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Mail order has come a long way! You don’t need any experience to make sales happen for your mail order venture. There are exciting new options for even a first-time entrepreneur with no experience to sell their goods to a global audience. This feature will review all of the hot new ways for you to sell your products. If you don’t have a specific product in mind to sell, we’ll also give you possibilities and options on where you can find great things to sell. If you are creative and think mail order isn’t for you, think again. The iTunes store, Etsy, Café Press and Kindle are just a few of the venues that are now available to you and your dynamic projects.
Mail Order Roots
According to The National Mail Order Association, Benjamin Franklin is believed to have been the first cataloguer in the United States. In 1744, he formulated the basic mail order concept when he produced the first catalog, which sold scientific and academic books. He is also credited with offering the first mail order guarantee: “Those persons who live remote, by sending their orders and money to B. Franklin may depend on the same justice as if present.”
The earliest surviving mail order business, now known as Hammacher Schlemmer, was established by Alfred Hammacher in New York City in 1848. Offering mechanic’s tools and builder’s hardware, its first catalog was published in 1881.
In 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward of Chicago produced the first mail-order catalog for his Montgomery Ward mail order business. By buying goods and then reselling them directly to customers, Aaron Montgomery Ward was consequently removing the middlemen at the general store and to the benefit of the customer, lowering drastically the prices.
This first Montgomery Ward catalog was a single sheet of paper with a price list, 8 by 12 inches, showing the merchandise for sale and ordering instructions. Montgomery Ward identified a market of merchant-wary farmers in the Midwest. Within two decades, his single-page list of products grew into a 540-page illustrated book selling over 20,000 items. From about 1921 to 1931, Ward sold prefabricated kit houses, called Wardway Homes, by mail order.
The beginning of the Sears catalog started as a small, home-based business selling just watches. Richard Warren Sears was a railroad station agent in North Redwood, Minnesota. The first Sears catalog was published in 1888. Sears moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he met Alvah C. Roebuck, who joined him in the business. In 1893, the corporate business name became Sears, Roebuck and Co.
By 1894, the Sears catalog had grown to 322 pages, featuring bicycles, sporting goods, sewing machines, automobiles (produced from 1905–1915 by Lincoln Motor Car Works of Chicago, not related to the current Ford Motor Company brand of the same name) and a host of other new items.
Chicago clothing manufacturer Julius Rosenwald became a part owner in 1895. Rosenwald was charged with organizing the company so it could handle orders on an economical and efficient basis. Alvah Roebuck had to resign soon after due to ill health, but the company still retained his name. By the following year, dolls, refrigerators, stoves and groceries had been added to the catalog.
Sears, Roebuck and Co. soon developed a reputation for high quality products and customer satisfaction. By 1895, the company was producing a 532-page catalog with the largest variety of items that anybody at the time could have imagined. In 1893, the sales topped $400,000. Two years later they exceeded $750,000.
In 1906 Sears opened its catalog plant and the Sears Merchandise Building Tower. The Sears catalog had become known in the industry as “the Consumers’ Bible.” In 1933, Sears, Roebuck and Co. produced the first of its famous Christmas catalogs known as the “Sears Wishbook,”a catalog featuring toys and gifts and separate from the annual Christmas Catalog. From 1908 to 1940, Sears also sold kit houses by mail order, selling 70,000 to 75,000 such homes, many of which are still lived in today.
James Cash Penney started his first retail store in 1902 in Kemmerer, Wyoming. By 1925, J.C. Penney had 674 stores generating sales of $91 million. In 1962 J.C. Penney bought Wisconsin-based General Merchandise Company with discount stores and a mail order operation. Thus J.C. Penney entered the mail ordercatalogbusiness. J.C. Penney, a latecomer in catalog operations, was different from many of its competitors because it had a large retail store base before launching into the mail order business. The first JCPenney catalog was mailed the next year in 1963. Customers could order from the catalog inside J.C. Penney stores in eight states. The J.C. Penney Catalog Distribution Center was located in Milwaukee.
