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Jewish World Review April 11, 2001 / 18 Nissan, 5761

Small Business Advisor by Paul Tulenko

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Consumer Reports

Direct mail marketing tips -- "IS it once again time for direct mail marketing?" is a question I've been asked several times in the past weeks; one that deserves a specific answer. The question is especially valid with the disappointing ups and downs of trying to make Web sites the end-all of advertising goods and services.

Understand, there's nothing wrong with Web site advertising, it's just that direct mail works better. The question we should be asking is not so much whether direct mail marketing works (it does) or whether it's affordable (it is), but: How do I do it? How do I direct market my goods and services?

Here are a few answers.

I only know of one easy thing in life, and that is how to get into trouble. And that is what many of us are heading for in the direct mail marketing business if we begin with the impression that it will be easy or that you can become rich on a part-time operation. Success, even big success, in the mail order business is possible, and, yes, it can be a home-based business, and, yes, you can even start part-time. But easy? No.

The basic premise of direct mail marketing is that you have something to sell that you hope someone wants to buy. The problem is how to get the two of you together.

There are four components to direct mail marketing: locating a buyer, presenting an offer "to die for," making the sale and then following through with the nitty-gritty details.

- Locating buyers: The two most common methods of finding bunches of people who want to buy what you sell is to develop your own mailing list or rent a list from someone else such as a list broker. You can generate your own list by simply copying names and addresses from a telephone directory or you can make it difficult and expensive by placing a two-step ad in a magazine. (Example: "Send for FREE information.")

This gets you names, but at a high cost per name. Renting a list is much simpler, but you have to worry about the currency of the list and the appropriateness of the names (Will these people really buy your product? Have they moved recently?). The results obtained from either approach are a list of people who may be interested in your product. Note the "may."

- An offer to die for: Three steps and you're home free! First, tell them why they need your product; second, give them great reasons to want and desire the product (reasons they will accept), and, finally, make it extremely easy for them to buy now.

That's all there is to the secret of mail order success. But before you print thousands of four-color brochures and spend many dollars in postage, you might wish to make a sample mailing or two to test the material. Even before this, why not start by carefully examining the offerings you personally receive in the mail? Try this technique for a month or so, looking for ideas you can use as to format, content, colors and types of offers.

- Making the sale: Make it easy to say, "Yes! I need that!" Start with such simplistic items such as a testimonial sheet where people praise your product in their own words. Include pre-paid return envelopes or postcards. (The post office offers regular workshops on this subject.) Have some type of attention-getter on the outside of your mailing envelope. Make sure your order blanks are simple to fill out and easy to understand. Use an 800-style number for instant ordering, but don't complain when someone calls you at 3 a.m. with an order. Make a deal with a merchant bank to accept all types of credit cards.

- Finishing the job: Finishing means developing a follow-through that consists of three activities: Start with your in-house mailing list of those who purchased from you once before (they are potential purchasers of your next product); have a second, third and fourth presentation package ready to go (yes, it takes up to four presentations to close a sale), and have a system ready to fulfill your orders on the same day you receive them. Promptness pays in re-orders. Don't forget to include new material for new products in with the order! Many times this is a far more lucrative sale.

- Wrap: This isn't all there is to a direct mail marketing campaign, but it will get you started along the right path. Visit your public library for books on the subject, and don't be put-off by the book's age. People haven't changed much in the past 20 years or so - they still buy from catalogs and direct mail.

Paul Tulenko is the coordinator of the Small Business Development Center in Albuquerque, N.M. Comment by clicking here.


03/27/01: Sales slump? Try a selling seminar
03/20/01: Take advantage of the economic downturn
03/14/01: Tips on making a presentation
03/07/01: Never too late to start a business?
03/02/01: Choosing a company name
02/20/01: Tax tips for small business owners
02/13/01: Don't get the small-biz blues: You're not alone
02/06/01: How to communicate at the office
01/30/01: Before advertising, do your homework
01/23/01: Before you start selling a service online

© 2001 SHNS