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What Is A Direct Mail Business?
Arguably one of the easiest businesses to start, a direct mail business is defined as using the mail service to deliver your sales piece directly to a prospect. Your sales piece (or direct mail sales letter) will ask the prospective customer to do one of two things – either to buy immediately (called “direct response advertising" in marketing terms) or to call, write or email for more information (called the “two-step").
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Seven Steps To Start A Direct Mail Business
1. Decide on your product, your company name and your price. Think about how you will fulfill the order when it comes. Do you need boxes, packing material and shipping labels? Will it be easier to hire a fulfillment house to handle this for you? What is the shipping cost for each item?
2. Develop a “typical customer" profile. If you have sold your product to customers already, you should spend a lot of time thinking about your “typical" customer’s demographics and start developing a profile. Are most of your customers within a certain zip code? Are they typically affluent? Do they own their own homes? Do they drive sports cars? Are they budget-conscious? Do they have pets?
3. Find a List Broker and develop your mailing list. If you have already sold your products, you will have a list of customers who’ve done business with you in the past. A list broker can help you match the typical customer profile you’ve developed to a list of prospects. Find List Brokers in the yellow pages of your phone book or through a search engine online. Perform due diligence to ensure the List Broker is reliable and trustworthy. You “rent" mailing lists from the list broker for a set number of mailings – you do not buy them outright. List Brokers seed their lists with what is commonly called “ringers." These are fake customers who look out for mailings that are not authorized and then report you to the list broker. This is the way they keep their clients honest. However, once a prospect on the list buys from you, you “own" that contact and you can add it to your permanent list.
4. Once you have your mailing list, you need to develop a sales letter, brochure, catalog or advertising piece. Unless you are a very good writer with specialized copy writing skills, you may want to outsource this project to an expert. There are a number of freelance writing sites on the Internet where writers will bid for your project. If you're a good writer, you may want to save the expense and write your own copy. For business to business offers, typically you will use the two-step process where your offer asks for the customer to call, write, email or visit your website for more information. You then attempt to close the sale with the second contact. Business-to-consumer offers might use either approach. Develop different sales pieces so you can test them to see which works better. There is a whole science to tracking, testing and tweaking marketing results. You will learn more as you go along.
5. Decide on a tracking mechanism for each offer you send out so you can analyze your response. Types of tracking or coding for different offers might include adding numbers or letters after the box number. For example: 3890 Anytown Street, Suite 20A for Offer #1 and 3890 Anytown Street, Suite 21B for Offer #2. As you get more experienced, you will want to assign each mailing a batch number. This might include the month/year of the mailing, an identifying number for your particular list and an identifying number for the particular offer.
6. Print up the number of copies you need for the mailing and stuff your envelopes. Take the envelopes to the post office for postage and mailing.
7. All that's left is to wait for the orders, fulfill your orders and analyze your results. Test and tweak your different offers. Which sales piece performed the best? Which mailing list performed the best? Of those customers who responded, can you now add new details to your ideal customer profile? Handle customer service issues promptly so you can build repeat business and a good reputation.
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From Blueprint To Cash
You now have a basic blueprint for how to start a direct mail business – one of the most time-honored businesses in the world. Think of all the successful mail order catalogs there are and the cash you will be putting in the bank. Direct mail also happens to be one of the easiest and most inexpensive businesses to start. You won’t need a lot of employees in the beginning. You may not even need an office. Many direct mail businesses are started from the kitchen table or the home office. Check with your state, city or township to determine any relevant laws that may govern operating your business.