Direct Marketing: Mail order pioneer Aaron Montgomery Ward knew that by using the technique of selling product directly to the consumer at appealing prices could, if executed effectively and efficiently, revolutionize the market industry and therefore be used as an innovative model for marketing products. The term “direct marketing” was coined long after Montgomery Ward’s time. In 1967 Lester Wunderman identified, named, and defined “direct marketing.” Wunderman — considered to be the father of contemporary direct marketing — is behind the creation of the toll-free 1-800 number and numerous mail order-based loyalty marketing programs including the Columbia Record Club, the magazine subscription card, and the American Express Customer Rewards program.
The National Mail Order Association (NMOA—www.nmoa.org) was founded in 1972 by mail order expert and advertising man Paul Muchnick in order to help small to midsize businesses and entrepreneurs involved in, or wishing to be involved in mail order marketing, now commonly referred to as direct marketing.
“Mail Order Selling” and “Direct Marketing” are terms that encompass many different methods and mediums of soliciting and/or selling products or services at a distance where the potential customer is not physically present at a store or other location to see the product or to place an order. In parts of Europe this is also referred to as “Distance Selling.” The marketer is “Reaching Out” to the consumer from a distance.
Says NMOA, the mail order business (or direct marketer) promotes their product or service through one or more types of media, either print or electronic. This includes using print catalogs, direct mail, electronic catalogs, website stores, email, television, radio, ads in magazines and/or newspapers, billing and package inserts, etc. The order (or an inquiry of interest) from a customer is then placed remotely through telephone, mail, fax, electronic shopping cart, email, or other device.
Finally, the fulfillment (delivery) of physical goods ordered via mail order is done through a common carrier such as the United States Post Office (USPS), United Parcel Service (UPS), FedEx, and others. In the case of electronic products or services, delivery can occur via telephone, fax, the Web, email or other device.
A key element of mail order advertising, promotion or other direct marketing tactic is that it produces a measurable and traceable response and at the same time captures important customer (sales lead) information that can be used to further expand sales and marketing opportunities.
The mission of the NMOA is to provide education, information, and business connections to entrepreneurs and small businesses around the world for the purposes of making money through the use of direct marketing and mail order selling tactics.
Some people may be great marketers, but they have nothing to sell, and others may have something to sell, but they are not good at marketing and sales. So the NMOA tries to do things that bridge these weaknesses.
According to the NMOA, “So, for the sake of brevity, and the fact that some things change in the business world; what we may be doing today to help you may not be the same as we are doing next month to help you.” The NMOA itemizes a list of their main key points here:
First off, if you are of the “Get Rich Quick” mentality, or believe that there is some easy secret road to making money in your own business, the NMOA is not for you. We will tell you right now there is no such reality as something for nothing.
The NMOA says, if we were to pick one quote that coincides with our philosophy as an organization, it would be the one by Andrew Carnegie: “There is no use whatever trying to help people who do not help themselves. You cannot push anyone up a ladder unless he be willing to climb himself.”
True opportunity comes to those that develop specialized marketing know-how and then take action to get into the game. The NMOA has a variety of tools to help entrepreneurs. One is a manual on direct sales by NMOA president John Schulte.
Once you understand how to use the tools available for marketing and promotion, and the strategic thinking and business concept development that goes with this, we continue to work to put new opportunities in front of you, says the NMOA. This could be in the form of uncovering new products you can sell, or introducing new lists, marketing tactics, or other promotional opportunity, or finding a partner or business for sale through one of our social networks, or maybe helping you uncover a service you can provide in your local area. It’s hard to say what we may uncover for you once you have the skills to recognize true opportunity and move forward with it, and not waste time and money on projects that have little likelihood of success.
Traditional mail order tools include
Catalogs. Catalogs are one of the oldest forms of mail order existing today. Catalogs were the main method people used to purchase household items, clothing and equipment up to the early 20th century. Today catalogs are still used by L.L. Bean, Michigan Bulb Company, J. Crew, and hundreds of other retailers.
