100 tips and tools to get rich in mail order & e-tail! Mail order is booming! Sell from home, online—part-time or full-time.
Mail order continues to boom! By the end of this year sales for mail order businesses will exceed more than two trillion dollars. It is a wonderful business to pursue as it easily adapts to a part-time, full-time or weekends-only schedule. You can sell from home and thanks to the Internet, you can effortlessly set up shop and sell your goods to a global audience if you like.
The mail order business is one of the least expensive types of business individuals can start. In mail order, a person can start small by placing inexpensive ads, and then gradually build the business from the profits. Mail order entrepreneurs can purchase products wholesale and sell them, or create their own product, such as a “How-To” book.
Convenience has always been the key to mail order victory. Shoppers love to make purchases from their armchairs. They save time, money, gas, etc. The Internet has been a tremendous boost to mail order businesses. Online shopping is a significant reason mail order is growing.
Increasingly, entrepreneurs are using their websites to market and sell their wares to customers around the world. With people’s increased work hours and hectic lifestyles, they have less time to shop in stores, and prefer to order items online and have their purchases shipped to them. For many businesses, mail order has become a profitable new method for sales and staying connected with customers.
Online shopping has also become very comfortable. Consumers feel safer shopping online as ordering and paying becomes easier and more secure. They can save time and money by being able to shop anywhere from their laptops or leisurely browse and purchase through mail order companies’ catalogs and websites.
Customers can save money by shopping via mail order, too. Though mail order companies usually charge for shipping, they generally do not have to collect sales tax from customers unless they live in the state where the company’s operations or satellite offices are located. Check with your state department of revenue about your business’s tax obligations.
Today, mail order and online shopping have become synonymous. John Schulte, President of the National Mail Order Association (NMOA) says, “We classify any ‘distant sale’ as being part of mail order; i.e., if it’s promoted and ordered remotely, without being in a “brick and mortar” store, it’s mail order.” Shulte says that mail order includes: catalogs, web sales, infomercials and television home shopping, direct mail, and direct response advertisements. According to this mail order maven all of these channels share the same underlying characteristics: An order is placed without touching the product, and it’s delivered to the customer by common carrier. Schulte concludes that other than television or radio, the written word is the salesperson in all these channels; even the television pitch people (demonstrators) are scripted. Customers are entered into a database (mailing list) for future promotional offers.
The Federal Trade Commission states that goods purchased through mail order must be shipped within 30 days or the customer must not be charged.
The NMOA says the FTC’s 30-day rule applies to all remote sellers no matter what system is used to promote and take the orders. Visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/mailorder.shtm to read “A Business Guide to the Federal Trade Commission’s Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule,” as it pertains to the timely delivery of purchased mail order items.
Mail order entrepreneurs are using websites as a real tool to sell their goods. They still place ads, but the ads drive customers to a website for ordering the products.
There are many tools you can use to sell and fulfill online orders. Various U.S. Small Business Development Centers (USBDCs) offer onsite or online e-commerce seminars (Visit www.sba.gov/index.html and search “Local Resources” for local offices). If your mail order business is a new startup venture, first establish your business; and then take the next steps for incorporating a commercial website into your business plan.
To economize, you can use free website templates or purchase website creation software. You can visit www.yola.com to learn more about their free website programs. Yes, you can build your own website at yola and they will host it for free. You can convert at any time to upgraded premium services and then they will start charging you a regular hosting fee as do most web hosting companies. It is nice to know, however, that anyone can have a free website.
Just about any web-hosting company can carry an uncomplicated site consisting of a few pages of text and simple graphics for a reasonable monthly fee.
You can use your website to accept online payments. Even if you don’t have a merchant account established with your local bank (that enables you to accept credit cards) you can use online payment companies like PayPal.com or remotely hosted shopping carts that place a “Buy Now” button on your site but take customers’ orders on their site.
You are on your way to developing your own mail order empire. As your business grows, you can develop a more extensive e-commerce site with a catalog, shopping cart, and credit card processing capabilities. In accepting credit cards, you may qualify for your own merchant account or pay a shopping cart service for the right to use their merchant accounts. Buyers tend to make more purchases if they can pay with their credit cards.
