Those advertising works are no secret. You see it every day, hear it everywhere. It convinces you — as it does everyone else — to buy. Millions of dollars are invested by large corporations to develop ad campaigns that will persuade consumers to purchase a given product. Can the same basic selling techniques be applied to mail order selling? You bet they can!

Mail order advertising is conducted in two forms: classified and display ads. We will examine both styles of advertising in this report. We’ll look at how these ads are composed, how effectively they pull in orders, and how you can use them to build your own mail-order business. You can learn the inside secrets of successful mail-order advertising. And those secrets can turn your business into a winner!

Classified Ads – From Pennies To Prosperity

Classified ads are, dollar-for-dollar, the best, most responsive ad medium. They are inexpensive to run, sometimes costing only pennies a word. In even the most prominent circulation magazines, classified ads cost just pennies per contact.

Most beginners believe that classified ads are easy to write…just 10 to 30 words. They think it can’t be difficult just because everyone’s doing it! After all, look at the size of those classified sections in the opportunity magazines! But, this is only a superficial knowledge of classifieds. It takes more to produce a profitable classified ad than just knowing what your product is.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, most advertisers approach their planning wrong. Their products often represent a good buy but are poorly promoted. They often feel they can place an inexpensive classified ad worded any which way and hope to pull in sales. However, only ads that produce profit are good buys. Any ad that loses money was too expensive, no matter how cheap.

How do you determine which ads are a bargain? Generally speaking, an ad that is a financial bargain may initially cost more since it will appear in a large-circulation magazine. Look at the publications with the largest circulation. Here, the cost per 1,000 readers is far lower than for magazines with a lower price per word but far lower circulation. Next, look through the magazines with the most prominent classified sections. Believe it or not, these sections are generally the best advertising place. Don’t think that your ad will be lost in the crowd. A good ad will pull in orders no matter what location it has.

Successful classified advertisers test constantly. They advertise where the results are best, sometimes inserting three to five ads in the same publications under different classified sections. Take advantage of their experience. Advertise in several sections as they do and see if your properly worded ad doesn’t pull for you.

Having pre-screened your ad, you are now set to Test! Test! Test! Place a similar ad in several publications that will appear the same month. Measure the total response from each ad by keying the reaction (explained below). Then, divide the cost of each ad by the number of responses received within 60 days after release. This gives you the cost per response (C/R). The ad with the lowest C/R is obviously the best buy (although there is still the conversion factor to consider). 

Keying classified ads is simply a matter of including some coded information in the return address listed in the ad. When a reader writes to you, the way, the address on the envelope is written usually tells you which ad produced the response. It helps you track which of your ads are convincing readers to write for further details and which are not. By keying your ads, you can determine how successful a particular ad is if it should be changed, and in which magazines or papers your ads work the best. Here are a few examples of ads that have been keyed:

A different letter after the box number can key an ad for you.


Box 123-A

Anytown, USA 12345


Using different addresses (perhaps your home rather than your PO Box number) is a good key.


114 Main St.

Anytown, USA 12345


A different spelling of the company name in each ad will key it for you.

Cash Builder

Box 123

Anytown, USA 12345


In addition to finding the best publication, you must test for the best possible ad. Do this by putting two ads in the same publication in the same month and see which one out pulls the other. Make sure your key each differently. To ensure that position in the publication didn’t affect your results, you can reverse the order of the ads the next month and see if the ad that performed better during the first test still out pulls the other.

Your testing could go on and on. But it shouldn’t. Find a good ad, get it into some good publications, and start pulling responses. Testing alone will never make you wealthy, and it’s following through to make the sale that counts.

This brings us to the question of the offer. Should you sell directly from a classified ad? Or, should you whet the reader’s appetite and offer additional free details?

The second approach is far and away the most profitable This is especially true since you will find it almost impossible to sell anything for more than $3 directly from a classified ad. And, $3 books are not big profit-makers by themselves. However, if you mentally tease the readers into writing for more details, not only will you have the name of a likely prospect to whom you can make offers over and over again, but you’ll have a reader who is predisposed to buy.

