Pushing The Envelope

The Importance of Mailing Lists

Over the years, Blair has amassed a mailing list of more than 35,000 people who've requested his catalog. The catalog is updated twice each year, and Blair mails about 6,000 copies per month.

Building and maintaining an effective mailing list is the key to success in a mail order business. Fliers and classified advertisements in local newspapers and trade magazines are great ways to advertise your products to the public--and tremendous ways to collect names for a mailing list. "For each person that buys or shows interest in your product, you capture their name, address and telephone number," Schulte says. This information, once entered into your company database, becomes the foundation for your mailing list.

If you don't have the time or resources to compile addresses one by one, there are other low-cost methods to get your catalog business rolling. One way to start your company, according to Katie Muldoon, president of Muldoon and Baer Inc., a catalog consultancy firm in Sugarloaf Key, Florida, is by renting a mailing list. Another way is to create an advertising and publicity campaign to promote your catalog. Such a campaign might include taking out ads in a publication related to your product, collecting the names of those who respond to your ad and using this list of names as the basis of your first mailing list. While the initial cash investment is generally higher for the mailing list route than it is for the advertising and publicity campaign route, the former approach is generally a faster way to find customers.

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This article was originally published in the October 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Pushing The Envelope.

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