Don’t forget to incorporate online auction sites into your marketing mix. Use online auction sites to test products’ sales potential and to attract customers to your site. You can set up your own “store” at both eBay.com and amazon.com. Visit these sites to learn more.
Check out the trade show circuit, too. Exhibit at industry trade shows and offer free samples to get feedback and gauge interest.
It is imperative that you keep bringing customers to your website. In addition to linking to search engines, market your site by listing your business’s web address on your business cards, promotional literature, and in all your ads. Exchange links with the owners of related businesses’ sites, including your suppliers’ so your customers can get additional information; or if you are earning commissions or selling your own products with affiliate programs websites.
Websites need not be expensive, but not having one may mean you will miss sales from potential customers who prefer online shopping.
You should also take advantage of social media such as facebook and twitter. Set up a facebook page for your business and promote your products. Tweet everyday on your offerings but also include some general info that your twitter followers will enjoy so you don’t appear to be just a money machine.
You can also incorporate traditional mail order tools such as direct mail in your marketing program. Direct Mail order, also known as direct marketing, includes postcards, brochures, sales, letters, reply cards, and other printed promotional materials that you can deliver through the U.S. Postal Service to obtain mailed, phoned, faxed, or e-mailed customer responses.
According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), marketers spent more than $170 billion last year on direct marketing in the United States. This generated about two trillion dollars in sales.
The typical direct mail sales packages contain sales letters, pamphlets or fliers, and reply cards. It takes an average of seven messages to potential customers before they make any purchasing decisions. Using a combination of the following methods and available technology will help bring in more profits.
Keep a mailing list. Direct marketers mail their sales packages to potential customers whose names they have garnered from advertising responses, trade show attendees, referrals, and other sources; or from mailing list companies that sell lists compiled of target customers.
Update your list twice a year and cut down on mailing expenses with test-mailings and follow-ups to ensure your mailings are reaching your designated targets. Simplify operations by presorting your mail, using barcodes, and mastering database management software for mailing lists. If you prefer and can afford it, you can hire mail consolidation companies to presort your mail and send it to bulk mail centers.
Use sales letters. Creating leads by getting customers to respond using reply cards, phone calls, faxes, or e-mails is the pur
pose of a sales letter. In one page, write an attention-grabber opening that will compel the prospective customer to read the entire letter; and emphasize the pluses of using your products/services. People often read a letter’s postscript (P.S.) first, so include your basic pitch in it. Encourage fast responses with a no-risk offer of free information with a deadline and a “call to action” with a toll-free number, an e-mail address, or a postage-paid reply card. Review the FTC.gov rules regarding the wording “free” in advertisements at www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/free.htm.
Include a brochure. Write a brochure or have a pro do it for you. Brochures fulfill potential customers’ requests for more information. Write them with compelling headlines that persuade; your brochures should enhance you and your business’s professionalism and image.
Your choice of envelope is important. Place a teaser headline on the outside of your envelope, or consider using a color. If prospective customers do not open your direct mail envelopes, then all the materials within are useless. Put a question on your envelope to encourage your reader to open and read it. Test unusual sizes, shapes, or colors, but make sure it is tasteful and reflects your business’s image. Follow U.S. postal regulations regarding the placement of art and copy on your envelopes.
By offering a guarantee for your product/services, prospective customers may be more willing to trust you, request more information, or try your business offerings.
FTC rules state that if your customer has to pay for your product, you cannot use the word “free” in your sales pieces. However, if you guarantee a refund, you are permitted to say your offer is “risk free.” Visit www.FTC.gov for rules and guidelines.
You must follow up to clinch the sale. A follow-up letter or communication is the direct piece most likely to bring in sales; so have a system of follow-up responses ready before sending out any direct mail packages. In starting out, use your own basic organizational methods to track responses and follow-ups; but as your mail order business grows, you can invest in direct mail business management software to streamline your operations.
If you can’t afford to purchase specialized equipment like letter folding and opening machines, postal meters (some with document inserters), postal scales (some can compare carrier rates), and other equipment as to speed your mailings, consider opening an account with a service such as Kinko’s. No matter what system you use, it is important to send follow-up communications to all persons who respond. Thank them for their interest; offer some new information or another offer; repeat the benefits of using your product or services; and stress that you look forward to doing business with them. Follow-ups remind prospective customers who you are and that you are a mail order professional they can trust.
