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Getting Started in The Mail Order Business

Especially written for the newcomer, or those just getting started in the mail order business, this publication is full of important facts and information that is designed to save the Mail Order Beginner dollars, time, and worries. Tells about, essentials of mail order, postal matters, mailing lists, mail order books, wholesale printing, advertising, government services, office supplies, keying, capital requirements, general supply sources, inquiry letters, and loads of other valuable information. If you want to get all the basics about Mail Order you cannot afford to be without this valuable reference on the subject.

INTRODUCTION [related books]

This publication was complied and written primarily to equip the beginning mail order dealer with the fundamentals necessary to successfully carry out a mail order business. It reflects the authors many years of practical experience in the successful operation of a mail order enterprise. There are no so-called magic schemes or plans presented within its pages. It is composed entirely of practical tips, outstanding sources of supply and sound counsel, all given in clear, concise statements. If the suggested contents are adhered to, they will enable the reader not only to appraise the various opportunities of mail order, but also to avoid many of the hazards and save himself much expense and wasted effort in his mail order ventures.

By following the advice presented within these pages, you can learn what steps to take in getting started, and something of the financial and personal requirements. What to sell, methods most likely to prove successful, how to avoid errors commonly made, and how to systematize the work and expand the scope of a mail order project

WHY MAIL ORDER? [related book]

The mail order business is unique in that it can be started with a minimum of capital and without any specified set of experiences. Location is not a factor of any great significance, nor is it important to have elaborate facilities, for many of the successful mail order concerns of today have literally started from scratch. Since there is no face-to-face selling with the customer, the business can be operated from the corner of a room of one's own home.

In mail order, anyone with imagination, determination, and a willingness to study and experiment, may have an excellent chance to succeed. The mail order business is almost the perfect example of learning by doing.


Need a Business License? - Incorporate Online

No permit or license of any kind is required by the Federal Government to operate an ordinary mail order business. However, many states or counties require a business license. It is wise to secure full facts from your city, county and State authorities before starting your mail order business.


If you plan to use a company name, record it at your local Post Office to keep your mail straight. Fill out the proper form at your Bank so that you can deposit business checks and money-orders into your account. If at all possible open a separate business account for your company. Also, if you use a name other than your own for your company you will generally have to register your name with your state or county. Check with your County Clerk to find out if a company name must be registered in your State.


It is advisable that you become familiar with the postal requirements that will pertain to your particular enterprise. However, it is not necessary for the small mail order dealer to attempt learning in detail all of the ramifications of the Postal Laws and Regulations. There are not a great many postal problems that will confront you, but when in doubt, the quickest and best way to get a specific answer to any question pertaining to postal rules or regulations is to inquire at your local Post Office.

Any legitimate article of commerce may be sold through the U.S. mails upon truthful and honest representation - and the Post Office Department welcomes every legal enterprise to the use of the mails.


Third-class mail, (sometimes called junk mail), may be used by anyone, but is used most often by large mailers. This class includes printed material and merchandise parcels which weigh less than 16 ounces. There are two rate structures for this class: a single piece and a bulk rate. Many community organizations and businesses find it economical to use this service, and it is particularly useful to the small mail order dealers who make use of mailing lists. Also, individuals may use third-class for mailing lightweight parcels.

It is suggested that you acquire copies of the following brochures. They will give you all the information you need concerning postal rates and requirements - and can be obtained FREE on request at your local post office, or write direct to Consumer Advocate, U.S. Postal Service, Washington, D.C. 20260.

"Domestic Postage Rates, Fees, and Information", "International Postal Rates and Fees", "Third Class Bulk Mail - General Instructions", "Directory of Postal Services and Products"


In addition to abiding by Post Office regulations, mail order businesses are subject to rulings of the Federal Trade Commission. To the Federal Trade Commission is delegated the authority to prevent unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in interstate commerce. However, if you operate your business in a fair, aboveboard manner, you need not be concerned. One word of caution, some mail order companies get into trouble with the Federal Trade Commission by using false or misleading claims in their advertising copy. Be particularly careful in this respect.


Lack of "planning" is a widespread cause of failure. Theoretically, the mail order business comes close to the ideal for many people. You simply advertise some product for sale; the orders come in - with money-orders, cash or checks - you mail back the product and then bank your profits. However, it isn't as easy as it sounds. To be sure, fortunes have been made in this business, and will continue to be made. Hundreds of small firms are making money quietly year after year. But 90 percent of the eager newcomers to the field make little or's an excellent, profitable field once you have acquired the "know-how" of selecting a product and a method of merchandising it.

