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Specialty Mail Order

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  Specialty Mail Order business. Let customers buy obscure items from your catalog.

  Business Overview

  Specialty mail order catalogs are one of the hottest businesses going these days. With so many two-income and single-parent families around, nobody has much time to shop. And people today are more interested in spending their scant leisure hours on quality time at home with family and friends than on exhausting expeditions to the mall. So catalogs are the obvious alternative.
  If you've got a flair for marketing and advertising, an eye for product and design, and shopping in your blood, then specialty catalogs could be the business for you. The key to success is the word 'specialty' -- you'll need to choose a niche market, one that you know well and that has a built-in customer.
  The advantages to this business are that you can start part time if you like, it's creative and often challenging, and it gives you a wonderful opportunity to shop (you've got to purchase products for the catalog).
  You should have a background and experience in whatever specialty you decide to sell. The more you know about your products and the people who'll buy them, the better you'll do.
  You should also have a well-developed sense of marketing and advertising, because that's how you'll get your customers; and last but definitely not least, you need to be a savvy number-cruncher -- mail order is at least 50 percent about calculating how many products you'll need to sell at what retail prices, advertising and mailing costs to make a profit.

  The Market

  Your customers will be anybody who's interested in (and can afford) your products. You'll reach them through your catalog, which can be simple and fairly inexpensive as you start out. It's entirely possible to grow a fancy, 28-or-more-page full-color catalog from a one-page black-and-white flier, provided that you understand your market, employ clever techniques and sell the right products at the right price.
  To effectively mail your catalog (or brochure or flier), you need mailing lists of people who have a proven interest in your specialty. A good list broker can help you choose the right lists, or if you've got enough contacts of your own, you can develop your own list. You can also advertise in magazines that cater to your niche market, sell to the people who answer your ad and then develop a mailing list from those customers.

  Needed Equipment

  You'll need a computer with a laser printer, a fax machine, the usual office software, a good desktop-publishing program and electronic data terminal software so you can process credit cards. A postage meter and scale is a must, and you'll need a phone because -- despite the mail-order moniker -- most people like to order by phone. As your business grows, you'll need to contract with a call center to handle the volume for you, but for starters you can field calls yourself.
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