Direct Mail. Direct mail is the form of mail order sales that arrives as fliers, brochures, postcards or letters offering a product or sample from a person or company. Usually this is used to offer one product and excite customers to order, thereby gaining an address to send a catalog or product list to later.
Infomercials. Once delegated to airtime television stations couldn’t sell, infomercials have become more noticeable on weekends and have spawned entire shopping networks such as QVC. Infomercials are usually half-hour programs created to sell a specific item or line of products. These shows have a host or pitchman who talks about the product. Infomercials have been used to sell almost any type of product from knives to cars to real estate. Some infomercials have become so sophisticated they resemble regular programming and have ads from other businesses inserted within them.
Print Publication Advertising. Print advertising is another form of mail order sales. These are the ads you see in newspapers and magazines. Newspaper ads were the main route for this form of mail order for generations until magazines took over that role. Today you can look in the classified sections of many magazines, and still some newspapers, to find offers of products or services sent return mail.
Radio. When radio first started as a form of mail order sales, it was used only by a limited number of stations. This is because it was an untested market and the success rate was not known. Today radio stations across the U.S. have some form of mail order sales advertising throughout the programming. Mail order ads on radio use the same 30- or 60-second time frame other ads do; these ads are often noticeable by the spokesperson repeating a phone number or address multiple times during the ad.
Online. Online mail order is the newest form of mail order sales. Online mail order sales became a proven method for both commercial and personal sales through sites such as Amazon and eBay. Online mail order is where you order directly from the website and submit a shipping address; usually payment is supplied via credit card or online payment processor such as Moneybookers or PayPal.
With the rise in Internet usage, fixed and mobile broadband penetration, and innovations in easy online payment systems, online shopping is now a commonly adopted practice by consumers. The Internet has evolved over the years and with it a new breed of online trading has taken shape.
Online retail sales continue to grow steadily. Forrester Research put out a new five-year forecast recently predicting that e-commerce sales in the U.S. will keep growing at a 10 percent compound annual growth rate through 2014. It forecasts online retail sales in the U.S. will be nearly $250 billion in the next year. (Forrester’s estimates exclude online sales of autos, travel, and prescription drugs.)
E-Commerce. With the invention of the Internet, a company’s website became the more usual way to order merchandise for delivery by mail, although the term “mail order” is not always used to describe the ordering of goods over the Internet. It is more usual to refer to this as e-commerce or online shopping. But the only real difference between online shopping and traditional mail ordering is the means by which the order is placed (online vs. phone or mailed order form). Most traditional mail order companies now also sell over the Internet. This is simply a new medium for mail order sellers; it is still mail order. Your goods and services are still presented and sold with pictures, videos and words. The ordering is done remotely, and the delivery is done via common carrier or electronically.
However, rising paper, printing, and postage costs have caused some traditional
catalog merchants, such as Bloomingdale’s, to suspend their printed catalogs and sell only through websites. Also, while some Internet merchants are or were also catalog merchants, many have never had a printed catalog.
Regardless, merchants have been responding to rising distribution costs, and alternatives for die-hard catalog shopping fans have recently started popping up. Applications for tablet computers such as the Apple iPad allow users to browse all their favorite catalogs without actually receiving one in the mail. Not only is this a greener, more ecologically friendly alternative, but many catalog merchants who previously relied on mail order are finding that this alternative is just as, if not even more financially effective. The most important part of all of this, though, is that the style of mail order is preserved, as it provides a more brand-oriented shopping experience.
M-Commerce. The smartphone revolution continues barreling ahead at full steam, and changing the way consumers interact with the Internet.
Among other things, smartphones are changing the way people shop. 22% of U.S. smartphone owners have purchased merchandise on mobile commerce sites or apps, Nielsen finds in its study of 300,000 consumers who own mobile phones. 15% have placed a bid through an online auction, 12% have purchased tickets to events, and 10% have purchased digital music or videos.
