Pick up almost any book or report on Mailorder Selling andinvariably you will find the same advice. When you select a
mailorder product, select one which:
- appeals to a large segment of the population - is not readily available in stores - is easy to ship by mail - is worthwhile - and a product that lends itself to repeat orders
Most mail order writers will also tell you to try to acquire exclusive selling rights to your product. Most writers will agree that a dealer has a better chance of succeeding in the mailorder business if he has created the product himself.
All of this is certainly good advice. The trouble with it is
that it does not go far enough. It does not tell you HOW to
create a product that is exclusively you own. In what follows,
I would like to show you, step by step, HOW to create your own
I would like to begin by making a very revolutionary statement.
THE FIRST STEP ON THE ROAD TO MAIL ORDER SUCCESS IS NOT THE
SELECTION OF A PRODUCT! That may sound like a very strange
statement, but there are three things you must do (if you want
to be successful) before you ever select a product to sell by
FIRST, you must ANALYZE YOURSELF. You will only succeed in
selling a product, or a line of mailorder products if you really
enjoy selling them, if you can be honestly enthusiastic about
them, and if they are products you yourself would honestly want
SECOND, you must SELECT YOUR MARKET. Once you have analyzed
yourself, you will want to sell to people who have interests
similar to your own. Only then will you be comfortable in your
THIRD, you must thoroughly ANALYZE YOUR MARKET. Before you
ever select a product, you should KNOW what your market is
buying, what it would like to buy, if available, and what it
will buy form you, in the very near future.
Once you have analyzed yourself, selected your market, and then
thoroughly analyzed your market, you will have no trouble
selecting or creating a product to sell by mail. It will almost
select you! Now, let's go back and study these three steps, one
To help you understand yourself, sit down and, as honestly as
possible, write out your answers to the following questions:
1. When I go to a newstand, what kind of magazines appeal to ME?
2. What kind of books do I really like to read?
3. When I daydream, what do I daydream about?
4. What do I do with my free time? (How do I spend my
evenings? What do I do on weekends?)
5. What do I do on my vacation?
6. What one subject interests me more than any other subject in the world?
7. If I didn't have to work for a living, how would I spend my
8. If I could go back to college, what subjects would I take?
9. What kind of products do I like to purchase by mail?
Once you have HONESTLY answered all these questions, you will
see an amazing pattern emerging. When you have finished, pay a
visit to your local library. Go to the Reference Desk and ask
to see the latest edition of the WRITER'S MARKET. Sit down and
study the Table of Contents, which lists all the main categories
of magazines currently being printed. Decide which CATEGORY
interests you beyond all others. It is in that mailorder market
that you will be most at home . . . and it is there that you
will be most successful
Now go back to the Reference Desk and ask for two other
publications. Either one will provide you with the information
you need. They are:
- THE STANDARD PERIODICAL DIRECTORY and
- ULTICH'S INTERNATIONAL PERIODICAL DIRECTORY
I, of course, have no idea what your interests really are, but
let us, for the sake of illustration, say that you have a
compelling interest in Astrology. With a little search in the
Standard Periodical Directory, you will find the name and
address of at least a dozen or so Astrology magazines. In
Ulrich's you will find even more, since it lists magazines
published in foreign countries as well.
Jot down the names and address of each and every publication.
Write to each of them, on your letterhead if possible. If you
don't have a letterhead, you will still hear from most of them.
Tell them you are starting a mailorder business, specializing in
Astrological products, and ask them for a sample copy of their
publications, along with their ADVERTISING RATES.
When you start receiving your sample copies, save them . . . and
save the advertising rate cards. They will be invaluable to you
in the future.
While you are waiting for these to arrive, go to the nearest
second-and magazine store and buy a few dozen old astrology
magazines. (The cost? Probably a dime apiece!) Get as many
different magazine titles as possible and be sure to get copies
with MAIL ORDER ADS in them. Issues that are ten or fifteen
years old will be valuable to you, but also try to obtain some
of the more current issues. You are now ready to start . . .
ANALYZING YOUR MARKET
Start a notebook. Pick up one of the magazines which you have
purchased at the second-hand magazine store. Read the first ad
. . . every line of it. Read it slowly and carefully. When you
have finished reading it, see if you can describe what is being
sold in five words or less. If you can't, go back and read it
again. If you can, record your description under one of three
headings in your notebook:
All mailorder offerings come under one of the three headings
listed above. If the ad was for an Aquarian Necklace, it should
be listed under Merchandise. If it was for a treatise on Flying
Saucers, it should be listed under Information. If it was an
offer to chart your horoscope, it should be listed under Service.