SELECTING A PRODUCT [related books]

Almost anything that people want or need is today being successfully sold by mail. In fact, some products could not be handled in any other way. The problem is to figure out the product or service and then find and develop a market. Within the wide range of items sold by mail, there are things especially suited to limited sale operations. The question is not so much What can be sold by mail' as it is, What can I sell by mail?" The most successful type of merchandise to sell through general mail order functions are light weight items that are not readily available in local stores, that are moderately priced and have an appeal to the general public. Such items include instruction and information books, novelties, household gadgets, office supplies and specialty items.

Even a commonplace article can be sold profitably when promoted with a sound marketing plan, especially when given a new twist. Ordinarily it is not the item that makes a successful operator, but the selling plan coupled with the energy and determination behind it.


Selling instruction and information by mail embraces a large field. At one extreme is the correspondence school which aims to bring a university campus to the door, and at the other extreme is the small operator who for a dollar or two will send information about something you like to know about, or will reveal a "secret" or formula of some kind. In between these two extremes are many possibilities. Those individuals who are conscious of mail-buying opportunities, and who seek training at home and in their spare time will have a large selection of useful information that can be acquired at a reasonable cost. Mail order operators who specialize in selling various types of educational material, are in a field which is in demand, and are well managed can produce very profitable results. Little wonder then that for the small operator, selling of "information" is an attractive mail order venture.


The hobbyist, small craftsman, and the home worker, all purchase materials and supplies to facilitate the making of articles for resale or pleasure. Usually, these people need inexpensive supplies and equipment, in small quantities. Most of their orders are small, but of a repeat nature. Moreover, these people often hesitate to try dealing with the large suppliers, who after all do not generally cater to limited-quantity users. Getting well acquainted with a specialize field and determining what the needs of the small operator are, and preparing to supply one or more of these needs is an excellent plan for getting started in the mail order business


To find the manufacturing source for just about any product you may wish to handle, consult a copy of the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers. This directory contains a list of manufacturers arrange according to the merchandise they produce. A copy of the register is available at most of the large Public Libraries. Another directorythat contains a large list of manufacturers, producers and wholesalers is MacRae's Blue Book. This directory is also available at many Public Libraries

LEARN FROM OTHERS [related book]

It would be presumptuous for those having little business or sales experience to expect quick success selling by mail. It is only through study and perseverance that Know-How is acquired, and there is no substitute for Know-How. It is advised that you obtain some Post Cards, and mail them out to mail order firms whose ads appear in the classified sections of various publications. You'll receive a wealth of material. From this material you can compile an excellent research file on advertising copy, sales-literature, promotional methods and anything else that adds up to effective operation.


Since a small mail order business is at best a gamble, risk as little as possible to test out your ideas. Spend no money except for essentials, and limit purchases to bare necessities. Above all, however, do not skimp on the sales literature. Besides the outlay of capital for stationery, circulars, and advertising, you must have enough money to put in a stock of goods in order to give prompt service on orders. Sufficient capital should be kept in reserve to tide over the "rough spots," or this extra money should be available from the income of a regular job until the mail order business is on a paying basis.


One of the above is absolutely necessary in the operation of a mail order business. Business letters that are handwritten will brand the sender as an amateur, and create a poor impression on the prospective customers. On the other hand, a neatly typed written message on a suitable business letterhead will inspire confidence in your business and identify it to the prospective buyer as a going concern. Owning one can very easily mean the difference between success and failure.


A mail order enterprise will not succeed, unless the business operates as a smooth-running machine, with none of the essential elements lacking. Looking ahead is very important. Some of the commitments for advertising, printing, supplies, and inventory have to be placed, and paid for ahead of time. This digs into cash reserve. In the absence of sufficient funds, it is a good idea for a mail order aspirant to wait until he has accumulated enough capital for testing out an idea around which he hopes to build a business. Frequently, a little capital plus a spirit of adventure, creative desire, and determination are more valuable than an ample supply of ready cash. But it is important not to back oneself into the wall. Look ahead!


It should be remembered that credit is a double-edged tool and can cut both ways. Wisely used, it benefits both the borrower and the lender. Unwisely used, it may result in a loss to both. When you borrow money, you undertake a legal obligation to pay interest and repay the loan. Whether business is good or bad you are expected to repay. Remember that. Also remember that a business can be ruined by overexpansion based on borrowed money. Sometimes a good credit standing acts as an inducement to borrow more than your business warrants.


What are the main causes of failure in the mail order business? They are insufficient capital, inadequate marketing, overoptimism and a lack of sufficient business experience. Business recessions are not the chief cause, although they have often furnished plausible alibis.


