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National Mail Order Association

 Mail Order Business Basics 

by John D. Schulte

Mail Order Marketing is the most powerful marketing tool on earth...if you know how to use it.  No matter what type of business you’re in, want to be in, or what industry your business falls into, knowledge of how to use mail order marketing techniques will help you make more money.  I know—for the more than 25 years that I have been promoting and selling, mail order marketing methods have worked best.  This is "the way" to market product or service. And yes, Web or Internet Marketing is Mail Order Marketing!

By learning and improving your knowledge of these methods, you will be greatly advantaged over the competitor who doesn’t.   In today’s highly competitive business environment, it is my sincere belief that your future business success will depend on your ability to understand, and use, mail order marketing techniques effectively.  That goes double for entrepreneurs just planning or starting a new company.

So, if you promote or sell using the mail, or use direct response marketing in any way, or if you provide a product or service to this industry, you will benefit by being an NMOA member.  I personally guarantee it! Check out the NMOA's, New Business Start-up Package

What is a mail order business?

Mail order is a term that refers to many different methods 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 make a purchase or to place an order. The mail order customer learns of and views an item and its description through one or more types of media, either print or electronic, including  catalog, direct mail, electronic catalog, website, email, television, radio, magazine, newspaper, and others.

A crucial characteristic of mail order advertising or promotion is that the marketing produces a measurable response and at the same time captures important customer information that can be used to further expand sales opportunities. Mail Order is a marketing term that encompasses many other verbal descriptions and sales/marketing terms such as direct marketing, direct mail, Internet or Web marketing, catalog marketing, data base marketing, direct response marketing, television marketing, infomercial marketing, and niche marketing.

Another key characteristic of mail order is that  the order is placed remotely. The order from a customer may be received by the seller through telephone, mail, fax, electronic shopping cart, or email. Neither the method of reply nor ordering really matters; the single characteristic of all mail order is that the customer is not physically present when placing the order.

Finally, fulfillment of physical goods ordered via mail order is done by delivery through a common carrier such as the United States Post Office, United Parcel Service, FedEx, and others. In the case of electronic products or services, delivery can occur via telephone, fax, the Web, or email.

Read John Schulte's book: Direct Marketing Toolkit for Starting a Small or Home based Mail Order Business.


Check out the NMOA's, New Business Start-up Package

© 1994-2009 John D. Schulte

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How do you make money using mail order?

There are many ways that people use mail order marketing. Advertisements in the back of magazines offering unique items for sale, is one form. The dentist who sends a postcard in time for your 6 month teeth cleaning is another. The retail store that sends an invitation to a special "customer only" sale is another example. A catalog that features the world's greatest selection of "Hot Sauces" and other types of specialty catalogs are another form. The "Of The Month Club", and offers of the like, are another. Manufacturers who sell their line of products directly to the end user, are another example. Collect all ten of our "widget collection" and offers of the like, are another. A letter mailed to a list of computer owners with children, offering a new educational software package is another example. Television infomercials, television shopping channels, are yet another example of mail order marketing. Even Internet Marketing is based on the underlying principles that constitute Mail Order Marketing, especially in the delivery/fulfillment end of things. These are all examples of the many ways people use mail order marketing methods. There is no end to the number of marketing combinations you can create by learning the many different techniques available. The more mail-order marketing techniques you know about, the more tools you have at your side to use for selling.

Read John Schulte's book: Direct Marketing Toolkit for Starting a Small or Home based Mail Order Business.


Check out the NMOA's, New Business Start-up Package

© 1994-2009 John D. Schulte

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A warning To beginners

Mail order—two words that both inspire and excite the mind of the business entrepreneur.

More so, perhaps than any other business, mail order conjures up visions of enormous wealth, easy living, and the proverbial "pot of gold" at the end of the rainbow.

There is a magic—a mystic—a magnetic attraction that draws people to mail order. Like other types of businesses, mail order has its advantages and disadvantages —its share of successes and failures. It is not a quick, easy, effortless road to riches, as some would like you to believe. Yet it is also true that mail order, as a way of doing business, has been good to many people.

The success stories are countless of people who have not only made a good living selling products and services by mail, but have amassed fortunes—starting on a kitchen table, garage, or spare room. It is likewise a fact that many people attempt, flounder about, and lose money in the effort to establish a successful mail order enterprise.

If you're thinking about mail order, catalog, or direct mail selling—you can improve your odds of success by getting the facts before you invest. Remember this! In mail order, as in most any business, you must have a purpose and reason for being. Stay away from selling meaningless items just for the sake of trying to get rich! You must have a passion for what you are doing. And you must have the "mind-set" to be in it for the long run. Many businesses that don’t make it are those where the operators had no passion...no underlying purpose behind what they were doing. They didn’t have the dream.

