Selling Your Products by Mail Order
By William E. Cohen,
U.S. Small Business Administration
See also: PDF-version
Copyright 1990, William E. Cohen. All rights reserve. No part may
be reproduced, transmitted or transcribed without permission of
the author. SBA retains and irrevocable, worldwide, nonexclusive
royalty-free, unlimited license to use this copyrighted material.
While we consider the contents of this publication to be of general
merit, its sponsorship by the U.S. Small Business Administration
does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of the views and
opinions of the authors or the products and services of the companies
with which they are affiliated.
All of SBA's programs and services are extended to the public
on a nondiscriminatory basis.
MAIL ORDER SUCCESSES
WHAT QUALITIES ARE REQUIRED?
SELECTING A PRODUCT
TESTING -- MAIL ORDER'S SECRET WEAPON
Where to Advertise
When to Advertise
What to Put in Your Advertisements
What Does Advertising Cost?
Use of Post Office Box Numbers
Credit Card Sales
MAINTAIN GOOD RECORDS
REPEAT BUSINESS -- KEY TO MAXIMUM PROFITS
APPENDIX: INFORMATION RESOURCES
This publication provides basic information on how to run a successful
mail order business. It includes information on selecting, pricing,
testing and writing effective advertisements for your products.
MAIL ORDER SUCCESSES
Almost a hundred years ago, Richard Sears and Julius Rosenwald
founded Sears, Roebuck and Company, which eventually became a $10
billion corporation. At the same time Aaron Montgomery Ward started
his company, which also became a multimillion dollar operation.
These three entrepreneurs were the world's first mail order millionaires.
Since then, countless part-time and full-time entrepreneurs
have been attracted to the mail order business. Although many have
failed, a surprising number have succeeded in both good times and
bad. Today you can buy everything from clothes to insurance to live
lobsters through the mail.
WHAT QUALITIES ARE REQUIRED?
For marketing wizards, a mail order business can be highly profitable.
Melvin Powers, a mail order publisher, started with a single book.
Today he has more than 400 books in print and has sold millions
of copies. Another marketing genius, Richard Thalheimer, built a
multimillion dollar company, The Sharper Image, starting with a
chronograph watch and an advertisement in Runner's World. He now
sells not only by mail but also through retail outlets across the
country. Although everyone cannot expect to achieve the same level
of success as these exceptional entrepreneurs, your chances of building
a profitable mail order business increase if you possess the following
essential qualities: imagination, persistence, honesty and knowledge.
Imagination is needed to visualize the special appeal that will
compel a potential customer to buy your product. In How I Made $1
Million in Mail Order, Joe Cossman described how someone once offered
him the rights to sell earrings with little bells attached, a previously
unsuccessful mail order product. Cossman turned this product into
a mail order winner simply by renaming the product mother-in-law
earrings and selling the earrings to newlyweds.
Persistence is required because success is rarely instantaneous.
There are always obstacles and setbacks. Cossman struggled over
a year before his first success. While holding down a full-time
job, he worked at his kitchen table, tackling false leads, problems
and failures. He did nothing but lose money. Less persistent entrepreneurs
would have given up much sooner. But when he finally was successful,
his first product made him $30,000 in less than a month.
Absolute honesty is necessary because a successful mail order
business is built on trust, satisfied customers and repeat sales.
Cheat your customers even a little and you've lost them forever.
In addition, federal, state, and local government agencies, as
well as Better Business Bureaus and consumer groups constantly monitor
advertising and are quick to act against unsubstantiated claims
or infractions of laws.
One of the most well-known laws applicable to the mail order business
is the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Thirty-Day Delay Delivery
Rule. Basically, if you don't mention a specific delivery period
in your advertisement, you have 30 days after receipt of an order
to ship it. If you can't make shipment within 30 days or by your
stated date, you must notify the buyer of the new shipment date
before the original date passes. You also must enclose a self-addressed
stamped envelope and give your buyer a chance to cancel the deal.