But m-commerce is not just about transactions on mobile devices. M-commerce sites and apps can be powerful cross-channel selling tools. For example, 38% of smartphone owners browse products through mobile sites and apps, Nielsen finds. This can be in preparation for a trip to a store, or it can be an activity on the go, say while commuting on a train, to plan a later purchase on an e-commerce site on a desktop computer or in a physical store. Further, 32% read customer reviews on their smartphones. Some retailers encourage shoppers through signs in stores to access reviews on smartphones, hoping the mobile customer reviews will clinch a sale.
Coupon hunting on smartphones is another factor: 24% of smartphone owners search for and use online coupons, the Nielsen survey says. Retailers can use online coupons as a cross-channel play to boost sales while customers are in their stores. 22% of smartphone owners have scanned a bar code to obtain additional product information, such as videos or more details than can fit on an in-store sign or product tag. And 18% of smartphone owners have used location-based services, such as a GPS-enabled store locator, to find a store.
“The data is clear: Mobile devices are changing the way consumers shop,” says Nielsen president of strategic initiatives John Burbank. “And while we’re still in the early days, smart retailers are investing and learning now, ahead of the curve, in order to be best positioned to follow the consumer wherever she goes.”
On another m-commerce front, there’s a lot of talk about mobile wallets today, but few wallet offerings and extremely low adoption. Mobile wallets store debit or credit card information in an app and enable a consumer to pay for purchases in stores. Nielsen finds that 16% of smartphone owners who have downloaded a mobile app are extremely interested in using a mobile wallet. 18% are very interested, 24% are somewhat interested, 13% are slightly interested and 30% are not interested.
Setting Up Shop
You don’t need to print a catalog or send out a direct mail marketing piece to run a mail order empire from home. You can set up shop at your kitchen table and sell to a global audience.
It’s easy to establish a storefront on eBay and all you need to get started is an email address to open an account and post your first item for sale. With Etsy, you can turn your handmade hobby into a small business. Visit these sites to see how easy it is to get started. You’ll need a camera to photograph your items for sale and write a brief description on what your item is all about.
Amazon.com makes it possible for you to get started and sell to their audience of buyers around the world. Visit the site for details.
If you have a fun idea to imprint a logo, slogan or piece of your own artwork or photography on coffee cups, t-shirts, hats, etc., you can visit CafePress.com and see how easy it is to start selling your items in about 10 minutes. There is no cost to set up your shop, but CafePress will take a cut from each sale you make. They also do the work: print the item and ship it out for you, so if you have a viable idea, the percentage you give to CafePress could be worth it.
It is possible to be very creative in mail order these days and sell your songs and podcasts on the iTunes store. Go to iTunes and see how to upload your music or message. They’ll take thirty cents of a ninety-nine cent sale as their cut for offering their venue to you.
And don’t forget the various options to sell your e-Book through Kindle, Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com. They are all looking for products to sell on their readers.
Facebook storefronts are proving to be a successful outlet for small businesses. But Facebook storefronts present business owners with a number of challenges. For example, if you have a business page on Facebook, you do not own it; Facebook does, and as such, it is free to change the look, feel, security and functionality of your page when it sees fit. Furthermore, many consumers may be reticent about conducting financial transactions on social media.
Here are some tips to help you get started building your social storefront:
Your Facebook Storefront: Facebook storefronts are wholly independent of Facebook and are enabled by third party apps and services from companies such as Ecwid, BigCommerce’s SocialShop application and VendorShop Social. Alternatively, you can also have an app developer build you a custom storefront.
These apps offer a number of social shopping features that you can add to your Facebook business page. Some are free, with options to upgrade for increased functionality, while others charge a low monthly subscription fee. Always remember to conduct your “due diligence.” The Facebook store provider market is an emerging one with new start-ups popping up regularly. Furthermore, established players are increasingly targeted for acquisition. Look for providers with a good customer service track record and try not to get locked into time-bound contracts, says the United States Small Business Administration.