After you have analyzed the first ad, go on and study the next
ad. Continue until you have thoroughly analyzed every single ad
in the magazine, including the classifieds. When you are
through, you will have three lists:
- A list of Astrological Merchandise for sale
- A list of Astrological Manuals (Information) for sale
- A list of Astrological services for sale.
As you read, watch for:
UNDEVELOPED IDEAS -- Especially in older issues, you will
find really good ideas that were, for one reason or another,
never developed. Perhaps the originator lost interest or didn't
have the capital to develop his idea. He may have died or he
may have run off with a chorus girl from Las Vegas and forgotten
all about the mail order business. If you can develop the idea,
you have a mail order product.
WHOLESALE SOURCES -- Watch for ads that say "Dealers Wanted"
(in more current issues, of course). Here may be the perfect
source of mailorder products for you.
STUDY THE ARTICLES -- They will show you what the readers are
interested in and they will give you clues as to what the
readers want to buy. Remember the articles are doing two things
-- they are printing articles about subjects which the readers
are already interested. But they are also CREATING NEW
INTERESTS in the minds of the readers. CAN YOU CREATE A PRODUCT
THAT READERS WILL WANT AS A RESULT OF READING THOSE ARTICLES?
You will be amazed at what you will discover when you read
magazines from the viewpoint of a mailorder man!
While researching this manuscript, I analyzed three totally
different magazines from the viewpoint of a mailorder man. I
would like to share some of my findings with you. Don't worry
if the fields are different from those which interest you.
MAILORDER PRINCIPLES ARE THE SAME FOR EVERY MARKET!
The first magazine which I analyzed was ASTROLOGY - YOUR DAILY
HOROSCOPE, December 1975. I would like to begin with the
The first ad is for personalized stationary. Any mailorder man
knows you can sell personalized stationary to any market. But
this dealer took a commonplace product and adapted it to the
Astrological market. Next to the name and address which he
prints on the stationary, he prints the Astrological sun sign
and he calls it ZODIAC STATIONARY.
The next ad is for another very commonplace product -- soap!
You can buy soap in any grocery store. But this soap is
special. It has YOUR ZODIAC SIGN imprinted in it, and it lasts
as long as the soap lasts. Here is another good example of
adapting a commonplace product to the special interests and
desires of your prospective customers.
If you are now selling a product by mail and you would like to
increase you sales, make a list of the kinds of people you would
like to sell it to. (For example, doctors, waitresses, farmers,
gun collectors, etc.) Then go back and ask yourself what you
could do to your product to make it appeal to each individual
group. You'll be amazed at how you can turn commonplace items
into red hot mailorder sellers just by taking the time to put
yourself in your customer's shoes for a while.
The next merchandise offering is for "SEASHELLS FOR VIRGOS AND
SCORPIOS". Brother, this is a fantastic idea. Had this
advertiser offered plain old seashells in an astrology magazine,
his mailbox would probably have been empty. Had he advertised
"Seashells for Astrologers", he MIGHT have gotten a few orders.
But he made his seashells special, exclusive, and very, very
desirable, because they are only for Virgos and Scorpios. He is
catching the attention of one reader out of every six and I
would bet that ad was a mailorder success! Here is an idea
worth remembering. Try to apply it to YOUR product!
Another merchandise offering was a "Hand Bio-Rhythm Computer".
For the past few years, Astrology magazines have been running
article after article on the Bio-Rhythm Theory (i.e. every male
and female person has emotional, intellectual and physical
cycles, which can be predicted in advance). The Astrology
magazines, in effect, have been creating a mailorder market for
this kind of new product. The ad promises, "it reveals your
emotional, intellectual and physical state . . . EVEN BEFORE THE
DAY BEGINS!" This dealer was clever enough to do something
about this new interest. If he had not studied his market, he
could never have discovered the NEED for a Bio-Rhythm computer!
People who read Astrology magazines are very interested in Love,
Money, Success, Power, Miracles, Prayer, etc. One enterprising
dealer has written six "personal guidance" manuals, and runs
full page ads in Astrology magazines, selling them form $2.00 to
$11.00 each! His ads have been running successfully for years.
Back in 1960, when I first became interested in selling by mail,
this dealer was running small ads in mail dealer magazines,
selling mailorder manuals!
Here are some of the other information manuals which dealers
have written and are selling by mail:
- How the Maya Indians Foretold the Future - $15.00
- Powerful Words to Be Recited Daily to End Your Money Worries
- How to Spiritually Heal Your Pets - $5.00
- A Manual on Etheric Astal Projection, written "especially for
the Neophyte" - $3.00
Can you create a WORTHWHILE manual for this market? (I predict
that the first dealer who writes a good manual on Bio-Rhythm
will make a fortune!) If you need ideas for manuals, study the
subjects being offered in the Astrology magazines. Remember --
the readers are interested in those subjects! In the issue of
ASTROLOGY - YOUR PERSONAL HOROSCOPE which I read, the following
information articles appeared. (This is only a partial list.)