This rule is nothing to fool around with. A well-known, very reputable
mail order firm in Chicago was forced to pay a fine of several hundred
thousand dollars when a snowstorm caused mailing delays and the
firm didn't notify customers of their cancellation rights using
the required method. The fine wasn't meant to reflect on the firm's
integrity, but it showed that no company is exempt from the rules.
Without proper knowledge your chances for success are minimal.
Success stories like Ward's, Sears' and Cossman's are built around
those individuals' constant search for the answer to one important
question: What works?
You must continually increase your knowledge if you are to succeed.
You can do this through both reading and experience. Experience
is a valuable but expensive way to learn. Because you can save time
and money learning through the experiences of others, extensive
reading is highly recommended.
You can also learn from successful competitors. Thoroughly study
advertisements in magazines and newspapers, over a period of time.
Note those that run consistently month after month or several times
a year. Answer advertisements that are particularly interesting.
Carefully study the catalogs, sales letters, brochures and other
literature you receive. Particularly study all follow-up mailings.
Know what your competitors are doing.
SELECTING A PRODUCT
It may appear that you can sell almost any product through the
mail, but this isn't true. To develop ideas for products, study
trade publications, attend product shows, contact manufacturers
and answer advertisements. To increase your chances of picking a
winner, look for a product that
! Is lightweight.
! Is nearly unbreakable.
! Has a broad appeal to a large, specific segment
of the population.
! Has a large profit margin.
To maintain a high enough profit margin to offset the cost of
advertising, you should select a product that will sell for three
or four times what you pay for it. (Retail merchants can usually
sell at about twice their cost.) Although you can't get this kind
of markup with all products, you can charge even more for many products.
If customers won't pay the price you need to make a profit, sell
a different product.
However, many mail order advertisers are willing to lose money
on initial sales to obtain a customer's name. They hope to make
up for the loss by selling other products to that customer in the
future. Without the high cost of advertising, direct mail repeat
sales can be made at much higher profit margins. Again, this is
one of the reasons honesty and efficiency in mail order operations
are so important.
Evaluating Your Products
If you have many products to promote, decide which are your best.
Do this with a two-step process: first, rank all factors that apply
to a certain type of product in order of importance, then grade
your particular product for each of those factors on a scale of
zero to four (zero meaning poor and four meaning excellent). The
result of your calculations, a value rating, will help you determine
which products to sell.
For example, let's say you decide four factors are important and
you determine their relative importance as follows:
Large profit margin
Now take two candidate products. One is a beautiful vase imported
from Japan and the second is a gold plated lucky coin manufactured
in your city.
We'll look at the vase first. Let's assume that the vase appeals
to a reasonably broad segment of the population interested in art.
So you assign the vase three points for that factor. However, due
to the cost of the product, import duties and shopping, the product
has only a fair profit margin -- this merits only one point. The
vase is moderately light, so you give it two points for light weight.
Finally, there is breakability. No matter how carefully you package
the vases, you're going to have some breakage. So give the product
zero points on that factor.
Use the same method to evaluate the lucky coin. Let's assume that
you decide to assign one, one, three, and four, respectively, for
the same factors.
Now you can build a comparison matrix like this:
Since 2.0 is greater than
1.6, this tells you that the coin is a better product at this time.
If any of the factors change, you will need to do another analysis.
Of course, in real life there are many other factors you may want
to include in your analysis, such as the total market potential,
the need for the product, the availability of the product in stores,
the potential of the product to create repeat business, the investment
How you structure your sales offer is also important. You may
have the right product and the right price but still lose customers
simply by your presentation.
For example, you want to sell a widget at two for $1.00. You could
advertise your offer just like that, or you could advertise one
widget for $1.00 and a second widget free. Or you could sell one
widget for $.99 and offer a second for $.01.
All of these offers are exactly the same; however, they are perceived
differently by your customers. Tests have shown that there can be
a vast difference in response depending on the way you present an
offer. Unfortunately, because every situation is different, no one
can tell you which is the best offer without knowing the product
and project intimately -- and without doing extensive testing.