Incorporate e-mail into your marketing structure. Businesses that sell their mail order items successfully online use e-mail to keep in touch with their current customers and to solicit to new potential ones. They also use e-mail to send follow-ups with thank you notes, congratulations (birthdays), reminder prompts (renewals), or for customer feedback and more.
Use interesting subject lines to pique customers’ curiosity in regular e-mails that contain company news (not always trying to sell something) or helpful tips, and make it easy for people to sign up or subscribe. Respond immediately to any queries or complaints, or use an auto responder to acknowledge their e-mails when you are away. Consider using automated e-mail management list software to efficiently maintain your business’s e-mails.
No matter what type of product you decide to sell, there are certain steps to follow to make the process easier. Here are 15 steps to consider when launching your mail order empire:
#1 Pick A Product To Sell: Decide which products you want to sell, including novelty items, handcrafted items or self help books, some items that traditionally sell well by mail. Select a product that is unique and cannot be purchased at a local store.
#2 Find Your Supplier: Search sites for a wholesale supplier for your products. Try to find a wholesaler that will enable you to mark your products up at least 200 percent or 300 percent, as mail order advertising can be expensive. Contact the National Mail Order Association at nmoa.org for help, if needed.
#3 Establish A Phone Number: Get an 800 number or separate phone line for your business. Include this number on all advertising materials.
#4 Start Writing: Order samples of the products that you will be selling. Write a brief summary about each product and include the retail price.
#5 Build A Website: Create a website, or find someone in your area experienced in web design. Take pictures of your products and provide the summary and price information to the web designer. Include information about your company on your website, and list your company name, address and phone number. Instruct people to order by mail, or have the web designer set your site up for credit card orders.
#6 Create a brochure: Use several of your main products. Include pictures and brief summaries of the products on the brochure. Use color in your brochure to attract attention and enhance its appeal.
#7 Create a sales letter: Create a sales letter on plain white paper that describes the benefits of your products. Use plenty of hype in your sales letter to entice the customer to order.
#8 Create an order form: Create an order form that lists the products and prices as well as blank lines for order quantities. Provide space for the customer to print her name, address and ZIP code. Include your website on the order form. Use a pastel color for your order form.
#9 Place ads: Place a small classified ad in regional magazines, newspapers, websites, etc. Don’t forget to place a well-targeted, inexpensive ad on facebook, too. You could pull a good response for your mail order products. Describe your products briefly, and then invite people to send for free information.
#10 Send out your info: Mail your sales letter, brochure and order form to people that respond to your classified ad.
#11 Fulfill your orders: You don’t have to stock a lot of inventory if your suppliers have the products readily available. Wait for people to respond by mail, phone or through the Internet. Order products from your wholesale supplier as you need them. Type up shipping labels for each customer. Place the product in an envelope or box, then go to the post office and mail it first class or research other options.
#12 Keep advertising: Don’t stop your ad campaign. Continue advertising weekly at first in a few newspapers if you are making a profit. Increase the number of media outlets in which you advertise to expand your business.
#13 Keep records: Start a filing system to keep records of the customers that order from you, and what they order. Mail additional offers to them, such as specials every two or three months.
#14 Follow up: Throughout the year come up with fun and clever “excuses” to contact your buyers. It could be their birthday, an anniversary or any holiday. Use these opportunities to sell more products to them.
#15 Update your offerings: Constantly troll the Internet, trade shows, novelty fairs, etc. to find new product offerings for your customers.
Jim Tilberry is President of Tilberry Direct Marketing. You can reach Jim via his website: www.tilberrydirect.com.
He has helped scores of inventors market and sell their products through mail order tools and techniques. We asked Jim to share some of his strategies with us.
Tilberry’s experience has helped him form rock solid tips on how you can embark on your own mail order business. Here are just a few of his suggestions:
Giving away the farm: Many catalogs will ask for a multitude of discounts and concessions before they even place one order. You give them a set price for your product. But they insist on a lower price. They expect you to pay freight. They want an “advertising allowance.” They ask for a volume discount, a catalog allowance, and a photography fee. The requests for concessions go on and on. But beware of this game. If a catalog truly likes your product, they will usually pick it up without requiring a ton of concessions.
