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You Can Sell by Mail:
Cosmetics, Witchcraft, and Sex!
by Ray Jutkins

The most interesting things happen when you sit next to a beautiful lady.

Because the Americas will be the next wave of major growth (Central and South America - beginning with the southern most North America country - Mexico), I've been marching through a number of these countries of late.

Colombia. Venezuela. Chile. Paraguay. Uruguay. In each I've worked with a client or two. Direct Marketing is also active in Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama... and Mexico. This story is from Mexico.

The nice lady is Monika Svoboda Katz. Obviously not of Spanish heritage...she came to Mexico a while back (would not say exactly, you know ladies enjoy being a little coy about their age!)

After the usual bouncing around between jobs, in November, 1983 Monika began selling books by mail-order. The name of the company is PERSONNA De Mexico.

Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, the two books were the beginning of what now is both the oldest and largest mail-order company in Mexico that caters exclusively to the "C" & "D" social-economic marketplace. What were the book titles? Mis Tres Secretos, a diet book, and BM Telecommand, a book for men about how to seduce women! A rather interesting start.

Stores came from mail-order. The first in 1987 was an extension of the office. Four more followed by the end of 1988. Now there are 11...five in the greater Mexico City area - the rest around the country.

Let's talk a little about the country. Mexico is the fifth largest in geography in the Americas - and the second in population, with nearly 90 million people. The country is young, too...with 59% under the age of 25, and another 28% between 25-49.

The postal service, SEPOMEX has caught on to both quality and customer service. With a de-nationalization of much commerce, business is now more competitive - and the post office is playing by the new rules. People tell me delivery is good.

Ditto for telecommunications - although service is still not one of their strong suits. Quality is good - I know in my own experience, both phone and fax work very well most of the time.

All this is important to PERSONNA if they are to grow the mail-order part of the business. In 1987 they started shipping Collect On Delivery (COD).

Orders come in a variety of ways:

COD without money - meaning it a true COD order.
COD with money - a partial payment, usually a more solid order.
►   A full pay up front order, the best kind.

No credit card options are offered, because the "C" & "D" marketplace do not own credit cards. Payment is by postal check, personal check, telegraph check, money-order or cash. COD orders are accepted 63% of the time...the balance being returned.

PERSONNA was an early user of the toll-free 800 number service. In the Federal District, which is what we know as Mexico City, they will home deliver your order, if it is placed by telephone.

Orders received are picked and shipped two days of each week...usually Tuesday and Friday. All orders received by phone and mail over the week-end and Monday are shipped Tuesday. Those that come in Tuesday-Thursday are shipped on Friday.

PERSONNA has grown to a 24 person company, offering 130 personal products. In 1993 they shipped 70,000 products. Although the company is not large by some standards - they have grown by 381% in the last seven years...and in 1993 did US/$1.4 million dollars in business.

Each year Monika produces four-two color digest size catalogues...two for men and two for women (the colors are blue and pink...you can guess which goes to who!). 65% of their clientele are male...35% women. Response to the catalogue mailings runs 4-5%.

60% of all business comes in the major city areas of Monterrey in the northeast, Guadalajara in the center of the country, and the Federal District, in and around Mexico City. The balance of the business comes from a scattering through-out Mexico.

Promotion includes a lot of publicity...which in Mexico is similar to "buying" space. PERSONNA has contracts with five national magazines...FAMA, LIBRO VAQUERO, INSOLITO, TV NOVELAS and TRAILERO. Part of what this says is that the "C" & "D" markets do read. A credit to the education system.

Newspaper ads do not work well, at the same time Monika keeps trying them. Radio and television has also been tested, with poor results so far. What they do do is try one new magazine each month...always testing against their proven methods.

Another avenue that has produced good results are comic books. Digest size comic books, with full page ads, have pulled at a good level since 1990.

Monika understands what an offer is and why in direct it is imperative to have one. With all catalogue orders, when you order two or more products you receive a FREE gift. Ditto in the stores.

Fulfillment extends the offer - by including a 10% discount coupon good on all re-orders within a certain limited time. And of course there is a 30 day unlimited money-back guarantee on all orders.