Results show that the average conversion rate for classifieds — transforming an inquirer who wrote for free details into a customer who bought what you’re selling — is approximately 5%. That means an ad that produces 100 inquiries will probably result in 5 sales from the first mailing. The mailing includes sending the free details to the inquirer — usually a sales letter, sales circular or flyer, an order coupon or reply card, and a reply envelope. The more your product costs, the more elaborate your sales package should be.

But, remember, you can make additional mailings to the same prospect. Each successive mailing will produce about 50% to 75% of the response from the first one. You should make at least three mailings to your original inquirers, spaced several weeks apart. This could amount to a total conversion of 10% or more! Once the response has slowed, you can offer a follow-up item and/or rent the list to other advertisers, gaining even more profit.

Success with classified ads, once achieved, can quickly build upon itself. Let’s say that you have only $100 for your first ad campaign. With $40, you could buy a couple of small classifieds. That leaves $60 to produce copies of your sales literature and pay postage for outgoing details to inquirers. How might your progress look? Well, take a look at this. The results may astonish you!


Ad Number Total Investment ($) Gross Return ($)
1 100 300
2 300 900
3 900 2,700
4 2,700 8,100
5 8,100 24,300
6 24,300 72,900
7 72,900 2,187,000

Depending on several variables, things can grow quite rapidly. You will soon discover that you have run out of good advertising sources. That’s because you’ll already have an ad in every publication worth using. Now what?

Start over again. Insert a second ad in the big circulation magazine. You can even insert a third and fourth ad in the big ones. True, these other ads will not double your response rate. But, they will increase the total number of inquirers and give you more people to reach with your advertising message.

How long can a classified ad last? Some ads have been appearing unchanged for many years. Old subscribers fade away, and new ones subscribe. And, inquiries keep pouring in. This phenomenon offers an effective research tool. By comparing new and old issues of the same publication, you can determine who has been advertising consistently over the years. The steady advertisers obviously have been making money with successful ads. 

Note how the successful sellers write their ads and what they’re selling. In nearly every case, you’ll find that they are offering books or information of some kind. Study their style. Learn to match the concise, telegraphic way they convince readers to respond in as few words as possible. Master their techniques, and you will master the art of classified advertising.

Display Ad Book Selling – Standing Out Among The Crowd

The techniques for using large display ads are similar to those for classifieds. Display ads can significantly increase the number of responses you receive. However, display ads also cost substantially more than classified. You must test display advertising carefully to determine if the response rate justifies the added expense. In most cases, if you have a well-designed ad, it will.

A major difference is that display ads can be designed to make sales directly without mailing follow-up literature. Because this is true, ad size is significant, and a very small ad can never hope to sell costly books. And a massive ad for selling inexpensive books represents advertising overkill. Testing ad size versus sales volume can help you determine the most effective ad for promoting a book.

To learn the fine points of display advertising, virtually every magazine is your textbook. Study all of the ads with care. If you hope to make sales directly from your ad, look at the current direct response ads. These ads advertise a product or service and make a sale directly from the ad.

Learn the various steps taken by each successful ad to attract attention. Notice the headline and subheadings. Did they use an accompanying photograph or illustration? What benefit does the ad promise the prospect? How is the ad copy written? Does the ad create desire in the last half of the body copy through tantalizing, irresistible benefits? Does the entire ad stimulate immediate action to order at once in the final sentences? Does the order coupon make it easy to order? Does the ad offer a toll-free telephone number for ordering?

You’ll be able to ask yourself these same questions about each display ad that appears throughout any publication. Dissect them. Learn each of their elements and its specific function. Study some of the various publications on advertising composition and copywriting. Soon you will be able to begin writing your own successful ads just by copying the successful techniques of professional ad writers.

Direct Mail Book Selling Secrets

Some masters of mail-order bookselling are convinced that the display and classified ad approaches are the ultimate media for reaching customers. Still, others rely almost entirely on direct mail to make massive book sales. A few suggest a combination of the two. However, nearly every seasoned advertiser agrees that those who follow the rules of direct mail marketing with care will guarantee their success — if they stick with it.

While super-expensive display ads can create a financial crisis before an ad campaign gets started, direct mail can be controlled, tested, and rolled out under almost perfect conditions. And, because a portion of the cost of the advertising (the inserting, addressing, sealing, and affixing of postage) can be handled by the individual seller during the testing stage, the cost can be kept to a minimum until the “winning combination” is found.