Another problem lies in having no knowledge of what you are selling. "How can you sell fishing items, when you yourself don’t fish? What knowledge will you base your decisions on?" It’s hard to sell a million widgets just for the sake of trying to get rich quick. There are always exceptions to every situation, maybe you will be "the one" with a fantastic talent for picking items that will appeal to the masses. It happens. But... it is best to chart a definite course of action for getting to your ultimate goal...can you envision what you will be selling five, ten, even twenty years from now? If not, find out why. What position will you play in the market? Educate yourself! And never stop reading what industry leaders write; you need this to stimulate your own mind to create new ideas.

Read John Schulte's book: Direct Marketing Toolkit for Starting a Small or Home based Mail Order Business.


© 1994-2009 John D. Schulte

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Six mail order pointers

Many people think about mail order as a business they want to be in; they hear of some person that had a simple product and got rich working out of their home. While it’s true that mail order marketing of products or services has all the ingredients of being the perfect way for the small guy to start or expand a business, e.g., being able to start at home no matter where you live, starting with limited capital, avoiding geographic selling boundaries, etc., it does have some pitfalls for the unwary. Before you start or invest money, the National Mail Order Association offers these 6 pointers.

One. Keep in mind that mail order is a way of advertising and selling a product or service. In mail order, your catalog or flyer is your store, and the printed word is your salesman, and you go directly to the customer's home or business. This is in contrast to retail where you first try to get the customer to come to your store and then convince them to buy.

Two. Specialize! If you look at a majority of companies that market via mail order, they specialize in a specific product category or group of products. This way they have a clear idea of who their potential customers are and how they can be reached. Products should be unique and not readily available at retail outlets. Make sure your potential customers are easy to identify and reach.

Three. Have follow-up products that fit into the same category to sell to your customers. Very few people make a lot, or any, money on one product unless that product is one that is used up and people continue to reorder. Profits come from making a customer happy with their first purchase from you, then they buy a second time and so on. The second time they buy is most important. In essence they are saying, we approve of the way you do business, we are satisfied with your product or service, and we are ready to develop a purchasing relationship with your company.

Four. Persistence. You must be in business for the long run. If you are starting from scratch with little capital, expect to build your business over a period of years. You must build up a base of satisfied customers that continue to purchase from you. As your customer base grows so will your profits.

Five. Specialized Knowledge. Many people think mail order consists of putting an advertisement in a magazine or sending out thousands of letters and waiting for the cash to come rolling in. If it were that easy everyone would be in mail order. There are many tricks to marketing via mail order. You need to be familiar with many things so you can do them yourself or know how to hire someone who does. Every person considering the use of mail order to sell products or services should first invest in their personal education. A few hundred dollars spent on the right books and manuals can save a person from wasting thousands of dollars on things that never had a chance of working, or had major strategic flaws. Furthermore, you must associate with people who know the business well, and gain by their experience. And you must keep yourself up to date on the latest concerns to mail order marketers. These things include government regulations, postal rules and regulations, advertising secrets, promotional writing and graphics, cost cutting tips, printing, availability of new products and lists, and much more.

Six. Know your product or service. Many times the most successful mail order marketing companies start from a person's hobbies or interests. This way they know something about the products they are selling. For instance, if you want to market fishing related items, but you yourself are not a fishing enthusiast, what will you base your buying decisions on? How will you know what a fishing person will be interested in?

Parties interested in advancing their mail order marketing know-how should become a member of the National Mail Order Association.

Read John Schulte's book: Direct Marketing Toolkit for Starting a Small or Home based Mail Order Business.


Check out the NMOA's, New Business Start-up Package

© 1994-2009 John D. Schulte

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Can you get rich quick in mail order?

Where does the hype end and reality start? Have you ever wondered what the real scoop was in building a mail order business or how to use direct mail to market your business? Can the small guy really make it in today’s market?

When I am asked about getting rich quick in mail order, I "cringe."  I have to admit that it does happen, but it should never be counted on. I’ve been in this field for 16 years and the people that make it big fast are rare. It happens in certain situations such as when a product gets accepted into a number of large specialty catalogs, or is featured on a television shopping channel and the product turns out to be a hit with the customers and thousands are ordered. These people I call...Mail Order Lottery Winners, says Schulte. It happens but don’t bet the farm on it.

Other times someone hits on a niche product or service where the need is so great in that particular area that sales boom immediately. You can make a lot of money fast because once you have a product line or service that’s selling...you can roll out nationally in a matter of weeks.

I recommend taking a strategic course of action, one in which you can still make money fast and furious if the situation presents itself. But strategically, you must have a long term plan to follow for building a mail order business and reaping long term profits. This is where the pros are.