"Yearly Forecast for Sagittarians"
"Basic Astronomy for the Astrologers"
"Sybil Leek Analyzes YOUR Dreams"
"How to Make Your Dreams Pay Off"
"How Mercury Inspires Your Creativity"
A study of OLD Astrology magazines will provide you with a
wealth of subjects for New Mailorder Manuals (or folios).
If there is one thing people who read Astrology magazines love,
it is this . . . They LOVE TO BE ANALYZED AND COUNSELLED BY
PROFESSIONALS. Do you have specialized training in the art of
Horoscope Reading? If so, you can sell your services by mail.
Here are some of the headlines form ads offering such services:
- "Let an Expert Discuss YOUR Life!"
- "This Horoscope is about YOU"
- "Now . . . a serious study of YOU!"
- "Now there is a Horoscope written for the TWO OF YOU! . . .
One for you, one for your loved one! It could mean the
difference between a Happy Marriage and a Painful Divorce!"
- "1976 - 1977 - 1978! Is one of these YOUR Year of Destiny?"
(This had been running in Astrology magazines for at least ten
years. Every year, the advertiser simply changes the dates!
Other services being offered in this magazine include:
- Personal Questions Answered by Psychics and Mystics
- Spiritual Readings
- Tarot Readings
- Palm Readings
- Handwriting Analysis
- Questions answered through Astro-Extra Sensory Perception
Are you trained to offer such services through the mail? Or are
you interested in receiving such training? (You will find many
such offers to train you in a newstand magazine called FATE.)
If you answer is Yes . . . this is where you should begin your
The next magazine I analyzed was the November 1975 issue of
FIELD AND STREAM. Since this magazine is aimed at two mailorder
markets, hunters and fishermen, I analyzed only those ads
pertaining to Hunters.
Men who hunt for wild game spend a lot of money on their hobby.
They buy top quality hunting clothes. (Who wants to go hunting
in a CHEAP pair of jungle boots?) They spend a lot of money on
their guns, their hunting knives, and on top quality binoculars.
There are several dozen well-established mail order companies
selling this kind of merchandise to hunters. If you ar planning
to establish a one man mail order operation, you would be well
advised not to try to compete with these companies. Instead,
look for something unique that a hunter can USE, and begin you
mailorder business there.
Here are a few merchandise offerings being made by enterprising
"Deer Hunter's soap" (Bathe in soap scented with the aroma of a
female deer and you will attract a Buck. Only $1.50 per bay!)
Notice how a smart dealer ADAPTED a commonplace item to a
specialized market. Notice too, that he adapted it to ONLY ONE
KIND OF HUNTER. HE DIDN'T OFFER IT TO BEAR HUNTERS, TO COON
HUNTERS, TO QUAIL HUNTERS, OR TO GAME HUNTERS IN GENERAL. He
offered it to deer-hunters! If you are a deer-hunter, you would
notice that ad!"
"Curtain rods for HUNTING Vans - $3.95 a pair." (Sure, you can
buy curtain rods in any dime store, but not curtain rods for
HUNTING VANS! Another excellent example of taking a commonplace
item, adapting it to a specialized market, and creating a new
- Gun cleaning cloths (10 for a dollar)
- Brass Nameplates for HUNTING DOGS (not for just any old dog!)
- ID Tags for Your Hunting Dogs
- Handwarmers and Bodywarmers (Boy, could you use these when
you get lost in the snow!)
- There was a small classified ad offering "Fish and Game
Rubber Stamps." I hope this dealer got a lot of orders, but if
he didn't, I suspect it was because his offer was too general.
First of all, it would have sold better with an illustrated
display ad. But even better . . . let us go back to the Virgo
and Scorpio concept above. How about rubber stamps for Coon
Hunters? Or for Pheasant Hunters? Or rubber stamps for
Taxidermists? You will always get more orders if you direct
your ad to specific people.
Frankly, I was amazed at the amount of Information Folios being
sold to Hunters. Here are some examples:
"How to Build Your Own Gun Cabinet"
"Duck Calling Instructions" (30 minutes on tape!) A lot of
information, in every field, is now being put on cassette tape
and sold by mail. If you would rather talk than write, this
could be an aspect of mailorder selling for you to consider.
