Making money by selling goods through the mail or from your website has never been easier. We have tips for you on how to start a mail order business. There are exciting new options for even a first-time entrepreneur with no experience to sell their goods to a global audience.
The first thing you need to do is find a product to sell on your site or via your ad. 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.
We have 77 ideas on mail-order that we hope will inspire you to launch!
1. According to The National Mail Order Association, Benjamin Franklin produced the first catalog, which sold scientific and academic books, in 1744. He is also credited with offering the first mail-order guarantee.
2. Mail-order pioneer Aaron Montgomery Ward developed the technique of selling product directly to the consumer in 1872. In 1967, Lester Wunderman dubbed this “direct marketing.”
3. The National Mail Order Association (NMOA—www.nmoa.org) was founded in 1972 by mail-order expert and advertising man Paul Muchnick
4. Today’s mail order can include print catalogs, direct mail, e-catalogs and websites.
5. A key element of mail-order advertising, promotion or other direct marketing tactic is that it produces a measurable and traceable response.
6. Catalogs were the main method people used to purchase household items, clothing and equipment up to the early 20th century.
7. Infomercials are usually half-hour programs created to sell a specific item.
8. Online mail-order sales have became a proven method for both commercial and personal sales through sites such as Amazon and eBay.
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9. 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.
10. Applications for tablet computers such as the Apple iPad allow users to browse all their favorite catalogues without actually receiving one in the mail.
11. The smartphone revolution continues barreling ahead at full steam, and changing the way consumers interact with the Internet.
12. About 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.
13. M-commerce sites and apps can be powerful cross-channel selling tools. For example, 38% of smartphone owners browse products through mobile sites.
14. Some 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.
15. About 24% of smartphone owners search for and use online coupons.
16. Mobile wallets store debit or credit card information in an app and enable a consumer to pay for purchases in stores.
17. It’s easy to establish a storefront on eBay. All you need to get started is an email address to open an account.
18. With Etsy, you can turn your handmade hobby into a small business. Start with an email address and a password.
19. Amazon.com makes it possible for you to get started and sell to their audience of buyers around the world.
20. 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.
21. Go to iTunes and see how to upload your music or message. They’ll take 30 cents of a 99-cent sale as their cut.
22. Take the advice of the U.S. Small Business Administration and avoid getting locked into contracts with time constraints.
23. 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.
24. 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.
25. 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 fee.
27. 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.
28. Have a fun storefront.
29. 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.
30. 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 in your status updates, comment on the interaction.
31. 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.
32. Your new trading partner should be experienced in exporting and therefore well able to help you manage the details.
33. 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 ecommerce marketplace.
34. Here is the checklist for getting started in international commerce: Select the right trading partners.
35. Take time, move slowly and ask plenty of questions.
36. Create criteria checklists for your partners and your products.
37. Get your tax ID and other business credentials in order.
38. Research market trends and products on Alibaba.com and the Internet at large.
39. Account for special concerns you might encounter including language and cultural differences as you cross international borders.
40. 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.
41. The International Chamber of Commerce 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.
42. Be certain that the products you want to import comply with all the U.S. standards and regulations.
43. The U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection are federal agencies that stand ready to assist you.
44. Alibaba.com Limited is the global leader in business-to-business e-commerce and the flagship company of Alibaba Group.
45. Consider traveling to meet your partners face to face.
46. Recognize that it will take time and effort to build a solid partnership, but that solid partnerships are highly possible.
47. Clear and detailed photos can help both you and your supplier get the details of your products correct.
48. Ask for samples of raw materials and/or finished products, as appropriate.
49. Ask for an inspection sample when about 20% of your order is complete.
50. Do not hesitate to clearly communicate your concerns or problems to your supplier. Do it in writing.
51. 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.
52. The Safety & Security Center can help ensure your transactions proceed safely and without problems.
53. Alibaba.com’s Trade Dispute Procedures can help you work through disagreements with partners, should they occur.
54. Learn more from trade associations such as Internet Merchants Association (IMA) and the e-Commerce Merchants Trade Association (eCTMA).
55. Manufacturing the product yourself? 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 which apply to the manufacture of your product—for example, zoning restrictions?
56. 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. 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.
57. 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.
58. 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.
59. 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.
60. 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.
61. 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. 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.
62. 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?
63. If you decide to use direct mail solicitation, you’ll need to develop a package of information to send to your potential customers. Google supplies these lists.
64. Another marketing boost which has skyrocketed in popularity is to secure a toll-free phone number. Shop around, compare rates, and read the fine print.
65. 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.
66. Tracking results of various advertising efforts is pivotal.
67. Make sure your product’s value can be easily understood.
68. It should be new and not readily available at every store or website.
69. Your product should solve a common problem, and should be simple to explain and to use.
70. The product you sell should look good.
71. Make sure there is a large market for the product before you invest.
72. Make sure the product can be sold year-round. If it is a seasonal item, develop products to keep you busy all year long.
73. The product you sell should be safe. Avoid liability factors.
74. The product should be easy to ship and ship without hassle.
75. Use social media to grow your business. Tweet daily about your products.