Whichever app you choose, getting started is quite easy. Once your app is installed, you can add product listings; a welcome page to showcase certain products and promotions; a shopping cart; and a variety of payment options such as PayPal. Some apps also include tools to promote your storefront to your fans, via email, your blog or website.
Have A Fun Storefront: Next, personalize your storefront to reflect your brand and appeal to the fans and customers you are hoping to engage with and sell to. Think about adding a human element to your banner image—this will help connect you with your potential buyers. To maximize your Facebook sales, look for ways to engage and connect—post tips that relate to your industry; share articles, images and blogs that might be of interest; and have a dialogue with your fans. Above all, inject some personality into your page.
Post to your page and offer enticements. For example, you could run a contest that encourages customers to tag your products in the photos they post on their Facebook page. In doing so, you’ll get free visibility on that person’s wall for all their friends and followers to see. You can also use the pin feature to highlight a product of the week or a special discount.
Engage Your Customers: Make your page an active one—treat it as you would your own bricks and mortar store. Meet and greet fans, and engage with them. Encourage them to post by asking open-ended questions.
You can also grow your community outside the confines of your own page. For example, follow business pages that relate to your products, industry or neighborhood and interact with folks on those pages (without being overly promotional). For example, if you own a retail store on Main Street, look around and find out who else is on Facebook—your local coffee shop, library, community newspaper? Give them a like (using your business page profile) and join in the conversation with other business owners and their customers.
So how do you find a great product to sell? The Internet has made shopping for goods and products an international experience.
Alibaba.com Limited is the global leader in business-to-business e-commerce and the flagship company of Alibaba Group. Alibaba.com makes it easy for millions of buyers and suppliers around the world to do business online through three marketplaces:
A global trade marketplace (www.alibaba.com) for importers and exporters, a Chinese marketplace (www.alibaba.com.ch) for domestic trade in China, and, through as associated company, a Japanese marketplace (www.alibaba.co.jp) facilitating trade to and from Japan. Together its marketplaces form a community of more than 42 million registered users from more than 240 countries and regions.
Jack Ma, a former English teacher from Hangzhou, started Alibaba.com with 17 other founders as a trading platform for small and medium manufacturers to sell their wares.
In The Official Alibaba.com Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World’s Largest B2B Marketplace (Wiley), authors Brad and Debra Schepp level the playing field for small business as they show the various sourcing opportunities offered by the world’s largest B2B e-commerce marketplace.
In their Alibaba.com book they offer:
• a step-by-step guide on how to offer and discover international sourcing opportunities
• the best way to make Alibaba.com’s
5 million+ storefronts, offering manufactured products in 42 different categories, work for any business
• how to chart the course in finding the right trading business partners safely
• the crucial components to successful importing
• the key aspects of working with suppliers to develop long-term relationships
• tactics to closing a deal and completing an overseas transaction
• how other successful entrepreneurs used global sourcing to build their business
With the Internet presenting so much possibility for small businesses today, it is important to understand this door of international opportunity that is the overseas marketplace.
Here is the checklist for getting started in international commerce:
o Select the right trading partners.
o Take time, move slowly and ask plenty of questions.
o Create criteria checklists for your partners and your products.
o Get your tax ID and other business credentials in order.
o Research market trends and products on Alibaba.com and the Internet at large.
o Account for special concerns you might encounter including language and cultural differences as you cross international borders.
o Your new trading partner should be experienced in exporting and therefore well able to help you manage the details.
o The International Chamber of Com-merce has established Incoterms to define the steps that take place when goods are transferred from the exporting party to the importing party. Be sure you understand the terms as they apply to your shipment. Visit www.iccwbo.org/ to learn more.
o Be certain that the products you want to import comply with all the U.S. standards and regulations.
o The U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are federal agencies that stand ready to assist you.
o Before asking for pricing information, ask about minimum order requirements and whether the company you are considering has delivered goods to your part of the world.