Just as magazines are the textbook for effective display advertising, your mailbox is the textbook for learning to create effective direct mail (DM) packages. Disregard the expensive trick mailings with pop-up displays, die-cut, punch-out, slick, four-color brochures, and letters that talk back to you. Concentrate on the standard packages you can afford to use yourself. These usually contain a sales letter, brochure or sales flyer, order card, and return envelope. While everything but a brochure or letter is optional, the more of these standard elements present, the more believable your package will be to the person who receives it.

Brochures or sales circulars are relatively easy to obtain. Many wholesale book dealers offer them at very reasonable prices to their retail dealers. Many will provide free camera-ready copies of circulars that their dealers can imprint with their names and addresses. The dealer only has the cost of producing the documents, preferably on an inexpensive, high-quality photocopier.

Sales letters need to be personal. You’ll want to write your own — with some help from the letters you’ve studied from other advertisers. Highlight the points made in the brochure, testify from personal experience, and renew the encouragement to act at once in order.

Because letters should look like letters, have them printed on white paper in a typewriter-style type or font. For computer users, this style is the standard font called Courier. If you compose your letter on a typewriter, ensure you have a courier-style paintball or printwheel. Also, forget about fancy papers and colored inks for sales letters. The only portion of the letter that testing has shown helps boost response when colored is the signature…which should be blue if possible. Initial test quantities of letters can be signed by hand in blue ink, making them more personal.

A well-written sales letter is a must for your direct mail package. The simple letter seems closer to a source of inside information, which is personal. While the ad circular helps reinforce the sale, the letter personally calls upon the prospect to make a decision. It should always include a postscript (PS) at the end that either reinforces the call to act now, restates the guarantee, or offers a bonus for ordering immediately.

The outer envelope can be imprinted by hand with a good rubber stamp. At a future date, you will want to have your envelopes printed with your return address and an eye-catching sales teaser printed on the front. However, some experts assert that a rubber-stamped return address will often get the recipient to open the letter more often than a professionally imprinted one. Testing will prove to you which method will work the best for you.

Tests show that a reply envelope in which your customer can mail his order will increase response. A business reply envelope where you pay return postage is usually helpful in increasing response but can substantially increase your costs. You must weigh the expenses against the differences in response rates during testing.

The order form or reply card is the most critical direct mailing item. In tests with hundreds of people, the process of reviewing the order is almost identical for everyone.

  • They open the envelope.
  • They read the first few sentences of the letter or brochure to see what is offered.
  • They glance at the “PS” at the end of the letter.
  • They immediately go to the order form to see what it costs and the terms.
  • They finish reading the letter and/or brochure if their interest has been piqued.
  • They complete the order form, insert into the envelope, and mail it. They may call if there is a telephone number to make ordering easier.

Direct mail selling can be pyramided, just like classified or display ads. With a good list, you can start with as few as 1,000 names and work up to an actual mailing of thousands of pieces at a time. Unlike classifieds, there is much less time between each ad sequence. If you are mailing first class (as you will be at first), you can schedule your mailings as close as 10 days apart using the following formula to ensure profit.

Count the day you mail as day one. On day 10, you should have received about half the total orders that can be expected from this mailing. (Some mail-order experts use day 13, but this formula gives you some financial padding to assure success.) So, multiply total dollars received by two, subtract the cost of filled orders (which must also be multiplied by two, since there will be twice as many orders as already received), and finally subtract total printing and mailing costs. The amount left is your projected profit from this mailing.

By plowing profits back into your promotions, you can soon generate a sizeable cash flow from direct mail promotions. As your mail volume increases, you can afford to mail at a bulk rate, with substantial savings off the first-class rate. As the size of your mailing increase, your per-piece printing costs also go down since you are printing more significant quantities. And the total cost of preparing your mailing can be reduced as you grow and begin using automatic folders, stuffers, and sealers. All these reduced costs will mean greater profits in the long run. Even the price of the books you sell goes down as you buy them in larger lots. And the great thing is that you can do it all from home in your spare time. Few businesses provide these advantages with a built-in raise as you become more successful.

So, start gaining additional experience by beginning a bookselling promotion right now. There is no reason not to start at once. Once you begin, you will find that bookselling can be your road to ultimate happiness. Best of Luck!

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