Being stung by mistakes: Review a catalog’s rules and shipping requirements closely. Mislabeling your master cartons, shipping late, or failure to follow any of their vendor requirements could cost you. Penalties are typically enforced through deductions off invoices. A few deductions here, a few there, and you can kiss your profit goodbye.
Falling behind with orders: The only thing worse than having a product no one wants to buy, is having one that so many people want you can’t keep up with the deluge of orders. If you’ve never had insomnia, this scenario is guaranteed to cause it. When thinking about your production needs, think as optimistically as possible. Make sure you’re capable of handling production if the catalogs are successful with your item. And always have backup suppliers lined up—just in case.
Products that boomerang: Returns from catalogs are an inevitable part of the equation when figuring out your profit. If you have a good, well-built product that delivers on its promises, you have little to worry about. However, high returns are often the first warning sign that there are problems with your product. It breaks easily when shipped, customers think it’s overpriced, or assembly instructions are confusing. Any number of issues can be red-flagged by high returns.
Placing your eggs in one basket: Many catalogs ask for an “exclusive.” This agreement guarantees that the catalog will be the only one carrying your product for the length of the exclusive. Generally this is not a good deal for your company. Naturally, an exclusive with one company locks you out of the rest of the market. If you do grant an exclusive, keep it as short as possible. Six months is plenty of time for an exclusive.
Doing business with deadbeats: Let’s face it, the main reason you do business with a catalog is so they will pay you for your product. How frustrating it is then when they don’t live up to their end of the deal. And it happens. Like all businesses that are strapped for cash, when a catalog is experiencing lean times, they will delay payment to their vendors. So keep a close eye on when an invoice is due, and don’t let them slide too far past. Any invoice more than a month past due could indicate trouble. Your best recourse is to hold up shipments to that catalog until you get paid. You can even ask for payment up front on new orders.
If you’ve been thinking of adding a mail order catalog to your current marketing mix, Tilberry suggests the following reasons on how mail order catalogs can give your business a big lift.
Sell to a large market: U.S. catalog sales are now over $100 billion a year. Approximately two-thirds of all consumers have bought something through mail order in the last 12 months. With the right product a company can go from zero to several million in sales—just through catalogs.
Compete more easily: Catalogs offer a level playing field for the big corporation and the smallest startup. With few exceptions, products are judged and sell on their merits, not on the reputation of the manufacturer.
All you need is one: Unlike store distribution, manufacturers don’t need a “line” of products. Catalogs evaluate one product at a time. So the one-product company is not at a disadvantage as they are when trying to get shelf space in a large store chain.
Save on packaging: Unlike point-of-purchase sales where the package helps sell the product on the store shelf, the package has no bearing on the sales of an item in a catalog. So you don’t need an expensive four-color box. In fact, the simpler the packaging the better. A plastic bag is often sufficient.
Keep your risk low: A few catalogs now require a nominal “advertising allowance” to sell your product. However, many catalogs still charge nothing to advertise your product.
Get national exposure: Catalogs offer startups and small companies exposure to millions of potential customers. When your product appears in a recognized catalog, your product and your company enjoy instant credibility.
Test the market: Catalogs provide an ideal opportunity to find out how well your product sells. In addition, when you place your product in specific niche catalogs, you can test different segments of the marketplace. Naturally, success in catalogs can lead to success in other marketing avenues.
Start Your Biz At Home
First-time mail order entrepreneurs often find it easier to start a business from home and grow it into a full-time venture. There really is no reasons to open a costly outside facility or office. Starting a business from home is a good way to test the entrepreneurial waters while saving lots of money on overhead such as rent, utilities, insurance and more. You can start on a part-time basis and develop this business into a full-time homemade success.
In researching the type of mail order business you’d love to start, make a series of lists of what you’re interested in and see what you’re good at. Are there are common denominators? Do you like sports, pets, fixing things? What types of things could you sell that relate to your interests. An individual who loves parties and music might want to consider starting a music enterprise.
Communities have really relaxed their rules on residential and commercial zoning now that so many people are working from home. But if your home based business means that you’ll have to have huge trucks delivering goods, then beware, your neighbors might not like it and might turn you in to the local authorities. You will not be able to set up a restaurant at home or a dry cleaning business or a commercial parking lot right on your front lawn. To find out about local zoning laws, call your town office and county clerk’s office.