Some of the items in the profit and loss statement are called overhead expenses. These are rent, utilities, taxes, depreciation, etc., which cannot definitely be allocated to individual items produced or sold and which are usually independent of the volume of business you do. If you total these up and take them as a percentage of sales you will gain some idea of the extent to which these general and continuous expenses are cutting into your potential profit margin. A marked change in this percentage may give you the opportunity to some savings which you can institute to cut down on your overhead. There is a tendency for the percentage to rise when business is poor and sales decline because overhead expenses change slowly both up and down.


Because the launching of a mail order enterprises is a specialized undertaking, your personality enters into the business, whether you wish it or not. Personality is involved in the choice of the line and the various methods employed in promotion. Your literature selection will tell something about you and your company. Since you cannot see the prospective customer, nor can he see you, each will judge the other by small and fragmentary pieces of information. It is essential to see your offer through your customers' eyes, for while each and everyone of these people have only one "vote", in the aggregate your attitude in handling public relations may make the difference between success and failure.


Whether a four-page brochure, a simple circular, or a small display ad, your copy should be specific, direct and honest. It must ATTRACT ATTENTION, SECURE INTEREST, PRODUCE BELIEF OR CONVICTION, and finally GET THE PROSPECT TO ACT. Avoid extravagant claims and fancy language. When writing the copy imagine yourself talking personally to the person at whom your message is directed. Use headlines that will be unique, specific and are designed to make the reader want to peruse the rest of the copy. Also, keep the subheadings as short and to the point as possible. The copy is to do a job of selling, so waste no space with fads or frills. Artistic effect maybe fine in general advertising designed to popularize a product, but it takes much more in direct mail order. The advertising must get read - get action. Make every bit of space count. Make the copy tell a complete sales story, then ask for the order. Keep your message natural and simple, use plain language. Don't talk in generalities, give the facts completely and dramatically. Much care and effort must be used in writing your copy. Analyze it, rewrite it, put it aside, reread and correct it. Ask yourself "would this appeal to me, is it to the point?" When completely satisfied with the final draft, put it to the test.


Unless you possess the basic talent and ability necessary to compose choice sales copy, it is suggested you benefit from those qualified to guide you. Your suppliers will have your interest at heart and will generally work with you in achieving professional presentation of your sales material. Also, your printer will most likely be well qualified to render you capable assistance as to proper presentation of your literature in graphic form. You might also employ the services of a competent writer experienced in formulating practical, distinctive mail-sales copy.


Two factors most strongly effect classified advertising "pull and economy." One is copy, the text of your message. Before placing your ad, compare it with those of your competitors, and make sure that yours is better, or at least just as good if you expect to get a good response from your advertising. The other factor is audience, pick your media on the basis of their value in reaching the type of inquiries that would be interested in your specific offer. Go over the classified advertising sections of the magazines that seem suitable, carefully. Study the ads, cost per word against circulation, find out how the circulation was secured and distributing methods. In short, explore any evidence to show that your ad has a good chance of producing results. Then if you are satisfied as to effectiveness, test with a "keyed" ad.


The purpose for keying an ad is to enable the advertiser to differentiate between advertising mediums that achieve results, and those which fail to do so. By this means, you will be able to eliminate your advertisements from unproductive ad media, and reinvest the savings in more suitable publications. Below are listed several of the most practical and widely used keying methods.

1. Affixing a letter after the address of box number, such as, Box 123-A or 123-A Front Street. A different letter to be used for each publication.

2. Inserting the name differently, John A. Smith can be used in one publication, John B. Smith in another, and so on.

3. By including a different department, desk or suite in the address of each ad. As an example, Joseph Smith, Box 123, Dept. 2, City, State or Joseph Smith, Box 123, Suite A, City, State. (Because of extra word count, this method used most frequently with Display Ads.)

With a competent keying system, furthermore, computing cost per customer, per inquiry, or per dollar of sales becomes an easy matter. You cannot afford to spend money in unprofitable media, and only the key can give an adequate picture as to where business is originating.


In placing your order through an agency, you pay only the same rates for the advertising space you use which you would pay the publisher if you send your order direct to newspapers and magazines. The agencies receive their commissions from the publications in which your advertisements appear. You send them one order and one copy of your advertisement, regardless of how many publications are on the schedule. The agency will also assist you in the selection of the best media for your needs, the planning and preparation of your ads, and on the effectiveness of your sales literature.