To do this, it’s best to be specialized. Look at other mail order companies and catalogs, there are very few with general merchandise offerings, most specialize in one area or another. In a nut-shell, you should plan out a line of products that fit into a specific niche, making sure that the niche is easy to identify, easy to reach, and large enough to support a business. Then get as much expert advice as you can and continue to educate yourself in the business. Direct marketing in general is still one of the few areas where the small guy (without a lot of capital) can get started...work hard...and make it, with the possibility of making a lot of money. But getting rich quick should not be your reason for getting into the business.

Success in mail order comes from a skillful combination of products/services, advertising and marketing techniques, coupled with persistence. I advise that if you’re in mail order, want to be in mail order, or want to learn more on using direct mail and mail order as a marketing tool, you should become a member of the National Mail Order Association.

Read John Schulte's book: Direct Marketing Toolkit for Starting a Small or Home based Mail Order Business.


Check out the NMOA's, New Business Start-up Package

© 1994-2009 John D. Schulte

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Where to get started in mail order

If you are brand new to mail order, there is one thing you should do right now. Read John Schulte's book: Direct Marketing Toolkit for Starting a Small or Home based Mail Order Business.

The second thing you should do is become a member of the NMOA.

© 1994-2009 John D. Schulte

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How to become a promotional genius!

Because I come up with so many successful promotional ideas, some people call me a marketing genius. But I'm not a genius (well maybe), I just have the experience using a special system that utilizes the genius of others.

My method works for all areas and types of businesses, whether it's home based, retail, mail order, or manufacturing. I take the best of other's ideas, then bend and fit them to my needs. I call it the art of relating and assimilating.

You start by staying alert to what's going on "out there" promotional-wise. Be on the constant outlook for ideas, look at other companies advertising and promotions. Look through newspapers and magazines, get on mailing lists of other companies and monitor what they send you. When you watch TV, pay attention to the commercials. Keep your eye out when shopping. Study your competition's promotions. When you see something that really grabs your attention, save it in a file or write it down.

Then you take the ideas you find really interesting and apply them to your business situation. I'll give you a couple of examples! A few years back I was the advertising and marketing director of a wedding shop. Being a retail store, one of my main concerns was to develop store traffic. Our main form of advertising was a monthly direct mail package sent to newly-engaged women. (Before I go further I want to point out that the recipient was the bride, not the groom. When planning a wedding the bride makes most of the decisions. Make sure your message gets in front of the decision maker.)

In that mailing I included a survey for the bride to fill out and bring to our store. When they brought the completed survey to our store they were allowed a chance to draw a prize from our wedding chest, the chest was filled with a variety of prizes written on folded paper and valued between a dollar and fifty dollars. It was a very successful ongoing promotion. Now, I got the chest idea from a company exhibiting in a trade show. Except they had it set up as a pirates' treasure chest. They mailed me a letter telling me about the trade show, with an invitation to visit their booth, and a key that might open the lock on the treasure chest. If I visited their booth, I got a chance to see if the key they sent me would open the lock on the chest; if it did, I could draw for a prize out of the treasure chest.

Now what I did was to take a similar chest and paint it white to fit the wedding chest theme. I dropped the key part because I wanted everyone to win a prize if they filled out the survey and came to our store, plus I didn't want to buy a bunch of keys. Requiring the bride to fill out the survey before being able to draw for a prize gave me valuable marketing information to use in my job. It also made the chance to draw a prize seem more valuable because they had to work for it. Another plus was that I worded the survey in such a way to be a subliminal sales message.

Another promotion I used in this company was... Gown-Of-The-Month. I think you know how I came up with that one. The nifty modification I made to this idea is that I wanted to send a full color glossy picture of the gown to the brides, but since the gown changed every month this would be very expensive to print each month, too expensive for our small company.

Then, as I was looking through a bridal magazine one day I thought to myself, hey... almost every bride picks up one of these magazines or subscribes to it, why don't I pick one of the gowns featured in the magazine that has a full page color picture to be Gown-Of-The-Month. Then when I do the monthly mailing to the brides I can refer them to the magazine, right to the page that the gown is featured on. Then we elaborated on the special features and the particular beauty of that gown in our letter. We also offered a special discount on that gown...for that month, and also included an invitation to come try it on without obligation.

This became another smashing success just by modifying a successful idea used to sell books into a way of selling bridal gowns. This promotion also had an extra bonus; a large percentage of the brides that didn’t buy that particular gown...ended up buying another. You can use this technique for any type of marketing or promotional endeavor. Even designing business cards, letterhead, or retail (POP) store displays. Take the best from everybody, modify it to fit your needs, add creative use of your resources where needed, and you will come up with a style all your own. Try this out today with your business.

The more you practice the better you get at it. Don't forget to write down every idea you get. Have a paper and pen by your bed. Carry a pocket pad or recorder with you at all times. I guarantee the minute you think of a great idea (that sudden inspiration) and you don't write it down because you think you'll remember it, you will forget it.