Take a trip down to your county clerk’s office and register your name. You will receive a Business Index number and can then use that Business Index number to open a business checking account.
Your customers will never see your home office, so impress them with your professionalism and attention to detail by selecting a good looking stationery system consisting of high-grade letterhead and business cards. Get a separate phone line so no one answers the phone and just says, “Hello,” which could turn off potential customers. Get a fax machine, an answering machine or voice mail and you are in business!.
Examine your insurance policy to see if you need to beef up your liability insurance or add on any other type of coverage. There are many add-ons to consider including: business interruption insurance, business property insurance, disability insurance, non-owned auto insurance, product liability and much more.
Print up a flier, get involved in local clubs and other networking opportunities, send out a press kit to local newspapers, prepare a direct mail piece, try and place yourself as a guest –an expert–on local TV or cable, investigate advertising , become active in local civic groups and associations, offer to give a speech at a local club or gathering, send out discount coupons, send out holiday greeting cards, teach a class at adult education, attend trade shows as a guest or exhibitor. All of these methods will help you generate business and customers.
Even though you might not plan to do your own taxes–and it is recommended that you visit a professional accountant for tax assistance–it’s a good idea to get a grip on basic accounting principles and bookkeeping skills. Look into a local adult education course, browse through bookstores and find a “how to” manual or enroll in a local community college, but get a little accounting help under your belt.
In starting your small business, you’ll have lots of details to check and fine-tune. Here is a checklist of 10 things you should do as you prepare your business launch:
1. Choose a business and pick a name.
2. File a “doing business as” form with your county clerk’s office so that you can open a business bank account.
3. Open a business checking account.
4. Prepare a marketing plan and outline ways you will generate business.
5. Brush up on accounting and bookkeeping techniques and choose a system–either on paper or on computer that you plan to follow.
6. Call the local Small Business Administration office in your area. Ask about their free programs, literature and seminars.
7. Call local community colleges and schools and ask about their programs in entrepreneurship.
8. Visit bookstores to brush up techniques you need to know: marketing, advertising, etc.
9. Write a business plan. It can be 2 or 20 pages, but a good business plan will help you answer all the questions you need to know about your business. It will also be a valuable tool if you need to borrow money from a bank.
10. Work on a plan to grow your business. Yes, you’re starting on a shoestring with $100. Where will you be in one year? In two years? In five years? What are your plans and where are you going.
If you are going to be purchasing a lot of products or goods to sell in your mail order business, don’t forget to check out the vendors. You don’t want to throw your money away, so do your homework.
Before you purchase any products, there are a few things you can do to check out the company.
1. Contact the Better Business Bureau. Call the office of the BBB in the city where the company is based. See if they have any complaints against the company. If they do, run the other way.
2. Call the Inspection Services Division of the Post Office. This is for mail order business opportunities or those companies that ask you to send money through the mail to purchase a product, service, guide, manual, etc. Call telephone directory information and get the number of the local post office where the company is based. Ask for the Inspection Services Division at the post office. Call and find out if any complaints on mail fraud have been filed against the company.
3. Ask the company to supply references. If they suggest that their distributors or dealers can make $xxxx a year, ask them to supply the names and addresses and phone numbers of some folks who did just that. If they can’t produce a list of satisfied customers, look elsewhere for your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
4. Call the Chamber of Commerce. Ask the Chamber if the company you are considering is a member. If not, ask if they’ve every heard about the group.
5. Make sure you have a very good idea of what you are purchasing. It’s important to feel comfortable about the product you will be selling. Make sure you understand what it is. Some companies are great on the sizzle, but fail to provide a steak that you can re-sizzle and sell. If a company is too vague, for your instincts, find a new business opportunity in which you can invest.
6. Inquire about follow-up and support. It’s important that you understand whether or not the company from which you might purchase your business opportunity will be available to answer questions in the future. Some are, and some do not provide this service. Some provide it, but for a fee. Understand what you are buying.
7. Ask about accessibility of future shipments and turnaround time. If you are investing in a company that will require that you to purchase additional inventory or minimum orders, ask them how long they take to fulfill orders, how do they ship, are they available on weekends, etc.