Advertising rates are at an all time high now, and it is likely to be your biggest expense. It is essential that you use the best possible copy and the least words necessary to do the job. You pay by the word and extravagant copy will be very costly. Good copy in classified advertising will convey to the reader an exact idea of what the offer can DO FOR HIM. Begin preparation of your classified message by putting on paper a full description of your offer. Now start boiling down everything you've written. Eliminate all unnecessary and obscure words, replace two words with one wherever feasible, tighten and condense what's left as far as possible. The finished message should be concise, convincing and understandable. Ask yourself, "If I were the reader would I answer this ad." Be honest in your appraisal.


There are six words that get results in mail order copy. These words are: #1. "Free," #2. "New," #3. "Amazing," #4. "Now," #5. "How-To," #6. "Easy." All successful classified advertisers use one or more of these words in almost every advertisement they write. The first few words in any advertisement are all-important. Give this matter careful study so your ad gets off to a good start, and you will be on your way to success. While the word "Free" has been greatly abused in the past, it still is mail orders' number one attention getter.


Direct sales from the advertisement (display ads) is a most difficult method of mail sales promotion, and the percentage of success is small. As in all mail order advertising, layout and copy must excel in order to produce maximum results. Careful selection of proper media for each offer is another requirement for profitable display advertising. For example, you could not sell a book on the raising of rabbits utilizing the pages of a Photography magazine. You must pick out publications with editorial content which is related to what you are advertising. In many classifications, you will also find that competition is keen. It usually takes a great deal of testing, revising and adjusting before a direct sales advertising campaign can become profitable. Although it has been ascertained that over 90% of all Direct-Selling ads will fail - THEY CAN BE HIGHLY PROFITABLE.

I recommend the use of a good illustration to arouse attention to the display ad. The human mind thinks in terms of pictures, and an ad set in cold type will not get near the attention an illustrated one will. Very often one simple illustration in the proper place in your selling message adds more pulling power than a hundred additional words.


As the name implies, Direct Mail Selling takes the sales message direct to the prospects without the use of securing inquiries through advertising. Direct mail offers a convenient method of securing business quickly by reaching a concentrated audience within a very short time. This method features broad coverage at low cost, but like any form of promotion, it should be used smartly and the pitfalls must be avoided. Only when the campaign is well thought out, and when the selectivity of the prospects or "mailing list" is such that each name represents a potential customer, can direct mail be considered an economic form of promotion. Direct mail, in effect, is rifle and not shotgun shooting.

In essence, the effective operation of a direct mail program involves three basic steps. First, to find reliable mailing list sources of logical prospects. Second, see that impressive and proper promotional material is directed to these prospects; and third, to keep an accurate check of results to ascertain if the operation is profitable. Strict attention to these points are important means by which waste can be reduced in your direct mail efforts.


One of the biggest advantages ever given the small and moderate mail order seller has been the development of "shopping sections" in leading national publications. These sections consist principally of small ads, so that minimum spaces have excellent attention value and can produce far in excess of sales secured from the same size ads appearing in random positions in other media. Look through these sections and you will find many advertisers repeating month after month. They must be making money.


Although the most widely read publications in America are the local daily newspapers, this medium has decided limitations for mail order use, especially for the small operator. Unlike a magazine which may be saved for months, possibly gone over carefully by other members of the family, loaned to friends, or is on file at the public library, the newspaper is out of date and usually discarded by the next day, also, newspaper readers are not generally in the mood to sit down and answer an advertisement unless the offer is unusual and not readily available locally. This means for the advertiser an immediate response or none at all.


Always remember to incorporate that magic word "Guaranteed" into your sales literature. It gives the prospective buyer confidence to know that he can get his money back if he is dissatisfied with his purchase, and consequently makes the order much easier to obtain.


Postage meter equipment generally consists of two parts; an office mailing machine and a detachable postage meter, the latter licensed for use by the United States Postal Service. Since postage meters print U.S. postage and accounts for government revenue under official lock and seal, they cannot be sold outright, as are mailing machines, but are leased from an authorized manufacturer who is held responsible to the U.S. postal Services for their proper operation and replacement when necessary. To buy postage, you simply take your meter to the nearest Post Office to have it "set." Postage is paid in advance, just as when buying ordinary postage stamps. But instead of buying and storing loose stamps in various denominations and quantities, or a bulky stock of pre-stamped envelopes, you simply have your meter "set" for one convenient lump sum. From this you print stamp values, as needed, right in your own office.


A truly accurate mailing scale is a must for any mail order business, large or small. Otherwise, you run the risk of overpayment, and this can run into a great deal of money over any time span. And of course, there's the possibility of underpayment of postage, and the irritation of important customers who have to pay for "Postage Due." It pays to be precise.


