135 Ways to be Successful in Mail Order

This mini course outlines the essential elements for establishing and operating a successful mail order business. Here is a practical guide for beginners and check list for those already in mail order.

The Company Name

  1. Select a short, friendly, informal, easy-to-remember company name.
  2. Your personal name is acceptable, but add Co., Gifts, etc.
  3. Home address or post-office box makes no appreciable difference.

Starting Supplies

  1. Neatly printed letterheads and envelopes.
  2. A typewriter-0or the availability of one is a must.
  3. Parcel post shipping labels.
  4. Avoid purchasing expensive office equipment or supplies until absolutely.

Starting Capital Required

  1. To purchase above starting supplies.
  2. To pay for two or three publication ads to test your offer.
  3. Or, to pay rental for a minimum of 1,000 names for a direct mail program, plus postage costs .
  4. To pay for preparation and layout of a display ad.
  5. To pay for art work and type-setting of circular.
  6. To pay for additional or continuing pro-motions if initial results are encouraging.
  7. Costs to cover promotion expenses if further testing is required.
  8. Extra capital to allow for unforeseen and unexpected expenses.

The Product

  1. Is new, unusual and, if possible, exclusively yours .
  2. Is of good quality and fairly priced.
  3. Fills a definite need for a wide and ready market.
  4. Offers strong appeal to the prospect.
  5. Is not commonly sold in retail stores.
  6. Cannot be bought elsewhere or only from limited sources.
  7. You can control its production or distribution.
  8. Is not expensive to make or produce; can be sold year round.
  9. Interests a large percentage of the market
  10. Is not seasonable (except Xmas); can be sold year round
  11. Lightweight; not fragile; safe and inexpensive to ship
  12. Will be used up or consumed and must be reordered periodically

Locating a Suitable Mail Order Item

  1. Look through mail order sections of magazines to check what types of products successful mail order dealers offer.
  2. Inquire of local manufacturers and Chamber of Commerce.
  3. Attend trade shows with gift, jewelry, household themes, etc.
  4. Contact appropriate manufacturers listed in Thomas Register, available at Public Libraries.
  5. Watch for new product listings in trade journals and magazines.
  6. Check out close-outs, surplus and overstock offers.
  7. Contact mail order supply sources.
  8. Design, develop, manufacture or publish your own product.

The Line

  1. Develop or acquire other items to tie in with your main product.
  2. Present follow-up offers to customers and prospects.
  3. Promote succession or products appealing to the same trade.
  4. Sell such services as personalization, consultation, etc., if such services are adaptable to your line.

The Advertising Copy

  1. Use attention-getting, bold headline copy in ads.
  2. Illustrate the product if space permits; explain how it is used.
  3. Write copy in brief, bouncy, down-to-earth style
  4. Avoid any overly-clever,tricky phrases or expressions .
  5. Be sincere; don't exaggerate.
  6. Describe the product clearly and fully.
  7. Stress the YOU approach; tell how the offer will benefit him.
  8. Avoid over talking about yourself or your company .
  9. Strive for conviction and sincerity--be believable
  10. Instill confidence; make the prospect feel you are honest .
  11. Stir him into action to order your product .
  12. Give specific directions for ordering.
  13. Provide a guarantee of satisfaction or money back.
  14. Tailor the ad/literature to fit the prospect you want to reach.

Testing Your Offer

  1. If capital permits, test more than one magazine.
  2. Test more than one ad, each in a different publication.
  3. Try split runs if the magazine offers regional or sectional issues.
  4. Continue a successful ad without change until its pull drops to break-even point.
  5. Don't rush to change at a time: size of ad--copy--different appeal--new headline--another illustration--new price.
  6. Use short testimonials if space permits.
  7. Offer a bonus--something free or at reduced price.
  8. Key each ad or mailing to determine where results were derived.
  9. Keep accurate records of returns from each promotion.

Sales Literature

  1. Usually consists of sales letter, descriptive circular or folder, order form, return envelope (Some offers may be effectively sold by only a sales letter)
  2. Effective sales letter must create ATTENTION, INTEREST, DESIRE, ACTION
  3. The circular should fully illustrate or describe the product. It must provide more detailed information about the product--its uses, benefits, advantages and other special appeals.
  4. Return envelope is an essential part of sales literature to make it convenient for the customer to mail the order.
  5. Mailing sales offers by first-class mail vs third-class mail usually shows no appreciable difference in results.
  6. Mailing envelope can feature an attractive design or teaser message to induce the recipient to open and read the offer.

The Product Supplier

  1. Develop or produce your own mail order item, if possible.
  2. Try to arrange exclusive mail-order rights with the supplier.
  3. Establish supply sources close to home to save delivery time and shipping cost.
  4. Seek lowest price if item is offered by two or more suppliers.
  5. Order larger quantities, if you can afford such purchases, to get lower or greater discounts.
  6. Assure that supplier is reliable and will provide the merchandise you plan to promote; that he will ship orders promptly.
  7. Consider only products which allow an adequate profit margin (at least a 3 to 1 profit mark-up on lower-priced items).
  8. Consider a supplier who is willing to drop-ship your orders directly to your customers--seek at least a 50% discount.

