Mail Order Advertising
( Originally Published 1902 )
A General Talk on Mail Order Advertising.
Just at present most retailers are planning how to capture the mail order business within easy reach, and a few more ambitious than the rest are qonsidering the feasibility of covering a good slice of the country with their mail order literature.
The mail order territory of this continent may be divided into three parts, viz.: the Eastern, Northern and Southern States, which are well supplied through the mail order departments of big houses in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and a few other large cities; the great middle West, of which Chicago mail order departments capture the lion's share of the business, and that section west of the Rockies which is catered to by a few big houses in Denver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Portland.
It would be folly for the average house to attempt to gather business from more than its State and the States adjoining it. An Omaha house bidding for mail order business should attempt to cover only Nebraska, the northern part of Kansas, the eastern part of Colorado, the Dakotas, and such portions of adjoining States which would not come under the scope of equally large or larger concerns in Kansas City, Denver, St. Louis and Chicago. The nearness of these other bases of supplies to possible customers, with the certainty that qualities and prices are as equally attractive, would operate against the Omaha house.
That there is a profitable and rapidly growing field in this direction shrewd advertisers readily agree. There are too many people living in small towns and cities and on farms who desire the same goods their city cousins get to allow this branch of business to be dismissed lightly.
Every well-regulated retail establishment should have some sort of a mail order department attached, and the more attention given this branch the greater chance there is for its development.
The requisites for a mail order department briefly summarized are :
1. A select list of fresh names.
2. Intelligent mail order employees.
3. Plenty of goods to fill all orders.
4. A good head to manage the department.
With these requisites the general rules to follow are:
1. Fill all orders promptly.
2. Fill all orders carefully.
3. Answer all correspondence comprehensively and care-fully.
4. Send out catalogues of stocks at least twice a year—in early spring and fall.
5. Keep pounding away with small advertising bullets such as circulars, booklets, etc.
6. Mention your mail order department frequently in your ads.
7. Exchange goods, refund money and give your mail order customers the same privileges as your over-the-counter-customers.
8. Keep right at it—systematically persistent.
Then in the course of time, if you have any sort of a retail business and if you follow the above rules, you'll wake up some fine morning and discover you have a good-sized mail order trade.
Supposing you are a retailer and wish to add a mail order department to your store. Of course there was a sort of mail order department in connection with your business almost as soon as the business was started. Stray letters would wander in, perhaps half a dozen a day, from such of your customers as were unable to attend in person, but who wished to secure some of your offerings. These letters were turned over to a young lady or a young man who filled the orders in the course of a couple of days and then the letters were filed away. More letters came until Mr. Retailer found it necessary to have some bright, young person to give the proper attention to these letters, and of its own accord, without any advertising or pushing, the mail order department grew. This is how most mail order departments grow, until Mr. Retailer thinks that as long as there is some business outside his city which comes by mail without effort on his part, much more might be induced to come by a little pushing.
Let us suppose you are in that pleasant state of mind, dreaming of mercantile victories yet to be achieved through your new, up-to-date mail order department.
At the outset have a couple or more cuts made. These should be about half or three-quarters column wide, showing a postman, a mail bag, a lot of letters or something like that suggestive of Uncle Sam's postal service.
Let each cut have something like this inscribed on it: "Z et us fill your mail orders. " " Why not do your shopping by mail?" "All mail orders carefully attended to," etc.
Run this cut in your regular newspaper ad three or four times a week. With the cut say something like this
" Promptness and care in filling mail orders is a hobby with us. Trained mail order clerks carry out your wishes intelligently and satifactorily. Distance now is no barrier to successful shopping."
You'll soon find that this sort of thing will increase your volume of orders wonderfully. In the meantime you should secure a choice list of names, which in many respects is the most difficult part of the performance with a mail order manager.
Your local paper may allow you the use of its subscription list in a pinch. This list is a good one, but it is possible to get a better one. Of course the best list is gathered from the letters that the daily business brings.
A catalogue issued twice a year is very necessary. The spring and summer catalogue should be ready in March or April at the farthest, the fall and winter catalogue in September or October. With every catalogue should be attached a mail order blank. If you cannot afford a catalogue have a booklet, if you cannot afford the booklet get out a circular of information, but whether it is a catalogue, circular or booklet always send a mail order blank with it.
I have found it a good plan to get out a lot of small leaflets, each leaflet speaking of a certain article. Thus, if I wished to speak of a drive in ladies' gloves, I would have an illustration of the glove, its description and price, and possibly a short paragraph at the bottom of the glove story speaking of mail order shopping in general. Half a dozen such leaflets, speaking of half a dozen different articles, can be well dropped into every mail order package that goes out of the mail order department.
The position filled by the mail order employee requires a higher degree of ability than that possessed by the average clerk, and for this reason mail order assistants command very fair salaries.
A young lady filling orders must be quick and accurate in deciphering obscure and apparently indecipherable handwriting; she must disentangle from a skein of tangled expressions the customer's desire; she must have enough mother wit to supply the right sort of ribbon or the proper caper in ruchings when these details are lacking in the letter, and while she must not intrude upon the valuable time of the clerk behind the counter when he is busy with a customer, yet she must not delay the order.
When a retailer finds himself rich enough to do a little magazine splurging, he will find that the highest priced and largest circulation magazines are the best mediums. If he wants to demonstrate this, let him compare the cost of reaching a thousand people with an inch ad in a great publication like The Ladies' Home Journal or The Youth's Companion with the cost of reaching the same number through a less circulation paper and with apparently cheaper advertising rates.