o Consider traveling to meet your partners face-to-face.
o Recognize that it will take time and effort to build a solid partnership, but that solid partnerships are highly possible.
o Clear and detailed photos can help both you and your supplier get the details of your products correct.
o Ask for samples of raw materials and/or finished products, as appropriate.
o Ask for an inspection sample when about 20% of your order is complete.
o Do not hesitate to clearly communicate your concerns or problems to your supplier. Do it in writing.
o Do not hesitate to negotiate the prices you pay for your goods, recognizing that your prospective partners probably do not expect you to accept the first price they cite.
o The Safety & Security Center can help ensure your transactions proceed safely and without problems.
o Alibaba.com’s Trade Dispute Proced-ures can help you work through disagreements with partners, should they occur.
o Learn more from trade associations such as Internet Merchants Association (IMA) and the e-Commerce Merchants Trade Association (eCTMA).
o Be prepared to change your business plan as your expertise grows and your partnerships broaden.
A simplistic, “get rich quick” approach to your mail order venture will likely leave you disappointed. You’ll need to do your research and invest some elbow grease to claim your piece of the mail order pie. The following steps will help you plan your mail order enterprise start-up.
1. Picking a Product or Service to Sell
Isn’t this the first step in starting any business? The types of items and services sold by mail order run the gamut – from handcrafted items to advice-giving newsletters to antiques. But how do you pick something that stands a chance of success?
Most experts agree that the items you offer for sale must be unique – and unavailable. Why? If your product is one-of-a-kind, it has appeal for buyers. And if you can purchase the product at the local supermarket, then why order it through the mail?
When you have a few items in mind, you’ll need to evaluate them. Here are a few questions to ask of each product or service to determine which one or ones you’ll sell.
Does the product offer benefit to the buyer? Is there a large enough market of potential buyers for the product?
Are you knowledgeable about the product or can you become knowledgeable?
Are there similar products on the market?
Can the item be competitively priced, yet bring enough profit to justify its sale?
Can the product be easily shipped?
Do you have a source for the product?
2. Locating Suppliers. This final question in your product query is pivotal. Where will you obtain your product? You may already have determined that you’ll manufacture the product yourself. This might include items like crafts, “how to” booklets, or your very own invention. If you intend to produce the product yourself, you’ll need to address a number of issues – such as where will you secure your supplies at wholesale prices, if possible? Are there any laws that apply to the manufacture of your product – for example, zoning restrictions if you’re working at home, health laws, etc.?
If you’ve determined that you’ll purchase your product and re-sell it by mail, then you’ll have to locate sources. Keep your eyes open for the products you’re interested in. Look at catalogs and at retail stores. Attend trade shows and read trade magazines. Then contact the manufacturers of the products you’re interested in directly. You’ll find the contact information in Thomas’s Register of American Manufacturers (www.thomasregister.com) or the Catalog of Catalogs at your public library.
3. Pricing Your Product. To determine your selling price, you’ll first need to calculate the actual cost to you of buying (or producing) the product. Your actual cost will include all raw material, start-up expenses, shipping, packaging, labor, overhead, and advertising.
Now you’ll need to determine what your profit should or could be AND what your target market is willing to pay. Many companies in the mail order industry use a markup of 200% to 300% of the actual cost of the product. But you won’t want to charge more than your target market is willing to pay.
As part of your product pricing exercise you’ll want to secure a resale tax certificate from your state, if your state exacts a sales tax. This certificate will allow you to purchase goods without paying sales tax. You, in turn, as the retailer, will collect the sales tax from your buyers.
4. Basic Business “Stuff”. The following “business start-up” issues, among others, must be addressed as you put together your mail order enterprise:
Your business name. An important first step for any business, the task of creating your business’s moniker involves telling the public what you do in an unforgettable way but in as few words as possible.
Zoning/legal issues. Check with your local government on the need for a business license. If you intend to sell food products, you may need health department approval. And, if you’re operating out of your home, ensure that zoning laws allow your type of business in your area.