Always be cautious when forecasting sales. Your break-even point
(the number of units to be sold in order for a product to stop losing
money and begin making money) should be set very low, at least while
you are testing your probable level of response. For example, if
your break-even point is 5 percent of the names on a mailing list,
up to 5 percent of the people can respond to your offer and you
still do not make a profit. Keep your expectations reasonable. For
many businesses, one quarter of 1 percent is an excellent response.
The same idea is true in forecasting orders from magazine advertisements.
One famous advertiser is happy if he gets 1.25 times the cost of
his advertisement in sales. This means that if the advertisement
cost $100, he is delighted if the resulting sales amount to $125.
For one publication, this means .10 of 1 percent of the readership
responded. However, many advertisements don't even bring in .01
of 1 percent of their readership.
TESTING -- MAIL ORDER'S SECRET
Successful mail order operators test almost everything. They measure
the response to an advertisement or mailing by testing all advertising
variables, such as
! Mailing lists.
! Advertising media.
Testing is a scientific approach to mail order selling. It permits
a mail order entrepreneur to fail with four out of five products
and still walk away with big profits on the fifth product.
How is it done? Spend a small amount of money for a test advertisement
or mailing list. A complete failure tells you to drop the whole
project. Marginal results tell you to experiment and rework some
aspect of the project. A major success gives you the green light
for a larger investment.
In this way, you can afford to lose money on several dismal failures.
But when your testing indicates a clear success, you can move immediately
to capitalize on what you know to be a winner. The idea is not to
risk a lot of money until you are fairly certain of success.
Nothing determines the success of a mail order enterprise so much
as its advertising, whether it be via magazines, newspapers, radio,
TV, direct mail or some other form of promotion. Writing advertising
copy, preparing art, selecting media, determining price and other
aspects of creating ads usually require expert skills. If you decide
to work with an advertising agency, select one primarily on the
basis of its successful experience in producing profitable mail
Whether you decide to use an agency or go it alone, there are some
important points to remember.
Where to Advertise
It is important to recognize that everyone is not a good prospect
for your business. Concentrate your efforts on the media reaching
those segments of the market that are more likely to buy your product
or service. A good strategy is to advertise in the same place where
similar items are advertised. This is true whether the media you
are considering is a magazine or a list of names for a direct mail
When to Advertise
The month in which you advertise a product or service can greatly
affect the results. Follow these general guidelines:
1. Seasonability -- Although most products can be advertised
all year, some should be advertised and sold only during certain
seasons. For example, you should not try to sell garden hoses
during the winter.
2. Outside influences -- Major events can affect the
results of your promotion. For example, November is usually a
good month for most products; however, depending on what you are
selling, November sales may be better or worse in an election
year. Similarly, a war, the death of an important person or other
major events will affect the results of a mail order promotion.
3. Best months for mail order business -- Whatever your
product, some months are better for mail order sales than others.
You can only find out the best months for your product by testing.
Generally, months for mail order sales are ranked from best to
worst as follows: January, February, October, November, March,
September, August, April, December, July, May and June. When starting
with a new product or service, advertise during the logical months,
considering your product and the season. Then analyze your response.
If you test in a good month, the results may be much better than
you can expect in an average or poor mail order sales month. In
the same way, if your test advertisement appears in a bad month
and the results are only marginal, you may get better sales in
4. Frequency of advertising -- Depending on the strength
of the response, you can estimate the most effective frequency
for advertising. For example, if the response was strong, you
may decide to advertise your product frequently. If the response
was only moderate, you should probably advertise less frequently
-- perhaps every other month or once a quarter or only during
certain peak months. Finally, if the response was weak during
a good mail order month, you should possibly advertise this particular
What to Put in Your Advertisements
The words (or copy) in your advertisements are critical. They should
not be just a casual consideration. In his book Tested Advertising
Methods, John Caples described two ads that were the same size,
used the same illustrations and were in identical publications.