The Selling Price

  1. Price merchandise fairly; give customers their money's worth.
  2. Include postage or shipping costs in selling price.
  3. Use round number ($3.00, $5.00, etc) for lower-priced items to make it convenient for customers to remit payment.
  4. Allow for all costs in marking up prices--postage, overhead, packing, allowances for non-deliveries, refunds, bad checks.
  5. Be certain to allow yourself an adequate mark-up to assure profit.
  6. Test different prices to determine which selling price brings in the greatest amount of profit.


  1. Don't attempt to start unless you can afford at least two or three ads; or pay for a direct mailing to at least 1,000 names.
  2. Plan to advertise consistently
  3. Use ad space relative to sale price, i.e., use small-size ads for low priced items and larger ads for more expensive items
  4. Items priced over $3.00 usually do not sell as profitable through classified ads
  5. In space ads, offer products in the $3.00 to $10.00 price range.
  6. It is usually better to advertise for inquiries if an item sells for $10.00 or more.
  7. Two small ads will generally produce more business than one ad twice as large.
  8. Keep repeating ads as long as they continue profitable.
  9. Don't waste unnecessary space; advertising is expensive.
  10. Don't expect to make a killing from one ad or mailing. Consistent advertising is the key to mail order success.

The Media

  1. Newspapers with mail-order sections bring quick returns and are acceptable for initial tests. Results are not usually as good as from magazine ads for long range pull.
  2. Use only publications with the type of readership who will react favorably to your type of product or offer.
  3. Unsold inquirers should be followed up with special inducements or with new offers.
  4. Rent names only from reliable brokers or mail order sources.
  5. Use only lists of people who are logical prospects for your offer.
  6. Compile mailing list from your own inquirers and customers.
  7. Offer your names to list brokers; this is a good source for extra income.
  8. Advertise in publications which feature large mail order sections; place ads in the same issues or sections that your competitors advertise.

The Advertising Agency

  1. Select an advertising agency experienced in mail order.
  2. Check their credentials; current account; successful promotions.
  3. Don't use agencies which represent direct competitors.
  4. Expect to pay in advance for ad placements and other services until credit terms are established.
  5. Advertising agencies are not infallible. Forgive an honest mistake. Give the agency at least a second chance.
  6. Expect to pay for preparation of display ads, copy layout, and other services authorize. Classified ad copy will be prepared without any cost to you.
  7. Extend full cooperation; go along with their recommendations.
  8. If your advertising budget is substantial, consider setting up your own advertising agency--thereby saving 15% commission, plus a 2% discount in many instances.


  1. Fill and ship orders promptly. Mail order buyers get edgy with delays.
  2. Use plain but sturdy packing to ship orders.
  3. Ship via parcel post or U.P. S., whichever is cheaper.
  4. Use neatly printed shipping labels.
  5. Address labels with typewriter; not by hand unless indelible ink is used and address is printed.
  6. Specify Return Guaranteed on labels or package.

Terms of Payment

  1. Accept personal checks; very few bounce.
  2. Avoid C.O.D.s unless you receive sufficient down package to assure you have collected enough to cover the costs of the return, plus costs of handling and repackaging the merchandise.
  3. Don't offer to sell on credit or time payments unless item is high-priced and you can afford to carry credit accounts.

The Customer

  1. Consider the customer your greatest asset. Acknowledge that he is always right; even when he isn't.
  2. Handle complaints promptly; write courteous explanation.
  3. Offer replacement if product is broken or damaged.
  4. Issue immediate refunds; adjust overpayments promptly.
  5. Promote new or other products to your customer list. No other class of prospect will be as responsive.
  6. Work your customer list until it no longer proves profitable.


  1. You, mainly, control the destiny of your mail order business.
  2. Be energetic; devote as much time as you can spare to advance.
  3. Be determined to make your mail order business a huge success.
  4. Learn as much as you can about mail order techniques.
  5. Be original; exclusive.
  6. Don't copy anyone; copy only successful methods and techniques; always strive to improve on them.
  7. Keep searching diligently for new, exclusive products.
  8. Don't become disappointed by a slow start, or discouraged by a failure or two along the the way.
  9. Always perform professionally; an amateur does not get paid for his services .
  10. Build your own financial pyramid; reinvest profits into productive programs that may mushroom your profits steadily.
  11. Avoid being an easy mark for get-rich-quick schemes; start and operate your business on sound principles.
  12. Refer to this handy check list periodically--remind yourself to follow only accepted guide-lines that control the safe operation of a mail order business.

Best of success!

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