Direct Mail and Mail Order Techniques 01: Classified Ads and Mailing List

John T Jones, Ph.D.

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This is the first in a series on Direct Mail and Mail Order.

In mail order, the potential customer is first contacted by classified or print ads to gain an inquiry. The prospective customer is then mailed a direct mail package to obtain the order.

In direct mail, the potential customer is mailed the direct mail package cold soliciting his or her order.

Classified Ads

Mail Order seems simple. You buy a cheap ad in a national publication and wait for the enquiries and orders to come in.

Some years ago a national magazine solicited me and convinced me that an ad in their new classified section would surely bring me orders.

I thought, What the heck. It looks like a good deal. If I get one order out of 100,000 readers I’ll more than break even.

I didn’t get one order out of a million readers!

Forget statistics in mail order.

On placing my ad in that publication I broke the major rule of Mail Order and Direct Mail: Always Target Your Market.

I also broke a secondary rule: Never Buy An Ad In A New Publication Or New Classified Section.

I also broke another rule: Never Purchase An Ad Until You Have Evaluated The Publication .

The secret is to find publications that have readers that would have an interest in your offer.

Don’t place an ad for decorative lawn furniture from India in Field and Stream. Find a home and garden publication that is currently running such ads.

Watch each magazine for several months before you buy ads to make sure the ads like yours are repeated which indicates that the ads are working.

Small magazines that specialize are good prospects for your ads.

So that is the secret: Make Sure You Are Hitting Your Market.

Get sample issues of the magazines you are interested in by requesting them from the magazine. Ask for a rate card. A classified ad that draws inquiries can be followed by a print ad that asks for an order. Learn as you go. Maybe you will eventually buy a half- or full-page ad.

Make sure you bargain with the magazine. Ask for a cost break. Also ask them to run a small side-bar or other article or press release to increase your sales from your print ads.

Mailing Lists

Your mailing list can come from your classified or print ads. Your best list is your customer list. Repeat sales are the grit of mail order, The Mother Load. So keep your list up to date and keep mailing follow-up offers.

If you purchase the use of a mailing list, then make sure it targets your potential customers.

Some lists are full of non-buyers. These curious people answer every ad in site and get on many different lists. They never buy a darned thing.

Purchase the use of a list that has people who are definitely interested in your products. Make sure the list is of buyers and not window shoppers.

Most direct mail operators recommend that you find a list broker in your area that has experience and broad list resources. Try the Yellow Pages!

John T. Jones, Ph. D. (, a retired VP of R&D for Lenox China, is author of detective & western novels, nonfiction (business, scientific, engineering, humor), poetry, etc. Former editor of Ceramic Industry Magazine. He is Executive Representative of IWS sellers of Tyler Hicks wealth-success books and kits. He also sells TopFlight flagpoles. He calls himself “Taylor Jones, the hack writer. "

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