8. Make an appointment to visit the facility or headquarters. Ask if you can visit the company headquarters. If you get the run around, it means something is not right. If they welcome you to visit, you are one step closer to finding a good business “partner.”
9 Use your instincts. Many people say, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” We completely disagree, because we’ve seen incredible successes come from as little as an investment of $50. We say, “If it doesn’t feel right, if the company with whom you are about to do business arouses your suspicious instincts, then something could be wrong. We’ve evolved a long way from our cavemen brothers and sisters, but they relied very heavily on instinct for survival. When it comes to starting a business, it is necessary to conjure up this sixth sense known as instinct and use it.
10. Stick to it. No matter how slowly the business seems to move in its way to development, stick with it if you believe you have a great product to sell. Create a timetable and if you have made a mistake and misjudged the market, know when to cut your losses.
Resources for you biz
The U.S. Small Business Administration is a valuable resource for you when starting a business. The group is the main advocate of small business in our federal government. While the group is generally known for its small business loan guarantee program, the SBA can also help you get information, advice and in general, establish and run your own venture.
The phone number to the Small Business Administration Answer Desk is 800-827-5722, and the address is 409 Third Street, SW, Washington, DC 20416. The website is: www.sba.gov
About the loan guarantee program: The SBA provides access to financing for small businesses that could not obtain financing on reasonable terms from normal lending channels. Banks are often unwilling to loan start-up ventures any money because they don’t have enough collateral and they usually take much longer to pay back a loan. Some banks, however, don’t want to reject your business. They still view many start-up ventures as risky and will ask the SBA to guarantee up to 80% of the loan amount. This reduces the risk of nonpayment.
The SBA does not make the loan but guarantees the bank who loans you the money. In this way, many businesses are able to borrow funds that would not otherwise be available.
Monies obtained from an SBA-guarante-ed loan may not be used for the following activities:
• speculative businesses, including oil, dealing in commodities, and real estate
• lending or investment concerns such as life insurance, investment companies, banks, finance companies and other businesses whose stock in trade is money
Contact your local SBA office (usually located in the city nearest you) for further information on the loan program.
The SBA has a wide range of loan programs available including Basic Loans, Basic Guaranty Bank Loans, LowDoc (loans of $100,000 or less), Caplines, Microloans (up to $25,000), Certified Development loans, Defense Loan & Technical Assistance Program (DELTA).
Call your local office for additional information on SBA seminars and free publications and to learn more about the SCORE Program ( Senior Corps of Retired Executives) and to find out how you can attend The Business Institute.
15 NEW HOT STARTUPS FOR UNDER $100
You don’t have come up with a fortune to start a small business. In fact, there are dozens of great new and hot biz you can start for less than $100. Use your imagination as you scan your community to see what’s needed.
If the business you are contemplating already exists, figure out a way to beat your competition by doing it faster-cheaper-or better. Here are some moneymaking potentials foryour to consider:
2. Blog For Cash: everyone wants a blog but can’t provide content. You do it & earn big
3. Cleaning Biz: busy people have no time and you are selling convenience.
4. Delivery Service: connect with small biz in your area that don’t deliver & provide the service.
5. Custom Cakes: Sweets are always big in any economy. Custom cakes are hot.
6. Windows: businesses that offer window cleaning are booming. Residential & Commercial.
7. eBay: sell, sell, sell online – your trash is someone’s treasure.
8. Website: build a website and sell stuff as you make money from home.
9. Services For Seniors: you can run errands, teach computer skills, etc. for this market.
10. Inventory Biz: you photograph/video and list contents of home for insurance purposes.
11. Jewelry Empire: turn your crafts into cash at sites like etsy.com
12. Small Biz Owner Fill-In: start a biz filling in for entrepreneurs who need to be out of the office/shop, etc. but who have no employees to hold down the fort.
13. Bottle Your Recipe: take your sauce and sell it at fairs, online and trade shows.
14. Day Care: learn regulations and care for kids in your home or their’s.
15. Apartment Prep Service: you handle cleanup, etc. when tenants move out. Connect with realtors, etc.
Fred Broitman, author of “How to Become A Mail Order Millionaire” wants you to succeed with your own business. This comprehensive manual to help you start, run and manage your own mail order business includes all new sections on how to supercharge your mail order business using the Internet.