Cash entries are the day by day transactions written chronologically as they occur. Here is a plan for easy-to-make entries. Different sections of the same record book should be used. The first part applying to ORDERS received, the second to total SALES, the third to PURCHASES, and the fourth to total EXPENSES. A very simple device for this purpose is an ordinary 3-ring loose-leaf binder.


There are many printers which exclusively operate by mail and serve this trade specifically. You will find their advertisements in the mail order press. Some of these printers will give you excellent quality, a fast turnaround and substantial savings when compared with conventional printers.


Fine quality envelops printed at savings of up to 50%. These are all direct from the manufacturer. They offer a most complete range of envelopes in all sizes and styles. Many colors and weights of paper, choice of type styles, plus hundreds of stock cuts. Write for free catalog to: Business Envelope Manufacturers, 900 Grand Blvd., Deer Park, NY 11729


One of the best office supply houses in the country which offers excellent and very fast service at outstanding prices is: Quill Corp., P.O. Box 94080, Palatine, IL 60094.


Size 5.5 x 8.5 and 8.5x11 inches, from 8 to over 100 pages, in various paper qualities are offered at excellent prices by: Dinner Klein, P.O. Box 3814, Seattle, WA 98124


The quality of your sales literature is a very important factor, and can easily determine the difference between success and failure. You can't very well expect literature sloppily printed on cheap paper to produce satisfactory results. Poorly printed, smudgy sales-matter will immediately convey to the recipient the impression of an amateur soliciting business.


The Government Printing Office issues a monthly catalog with a list of selected publications, current and choice, obtainable by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, and also from the many field offices located in key cities throughout the United States. The catalog, available free on request, lists books ranging from "How to Start a Mail Order Business," to a series of booklets on literally dozens of small business management subjects.

MADE IN THE ORIENT [related books]

If you need trade contacts for products from the orient (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Japan), you can obtain a courteous and competent answer to your inquiry from - Western Universal (H.K.) Ltd., The Bank of America Bldg., 6th Floor, 1, Kowloon Park Drive, Tsimshatsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong.


Experience has shown that a direct mail campaign can only be effective if all the details are carefully planned out. Know exactly what you want to accomplish, set up your advertising campaign as best you can to accomplish that end, and then carry out your plan to the letter. It must be remembered that, per message delivered, direct mail is more expensive than advertising. Only when the campaign is well thought out, and when the selectivity of the mailing list is such that each name represents a potential customer, can direct mail be considered an economical form of advertising. As any experienced mail order operator will inform you, the mailing list is the second most important part of any direct mail campaign. The first and foremost being the offer itself.


To build up a really successful mail order sales operation, it is smart to have a well organized and planned follow-up system. Once a customer has been established, you have a valuable asset that should be utilized to the fullest extent. The renowned mail order consultant Robert Collier once stated, The first thing one learns in mail order is that the easiest person to sell is one who has previously bought from you by mail."


Every mail order business receives a certain number of complaints. It's normal; you must expect it. Complaints, after all, simply mean that, no matter how hard you try, you can't please all the people all the time. But you should try. The best way to avoid complaints are: (1) advertise honestly, avoiding exaggerated claims; (2) sell quality, because that's the only way to win steady customers; (3) acknowledge orders if there's any possibility of delay; and (4) ship fast - your customers don't want to wait.


Save the original order and inquiry envelopes you receive from your advertising, they can be sold at a good price. Write to the below listed mailing list companies giving full details on the type of envelopes you have, and approximate amount that you can supply. Provide a self-addressed stamped envelope for reply.


The best in Auction, Flea Market and Mail Order Sales merchandise- available from the following direct importing wholesale firms. Gadgets, tools, all kinds of housewares, jewelry, novelties. Literally thousands of sundry items at lowest jobber prices. Get selling-literature and illustrated catalogs by request, under your business letterhead. Mellinger, Woodland Hills, CA 91367 - Lakeside Products, 6646 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60645 - SMC, 6061 DeSoto, Woodland Hills, CA 91365 - The Wholesale Outlet, 900 Central Ave., Albany, NY 11206


Mail order business is not an easy way to make a fortune as many irresponsible advertisers claim. Basically, it is a great business with many outstanding advantages, calling for initiative, integrity, good judgment, lots of courage and determination. You probably have some or all of these qualities or you would not consider running your own business. You may have to grit your teeth many times and stick through disappointments. But if you win, you will reap ample reward. Is it worth the try? You are the best and final judge of that.

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