Since the prospect used the avoidance-convenience of the telephone, mail fulfillment is entirely acceptable.
I’m not an artist, so I won’t discuss the design of the form, but I can see the layout could be improved. Make the form look more like a special certificate than a “Reply Form” that we just had to tack on.
In my next Rebuilding post I’ll explain how to handle lengthy bullet points.