Of the 130 total products, PERSONNA actually manufactures about 70% of them in-house...the rest being farmed out to others.

They also do most of their own publicity/advertising for the magazines, create the catalogues, produce product specific pamphlets and direct mail - all with an in-house "agency". The art for the most part is done on their computer system.

The computer also keeps track of inventory, as well as the database, and all mailing services. PERSONNA has built their own small world of mail-order services - from the product to delivery.

Up to now I've not talked about the products. Been keeping it 'til last. Which I know is the opposite of the way an interesting article is to be written. At the same time, when I learned that the bulk of the products were witch craft, "lucky" things and sex oriented...I really wasn't sure what to do.

The breakdown of the 130 products is this:

40 health & beauty - which are the big sellers
60 witchcraft and "lucky" items
►   30 sexually oriented

The most popular sellers are the cosmetics, followed by the sexual items, books and diet programs. A most interesting mix.

If you are familiar with Frederick's of Hollywood, much of what you find in their catalogue and stores you will find in PERSONNA. Not much more - not much less. Similar style, when it comes to the product mix.

Here is a selection of PERSONNA style copy. This approach went bye-bye in the U.S.A. when truth in advertising and the FDA became active. Forget that for a moment and read with me. If nothing else, you will find it enjoyable:

"Even though scientists all over the world had for centuries suspected the existence of a chemical substance that when expelled by certain animals has the power to attract the opposite sex, they had not been able to isolate this substance because nature had so careful maintained its wonderful secret.

"Well, we think we have finally done it.

"The essence of love 'CONQUEST' can make that impossible romance a wonderful reality. Just a few drops of this fantastic fragrance will enhance all your charms in the eyes of women. When they see you, they will want to approach you and will not want to leave you ever again."

And then there is a supporting testimonial from Morge Padilla:

"The moment I walked in, the women that were near the door immediately discovered that I was there and they left the groups where they were and approached me. In only a few minutes most of the women that had gone to that party were near me trying to seduce me. It has been the most exciting experience of my life. I felt the most popular man of the world, like a real movie star."

And some more. This from the "lucky" product line:

"Send us your birthdate and we will send you: The Secret to becoming Rich before your next Birthday.

"It's true, if you are one of those people that can never win the lottery or can only win small amounts and you are desperate and feel that all in life is not good, well, here is the solution to your problems.

"Only first, sit down and imagine the emotions that you may feel when you receive the personalized Astral Key with all the secrets to happiness, wealth, and good luck which can be yours forever.

"Don't loose any more time. Now is the moment. And perhaps now is your period of good luck and if you do not take advantage of it another opportunity will disappear.

"And, for the first 100 clients that ask for their Astral Key we will include totally free the Astral Wheel of Fortune Talisman for you to activate and which will help you concentrate your powers to obtain your wealth much quicker."

One more...this time from the health and beauty side of the business:

"SLIM CRYSTALS FORM THE BEST BODIES -- They Work Because:

"Burn more fat every 24 hours than what you could lose running 38 miles a day.

"It's 7 times faster than any other system not including surgery. The American Medical Science has proven that our bodies have a NATURAL SYSTEM TO BURN FAT and slim Crystals uses the system called THERMOGENESIS to function. When you apply Slim Crystals to the desired areas it activates this natural system in ONLY 5 MINUTES.

"SLIM CRYSTALS permits you to burn that fat naturally, reducing inches without having to go through vigorous diet or exhaustive exercises.

"Start today and in only a few days you will have a new body, that is both SEDUCTIVE AND ATTRACTIVE."

So, that's it. A home-grown home-spun story from Mexico.
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About Ray Jutkins, October 3rd, 1936 — January 6th, 2005. Ray was one of the NMOA’s most generous contributors. Over the years Ray supplied the NMOA with hundreds of tips and articles for members. This is just one of many. Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa. Keep an eye out for more of Ray’s marketing tips and how-to articles in the pages of Direct Marketing Digest and the article archive on the NMOA website.

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