Credit Card Merchant Account. The ability to accept charge cards for payment is crucial to your business. Start with your local banks – if your personal credit is good, you may be able to acquire a merchant account through them. If not, try an ISO (Independent Sales Organization – essentially, a go-between that exacts a fee from you for their services) or ECHO (Electronic Clearing House, Inc. 28001 Dorothy Drive, Agoura Hills, CA 91301). Several Internet-based companies – like www.charge.com can also offer assistance. The major credit card companies are other possibilities. Remember to shop around for your merchant account; compare prices; and always read the fine print. And look into options that enable you to accept credit cards on your iPhone, such as the Square Reader. Do a Google search and you’ll find plenty of options.
Business Plan. You’ve heard it a thousand times and, yes, you DO need a business plan, even if it’s a very informal one for your eyes only. (Although if you’re attempting to secure a merchant account or start-up financing, you may need to make it a formal document to be shared with bank officials.)
Over and over, studies prove that businesses that fail to plan are, essentially, planning to fail. Putting together a business plan is crucial to your business’s survival. Your plan should include at a minimum: an Objectives and Business Description – detailing your business concept and goals; a Product/Services Description – the items you’re offering, why they’re marketable, etc.; Operational Details – who your suppliers are or how you’ll produce items if you intend to manufacture them; your Financial Plan – including estimated start-up costs, pricing information, sales estimates, etc.; and your Marketing Plan (see next section). A brief one or two-page summary of the plan’s elements should be included after the cover page and before the formal plan.
5. Your Marketing Plan. This is one of your biggest start-up steps as a mail-order entrepreneur – and the element that truly sets mail order apart from other types of business operations. Your marketing plan will determine how you connect your customers to your product.
The first query of your marketing plan is: Who are your potential customers – your “target market?” Are they business people? Teens? Stay-at-home parents? What are their needs? Why would they want to purchase your product or service?
The next section of your marketing plan will describe how you intend to reach that target audience.
Once you’ve determined the magazines, newspapers, and other media outlets through which you plan to place ads, you should contact their advertising departments and ask for a “media kit.” Your next task will be to write “copy” – the ads themselves – that sells. Draft some ads listing the persuasive selling points of your products – perhaps with introductory or “limited time” offers and then test them on family and friends. Try them out in a selected publication and then see what kind of results they bring. You may need to change your copy, your publication – or both – for success.
6. Filling Orders. Once you’ve contacted customers and secured orders, you’ll need to keep your end of the bargain. Fulfillment is the process of securing and shipping goods to the customer who’s ordered them. If you produce your own inventory or you’ve purchased goods for resale, then you’ll be responsible for packaging and shipping.
A “drop ship” arrangement is also possible, where you arrange with the manufacturer to ship directly to the customer.
7. Taking Care of Business. With fulfillment of your mail order business’s purchases, the marketing loop is complete, right? Yes and no. Your successful business will include the ongoing issue of customer care and service. Satisfied customers will keep buying – and they’ll tell others about the experience. Other elements of your business are also ongoing. Changing your mix of marketing methods is important as you determine which approaches work best for which products. Adding and/or eliminating products may also be good for your business. Tracking results of various advertising efforts is pivotal. If your approach to your start-up steps – and your follow-up tasks – is professional and earnest, the sky is the limit for your mail order operation.
HOW TO BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE
Fred Broitman a well known mail order authority and principal at SUNMAN DIRECT, Chicago’s largest independently owned Direct Response Advertising Agency has completely revised and up-dated his book HOW TO BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE. 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 that will drive customers to your website. It is available through mail order and at select conventions. This book sells everywhere for $39.95 but the first 100 orders received from readers of this magazine can save $10 and buy it for only $29.95 plus $3.50 for first class postage and handling. Send a check or money order in the amount of $33.45 to: SUPERIOR PRESS 333 N. Michigan Ave. Suite 1032, Chicago, IL 60601