"Chart showing Life-size Tracks of 38 Animals in the Adirondack
Mountains" (Incidently not all information is written. A lot
of people buy plans, diagrams, etc. To digress, recently a
dealer advertised plans to build your own flying saucer
"How to Build Box Traps - $1.00"
"My Secret on Coon Trapping, after 50 years. Guaranteed, $1.00"
"Mount fish for Fun and Profit - Easy instructions - $1.00"
"Tan Your Own Hides - Hair on or off - Complete, easy to follow
instructions and Formulas - $1.00"
"Build (meat, fish, sausage) smoker! Inexpensive, protable..
.. easy plans, $1.00"
"Wild Game and Fish Recipes - Deer, Bear, Rabbit, Trout, Salmon
and dozens more - $1.00"
Can you write an information manual for hunters? Can you tell
him how to shoot ducks? Or how to hunt buffalo? . . . Or what
to do for snake bites? . . . Or how to sign up for a Big Game
Safari in the wilds of Africa? If you can, write a good manual
(or put it on tape!) and sell it by mail!
Unlike the readers of Astrology magazines, Game Hunters don't
give a damn about being analyzed or counselled! But if you can
teach his hunting dog how to chase a bear up a tree, then he
will probably pay you for your services. Can you repair his
gun? Or can you stuff and mount his catches? If so, you can
build a mailorder business offering such services.
The final publication analyzed was the WRITER'S DIGEST of
If you are interested in the craft of writing (or if you have
done well in creative writing classes) you might decide to build
a mail order business catering to the needs of hundreds of
thousands of persons who dream of becoming professional writers.
here are some of the merchandise offerings being made to
- "Copyright and Related Laws for Writers"
- "Grants and Aids to Individuals in the Arts - 1500 Sources."
(What writer isn't looking for a grant?)
- "I receive checks every week for features, fillers, news.
- "Gagwriters Guide"
- "Secret Way to Make Money Writing - $2.00"
- "Make Money Writing Fillers! Up-to-Date Filler Directory."
- "International Directory of Little Magazines and Small
If you can produce an information manual showing writers how to
write better, or how to sell their manuscripts, then write it
and sell it by mail. You will have CREATED a new mailorder
product! (To get ideas for subjects of interest to writers,
study the articles in such publications as the Writers Digest,
The Writer, Saturday Review, etc.)
WRITERS -- (SERVICE)
Some of the largest mailorder business in the world sell
correspondence courses teaching people how to write for a
living. There are also a dozen or more large printing companies
(called "Vanity Publishers" in the trade) whose sole business is
printing books for authors, whose works have been rejected by
the regular publishing houses.
If you are a serious literary person, with a gift for writing,
you could very possibly establish a business offering your
services to writers. Here are some of the services which were
being offered in the November 1975 issue of Writer's Digest:
- Literary Counseling
- Literary Criticism
- Literary Editing
- Short Story Evaluation
- Manuscript Analysis
- Article Evaluation (No Fiction)
- Ghost Writing
- Newspaper and Magazine Reference Service (Authors often need
such a service.)
- Manuscript Typing
Are you qualified to offer any of these services by mail? If
you are, you have found a service to sell by mail! If you are
not now qualified, why not acquire professional training . . .
and then offer your services by mail?
I realize that I have just touched the surface of three
different mail order markets. There are hundreds of other mail
order markets for you to explore! Analyze yourself and then
select the market that is best for you.
Study your market thoroughly . . . AND NEVER STOP STUDYING IT.
Most successful mailorder people read dozens of magazines every
month. They KNOW what their customers are thinking about, what
they need, and what they will buy.
Successful mailorder people are interested in the NEEDS and
WANTS of their customers FIRST. They understand that if they
concentrate on those, profits will flow naturally. Those who
think only of profits soon pass by the wayside.
In the beginning of this manual, I asked you to write to every
magazine in your chosen field. Subscribe to as many as possible.
When you have created your first product, then start
advertising in those magazines (which is why I said to keep
their rate cards.) Never run an ad unless you can run it in
three consecutive issues. Then CONTINUE running it for as long
as it continues to produce new customers for you. Slowly add
new (but related) items to your line. Whenever possible, expand
your business by inserting your ads in new publications.
Remember these simple guidelines:
- DON'T COPY ANYONE ELSE! You are a unique individual.
Express your own individuality in your Mail Order business.
- CREATE SOMETHING NEW AND EXCITING!
- CREATE SOMETHING USEFUL AND WORTHWHILE!
- CREATE SOMETHING YOU YOURSELF WOULD WANT TO BUY!
Copyright by DeAnna Spencer 2004This article may be reproduced and redistributed freely on the Internet as long as the resource box remains intact.
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