Direct Mail and Catalogs

Direct mail and catalogs are gaining enormous popularity. L.L. Bean, Land's End, and Eddie Bauer represent virtually identical products being marketed nationally. Firms like these are masters of database marketing. If you even hope to get started in this arena, our advice is to start very small and narrow your niche to a needlepoint.

Whether you use direct mail promotions or develop your own catalog, the demographics of your mailing list (database) is the key to success.

There are other hazards of direct mail, beyond getting the right list and creating a sharp, concise, attractive print piece. You have to maintain a flawless 800-number service with customer-centered operators who are your first line of contact with your customers. Then you must make sure your delivery services are prompt, your warehouse well-stocked, your order pickers mistake-free, and your merchandise return policies correct. On top of that, you must have truly superlative inventory management.

To start with, you may want to consider using a fulfillment house. These companies can take the calls, handle the customer credit process, and even ship the product if you wish. The fee is stiff but might just be worth it until you build a base.