Topics include everything from how to find a great product to sell and how to create winning ads, to establishing your online presence and maximizing search engine optimization. It is available through mail order and at select conventions. To order your copy, send $39.95 in the form of a check or money order (shipping and handling is included) to: Superior Press, 307 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 824, Chicago, IL 60601. http://becomeamailordermillionaire.com/
Do-It-Yourself Public Relations
Secrets to Getting PR with a Little Know-How and Elbow Grease
The cycle of marketing was once summarized in the story of the circus coming to town. Consider this tale:
If the circus is coming to town and you buy a billboard saying “Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday,” that’s advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed and the local paper picks it up, that’s publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations. If the town’s citizens go to the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus, that’s sales.
Most of the time, it’s really difficult to get the elephant to walk where you want it. In those cases, you need to generate your own public relations, and I’ve got some basic tips for you to follow to make that happen fast and inexpensively:
Find your inner expert – Think about your business or your profession and zero in on your expertise. Pick the area you know the most about, and focus on that. Do you have a ballpark idea of what that is? Keep that in mind, and we’ll get back to that in a minute.
Surf the Internet – Just about every key news source has a Web site, so do some surfing. Go to the Web sites of the news media outlets in which you’d like to be featured and harvest their contact information to build your media database.
Read the papers – One good way to figure out if what you are doing is newsworthy or relevant is to read a newspaper to see what the press is writing. If you want their attention, you need to figure out what currently interests them. Specifically look for news stories in your area of expertise or interest.
Put it all together – In remembering your media targets and the stories they typically publish about your topic or area, go back to your expertise. Is there something that you found that was in the news related to your expertise? Is there something you can comment on with veracity and credibility? That’s how you thread the needle.
PR Tools – The press release, as a reliable tool for public relations professionals, had been on life support since 2005, when newspapers first realized that they weren’t competing with television or radio as much as they were competing against Internet news portals. Dozens of newspapers and magazines have folded, and hundreds more have scaled back their staff and even their publication size. Consider the shrinking news hole, the shrinking staff and the emphasis on competition from online outlets, and you have to ask yourself if they even have the staff to read the volume of hundreds of press releases per day that they receive from email and wire services.
So, if they aren’t reading press releases, or only selecting press releases from trusted or existing sources sparingly, how can you get through to print media editors?
The answer is content. Most publications are not seeking news, but rather, ready-made content that they can plug directly into their publications, Web sites or both. The key is ensuring that the content you offer is more than just a sales pitch for you or your project.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that this is NOT a marketing project or a promotional project. It’s a news project. You want to take who you are, what you do and your primary message and marry it to something already in the news. Think like a news editor and not like an artist, and you’ll find something between the lines that will resonate with the media as well as the audience.
(Marsha Friedman is a 20-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. She also hosts a national weekly radio talk show, The Family Round Table, and is author of the book, Celebritize Yourself.)
By Marsha Friedman
Alibaba.com is a website that mail order entrepreneurs can use to find products, suppliers and manufacturers for their mail order enterprise. Here are three success stories on how small business owners used Alibaba.com to launch and grow their businesses.
Sisters that turned their hobby into a million-dollar business: While shopping for scrapbooking supplies in 2003, Caroline and Deborah Lau became frustrated with the lack of unique items available. They created Maya Road to try to fill that void, and used Alibaba.com to help them jumpstart their business. Caroline says, “We taught ourselves international trade with Alibaba.com’s help and it was easier than we could have imagined. Today, Maya Road merchandise is carried by 1500 stores worldwide.
A small company selling flags out of a basement now has 100 employees: Kevin Hickey says, “Alibaba.com has helped us grow by enabling us to purchase high-quality, low-cost products from abroad with little or no research costs.” Today, Online Stores is expanding at an incredible rate with more than 100 employees. The company says, “What recession? Our sales are up 20% and we are making more money than ever.”
A ball and a dream lands in the hands of thousands: About five years ago, Mary Pembleton, a speech therapist in New Jersey, decided to integrate a ball into her sessions with kids that became an instant hit. She knew she would have to create the ball herself because it didn’t exist. Using overseas suppliers found on Alibaba.com, Mary and her husband Gregg created Thumball, hand-sized balls inscribed with messages. They created a prototype overseas and found suppliers to manufacture the product.