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Promoting a Mail Order Business

Q:I've been posting ads in the "for sale" and "market" newsgroups whenever I can. During my first year of business (in 1996), I had four sales which totaled something like $40.00 . My expenses were in the hundreds (I think around a thousand $) . I used to send out e-mail to every address that I could find, but I later learned that this is a bad thing to do. What really bothers me with this is that it seems like everyone else can fill my e-mail with their ads, but I'm not allowed to send mine out! I need some fresh ideas! Besides purchasing advertisements in the newspapers, what else could I look in to? I recently got a second phone line (specifically for my FAX), and I'm supposed to be getting a listing in the "Yellow Pages", whenever the next one comes out. I think that this is a nice start. Any suggestions?

A:First of all, Juno sends out lots of junk UCE, so many of the ISPs have blocked this domain from sending into their systems. I see where Juno is taking a more active stance regarding users that send out UCE, so sending out junk e-mails will result in problems with your domain, and possible cancellation. AOL will cancel your account if you do this. But the bottom line is that you are not using the media that will showcase what you can do for a user best. If you are running a printing and scanning business, and are using the Net as your main advertisement, you may be missing the boat. Do the people that you want to sell to use the net to buy this type of service? Probably not. Why? They want to see your operations, product, and what you can do for them. I buy printing, but I would not buy printing for my business until I can see what type of work you do. If you do printing as a business, why not sign yourself up as a client, and print out a dynamic and wonderful flyer that you can send to people, post in your library, hand out to people in your contacts (trade associations etc.,) and use to generate publicity. Use every available means to get to know people and ask them what they think. And, this is a cheap help, go to the smal. business administration and sign up for a small business workshop. They teach you how to do low cost marketing, strategic planning, and buisness setups so that you will be successful. You may even qualify for a small grant to set up some advertising. finally, if you live in a area that has a small local newspaper, do a display ad in that newspaper. (Note that I mean small newspaper, not something big like the Dallas Morning News.) This is pretty cheap, and will be read by your local audience who is more likely to buy from a local vendor. Try reading Guerrillas Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson. It's a wealth of ideas for low cost/ no cost marketing and is probably available at your library. I'm confused; if your business is printing and scanning what does it have to do with mail order? I agree with the previous post, ads on the Net (especially spam) probably won't get you far. I've been in direct mail for about 12 years and would be glad to help if you can provide some specifics. No surprise there. In fact, you're lucky you got as many as four sales from these groups. In my experience the only thing that ads in "forsale" or "market" newsgroups generate is e-mail from other people trying to sell me something. Write and submit Press Releases to newspapers and magazines that your target market reads. Write Articles about your specialty and submit them to those same publications Give FREE workshops to introduce your services and become known in the marketplace Post informational articles in the libraries and forums offered by the commercial online services. Participate in newsgroups that are relevant to the types of services you offer. Although blatant advertising isn't allowed in newsgroups, you'll be amazed at the number of people you'll come in contact with who can offer suggestions to help you grow your business. I find newsgroups are a great source of encouragement and they offer me a way to communicate with likeminded individuals who face the same challenges I face in my busines.

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