Mail order - buying by post - has experienced rapid growth
over the past few decades, particularly in the United
States, and to a lesser degree in virtually all other parts
of the world. Various titles are applied to mail order,
including direct response, direct marketing, direct
To add to the confusion, the term ‘mail order’ is
frequently applied purely to products sold through
advertisements in newspapers and magazines. Others use the
term to include leaflet drops, magazine inserts, selling
through agents and direct mail. The newcomer need not
concern himself with titles or descriptions at this stage.
All will shortly become clear.
Mail order is a business where customer and supplier rarely
meet face-to-face, and where all transactions are carried
out through the post, usually from advertisements placed by
the mail order operator or from letters posted as part of a
direct mail campaign.
Direct mail, though having close similarities to mail order
and normally operating alongside, is the process of sending
letters - mailshots - to people who are or could be
customers for your business. The term ‘mail order business’
is a misnomer. In fact, mail order is not a ‘business’ at
all in the real sense of the word but rather a method of
doing business, one which can apply to almost every other
kind of business to a greater or lesser extent.
Some firms operate entirely by mail, selling information
products, for example, alongside thousands of common and
more unusual products, the likes of collectors’ plates,
investment opportunities, gimmicks and gadgets, office
supplies, clothing and jewellery, and much, much more.
Increasingly, personal services are promoted by mail, such
as will-writing and curriculum vitae preparation,
personalised books, money-lending and financial advisory
services. Conversely, for some firms mail order represents
just a tiny segment of the overall marketing strategy. So,
the high-class designer clothing salon in London’s Bond
Street might also market through catalogues to new and
established customers, in the same way firms like
Littlewoods and Grattan have been doing for many years.
The firm of solicitors in a small remote village might
target countless customers for its will-writing service and
the artist specialising in animal portraits might solicit
customers via leading pet lovers’ magazines or from
advertisements on noticeboards in veterinary surgeries all
over the country. For more remote clients the artist might
work from photographs of the pet while those closer to home
are painted from life.
Main Features of Mail Order
• All transactions are carried out by mail or telephone and
buyer and seller rarely meet face-to face.
• Payment usually passes before the order is dispatched.
• The customer is asked to buy products without seeing or
• The effectiveness of a mail order campaign can be
accurately measured and future profits predicted with
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Worlds Greatest Business - Direct Mail & Mail Order Pt3
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3 January 2006
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