There are a number of difficulties a beginning entrepreneur may
encounter that can "torpedo" his business almost before he knows
it. But the wise mail order dealer can sidestep some of the
pitfalls of operating his own business by recognizing and
avoiding the following common mistakes.
1. Figuring that the one "How-To" book, booklet, or report that
you read about starting a mail order business told you
everything you need to know. You never really stop learning
about this business as long as you're in it, and you need to
continually seek out new information and advice from those more
experienced than you.
2. Planning your entire business around only one product or
service. It is best to have several different items to promote;
give your customers a choice. And always have something to
follow-up an order or inquiry with. It costs too much to obtain
the names and addresses of potential customers to simply try to
sell them one item, one time.
3. Spending too much of your advertising money on only one or
two untested ads in only one or two untested publications.
Start smart... test your ads (2 to 3 concurrent insertions) in a
variety of publications that are likely candidates for the
product or service you are selling. This means studying many
different magazines, newspapers, adsheets, and so on to
determine where your ad will best fit in and has the best chance
of being seen by readers who will be interested in what you are
4. Believing that your advertising only 3 or 4 times will be
enough to establish your business and earn your fortune. There
is one theory that states that people need to see your ad a
minimum of 3 times before it makes an impression on them.
Another theory states they must see it 7 times!
5. Failing to adequately "key" your ads so you know which ads
in which publications are pulling inquiries or orders for you.
Without this knowledge, you'll continue to throw your money away
by advertising in totally unsuitable and unresponsive
6. Trying to sell a $10 or more item in a small space or
classified ad. Not enough information comes across in a small
advertisement; people won't part with this kind of money on the
basis of your 40 to 50 words. It is best to ask for inquiries
and offer free information. Once you have the customer's name
and address, use your full size circulars, brochures, and sales
letters to convince your customer of the benefits you are
7. Not keeping adequate records on the customers who do respond
to your ads. These people have demonstrated their interest and
faith in your company and your product. If they have bought
from you once, they may very well buy from you again. Keep
track of their names, addresses, date of sale or inquiry, what
ad(s) they responded to, item(s) bought from you and amount
paid, and then mail your promotional pieces to them
periodically. Your customer list can be one of your most
valuable business tools.
8. Not using proper postage on your mailing pieces. You should
weigh everything you're mailing first class (an inexpensive
postage scale cost about $6.00), and then affix the correct
stamps. Most people overestimate how heavy their mailing piece
is and put two first class stamps on an envelope that only
weights one ounce. Wasteful habits at such a basic level in
mail order can be the start of financial ruin.
9. Thinking that how your mailing piece looks doesn't matter,
it's the content that counts. The content of any circular,
program, report, booklet, etc., is of course important, but a
poorly laid-out job, badly copied piece which is barely readable
does a poor sales job, no matter what it says. The "look" you
are presenting matters more than you may realize.
10. Believing that once you have your customer's money, you have
done your job. Always respond quickly. Mail out the order or
requested information within 48 hours. Take care of any
problems or complaints immediately; refund their money if they
are dissatisfied with their purchase. Always give your
customer more than he expects, and he'll want to do business
with you again in the future.