Mail Order Business

By: Bob Schiessl

When I am training new sharpeners, many see or know of my mail order business, and express a desire to do business the same way. Although there are advantages to mail order, there are some disadvantages too.

I go back to the days I owned and operated a retail book store. Of course there were times we were busier than others, but things like the weather would affect us. On a very nice day we may be slow; People would be doing outdoor things. On a nasty day, people would stay in. We could be having a slow day, and I would see people walk by and not come in; this would drive me crazy. I knew if I could talk to some of those people, I had a very good chance of selling them something. So when I got into sharpening, I loved the idea of being mobile. If things were slow, I could do something about it! I’d just get out and look under some new rocks. It was like I could have all the business I wanted, if I made the calls. Also, I am a people person; I enjoy talking to them. In a mail order business, you give up the one-on-one interaction. Being mobile, my sales were higher than mail order. So why did I give up the mobile business and go to mail order? As I got older, it got harder and harder to run the routes as I did before. My legs just wouldn’t let me. So at last, I ran the routes one last time and told my customers they would have to send their work to me in the future. A lot of them were doing that already so it was no big deal. I can do far more volume mail order, (no travel time) and there are other advantages, so I’ll try to pass on some tips to set up a mail order business.

Give your old customers pre-addressed boxes to send their blades and shears in. Make it as easy as possible for them to do business with you. Offer free shipping for ten or more blades or whatever number you’d like. That may cost you some money, but it may be cheaper than driving to them. I set up an account with the post office so I could give my customers a pre-paid, pre-addressed label. As they send in more blades, you will need to replenish this account, but it is well worth the effort. Initially during the switch, I lost customers, but I regained many of those customers back just by my reputation.

Think outside of the box! Promote your service at grooming shows, dog shows and horse shows. Try advertising in magazines your customers use, but everything now is switching to social media i.e. Facebook, Twitter. Create a website with your contact info, services, customer reviews and your policies. You may start a referral program, offering a discount, by sending business cards to your current customers to give to other groomers and stylists that they may know. Starting or switching your business to mail order is not an exact science, and some forms of advertising work better than others for different people. So keep an open mind, but if something is not working out, try something different.