House Calls

First-Class Lists

Coming up with a viable mailing list is one of the keys to success in the mail order industry, and the health-care segment is no different. Whether you sell products to individuals, doctors or health-care facilities, your ability to find customers and get direct-mail pieces into their hands can make or break your business.

Finding a "gatekeeper" could increase your customer base dramatically. For instance, if you sell dental hygiene products, you may want to team up with dentists to market your products. You supply dentists with brochures, and they recommend your product to patients.

That's one of the ways Crist has helped boost sales at Wholeaf Aloe Distributors to an estimated $400,000 in 1997. "Lots of doctors order products from us for their patients," says Crist, who also wholesales his aloe vera products to health-food stores.

Crist is just one of thousands of entrepreneurs in this burgeoning field. And while you might think they are doing all they can to ward off competition, some business owners--like Peter Rothschild of Featherspring International in Seattle--are welcoming the increased competition.

Rothschild's company, started in 1972, sold more than $5 million worth of orthotics, insoles and knee braces last year. His company adds some 200,000 names to its mailing list each year, in part because the growing 55-plus market makes up the bulk of the company's customers. Rothschild, 50, sees newcomers to this market as potential buyers for his mailing list. "Since we're a small niche, we can provide names to other companies," he says.

Just as Rothschild is optimistic about the industry's future, the diagnosis for entrepreneurs entering the field looks good. In fact, a mail order health-care business may be just what the doctor ordered.

Contact Sources

Direct Marketing Association Inc., (612) 788-1673, e-mail:,

Express-Med Inc., 3592 Corporate Dr., Columbus, OH 43231, (614) 895-5211

Featherspring International, (206) 545-8585,

National Mail Order Association, (612) 788-1673,

Wholeaf Aloe Distributors, P.O. Box 221, St. John, IN 46373, (800) 599-2652

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: House Calls.

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