Read John Schulte's book: Direct Marketing Toolkit for Starting a Small or Home based Mail Order Business.


Check out the NMOA's, New Business Start-up Package

© 1994-2009 John D. Schulte

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How to pick products or services that are easy to market!

After twenty years of selling a wide variety of products and services, people often ask me... "John, how do I pick a product or service to sell, and then bring it to market on a shoe-string budget, with the potential to make big money?"

My answer is the same method I use every day in the companies and people I work with. The ingredients of the method need to be blended together as a whole, to ensure the best chance of success.

Let's first look at picking a product or service. The best products or services to sell, especially when you are just starting out, are ones that fill a need. Fulfilling a need constitutes a promise to make the buyers life; better, easier, healthier, or enhance their status of living in some way or form. It is also important to understand and "know" what you’re selling. Let's take the example of a yard care service. By providing this service you make the customers life easier because they won't have to spend their weekend time or evenings doing it. This is appealing because after working all week people want to have fun or relax with their spare time instead of having to do more work. You also enhance their status and image because their yard will always look well kept.

Always remember when you are picking a product or service to sell, in the back of your mind you should be thinking of more items or services to sell that fit into the same category, and can be sold to the same customer. That's where the long term profits (residual income) will come from. Try not to sell things on a one-shot basis. Lets go back to the yard care service as an example. Say we start a yard care service just mowing lawns. First of all, grass grows back, that's good for repeat business. Second, we could easily add a number of additional services that fit right in, like lawn edging, spreading fertilizer, weed control products, and landscaping (In Minnesota, snow removal). Take it one step further and you could add painting and handyman services, house cleaning services, barbecue building, swimming pool cleaning, installation of yard ponds or fountains, sprinkler systems, or backyard play equipment for kids. I think you get the picture.

Another important ingredient is that the product or service should have an easy to identify audience that's easy to reach, and has a total universe large enough to support your business. "Audience" means a specific type or group of people that have something in common with each other and with the product or service you want to sell. "Universe" means the grand total of all the people in that group.

I'll give you a couple of examples on this, first using, you guessed it... the lawn care service. Every property with a grass yard is your audience. The total number of those properties in the area you want to work is your universe. As you can imagine, this particular universe is large. The trick is being selective in the area where you promote the service. Understand, this total universe can now be broken down into smaller sub-groups.  I call this process segmentation. These basic sub-groups would be low income areas, middle income areas, high income areas, and business properties. In this situation, I personally would select the middle to upper income areas and business properties.

Why? In today’s society both husband and wife usually are working more hours, and since they work more, they have less time that they want to devote to household chores. Plus...they can afford my service. As far as business properties go, they all need the service, it's just a matter of whom they choose to do it. Are these groups easy to reach? You bet! You can use door hangers or direct mail in the selected areas. The universe for lawn care service is very large, and your potential is huge. The thing to watch out for is the groups with a very small universe.

Say you have a device for golf course architects, this group is easy to identify and easy to reach, but... if you do your research you find there are only 204 golf course architects in the U.S.  Not much to work with.   It could be done, but the product would have to have some very good characteristics.

The best way to start marketing your product or service is direct mail, mail-order, or some other type of medium that reaches direct to potential customers. If you follow my requirements for picking your product or service, you should have no problem doing this. Using this technique, you can start reaching people in your universe gradually and at minimal cost. Personally, if I can't define a specific audience for a product or service that can be reached using direct mail or mail-order I usually don't do it.

There are exceptions, but they are few. One last tidbit is that it always helps to know something about, or have an interest in, the products or services you sell. Also, always remember, every time you sell something, get the name, address, phone number, what that person bought, how much they paid, and the date of purchase to put on your mailing list for future offerings. I'm always amazed to see how many companies miss this, especially retailers.

Read John Schulte's book: Direct Marketing Toolkit for Starting a Small or Home based Mail Order Business.


Check out the NMOA's, New Business Start-up Package

© 1994-2009 John D. Schulte

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Mail Order industry small business opportunities

  • Inbound Telephone Order Desk. Take orders for smaller mail order companies.
  • Fulfillment Service. Small Product or Literature. (Could be combined with inbound telephone order service.)
  • Preparing Direct Mailings to postal standards and drop at post office.
  • Hand Assembly Service. (Could go with mail preparation, collating, folding, and inserting.)
  • Graphic Designing.
  • Copywriting.
  • Direct Mail Package Designing.
  • Infomercial Production.
  • List Monitoring.
  • Mailing List Compiler.
  • Preparing International Mailings.
  • Database and Software Programming.
  • Research Service.

Want to learn more, you should. Read John Schulte's book: Direct Marketing Toolkit for Starting a Small or Home based Mail Order Business.

Check out the NMOA's, New Business Start-up Package

© 1994-2009 John D. Schulte

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