Only the copy differed. One ad sold 19 times as many goods as the
other. This is not just the difference between failure and success;
it can be the difference between failure and a small fortune.
There are many different formulas for developing copy. Initially,
you should write your advertisement according to a definite copy
structure. Once you know that you can write good mail order copy,
you can experiment with less structured forms of communicating.
The copywriting checklist included in this publication lists several
important considerations. A basic structure to begin with is described
! Get attention
! Develop interest
! Show the benefits and advantages of your product
! Build and maintain credibility
! Deliver a call to action
The most important element of your ad and copy is the headline.
This is how you gain attention. Yet many copywriters spend hours
writing the body of the ad and just a few minutes on the headline.
The weekly magazine, "Advertising Age," once related that Maxwell
Sackheim sold 500,000 copies of a book by changing the title, from
"Five Acres" to "Five Acres and Independence."
All good headlines have certain things in common. First, they
appeal to the reader's self-interest and stress the most important
benefit of the product or service. A powerful headline arouses the
curiosity of the reader, presents startling news or suggests a quick
and easy way to obtain benefits.
Second, good headlines use key words that are psychologically
powerful in attracting potential readers. In "Confessions of an
Advertising Man," David Ogilvy says that the most important of these
key words are free and new, but there are many other powerful words.
Here is a list of some words psychologists have discovered to be
powerful in stopping readers and getting their attention: 1
1 For a comprehensive
list, refer to William A. Cohen, "Building a Mail Order Business,"
2nd Edition, (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1985).
Once you have gained the reader's attention, demonstrate the benefits
of buying. The benefits must override the cost of the product and
the trouble involved in finding a stamp and envelope, writing a
check and mailing the order. Don't sell product descriptions. Sell
benefits. A customer at a restaurant buys the taste, smell and sizzle
of meat not a piece of meat. It is your job to describe your product
in terms of taste, smell and sizzle.
Credibility is very important in making your copy effective. Regardless
of what you say about the benefits or advantages of a product, if
your potential customers do not believe what you say, they will
not place an order.
Testimonials can be helpful, particularly if you have permission
to use the name of an individual whose testimonial is on file. An
alternative is to omit the name or use only initials.
You can also achieve credibility by identifying a bank, accountant
or attorney as a reference. Even showing a picture of the building
that houses your business can add credibility, especially if it
is an imposing structure.
A basic law of sales is that a face-to-face salesperson must ask
for an order. As a salesperson selling through an advertisement,
you should also call your customers to immediate action. You don't
want your customers to cut out the coupon and put it away for another
day. You want your customers to order immediately. Research has
demonstrated that regardless of initial intent, in most instances,
if your prospects don't order immediately, they won't order at all.
Include incentives, such as a statement on limited quantities or
a time-limited offer.
What Does Advertising Cost?
Top quality advertising costs more, but it usually brings the best
results. However, don't overspend on advertising, direct mail and
other promotions. Don't invest in full color printing when one or
two colors will do the job. There is no need to use the most expensive
paper, elaborate art or other extravagances to sell profitably.
Use of Post Office Box Numbers
Some states require that you include a business (or home) address
in your advertisement, even if you want orders to come to a post
office box number. If you have the choice using a post office box
number or your home address, consider these trade-offs:
1. A classified advertisement will probably cost more with a
home address as you pay by the word.
2. Use of a post office box will allow you to pick up mail seven
days a week.
3. A prospective customer generally associates lower risk in
ordering from a business or home address. Thus, you are likely
to have more returns with a full address than with a post office
4. A post office box number protects your personal privacy if
you don't want to be bothered at home by customers.
Whether or not you use a post office box will not mean the difference
between success and failure. It is more a personal preference decision.
Credit Card Sales
Credit card sales will increase your returns. This is because
prospects who aren't familiar with your company do know the names
VISA and MASTERCARD. Use of credit cards also means that your customers
can order higher priced items easily on credit, with the advantage
that the bank grants the credit, not you. Since some mail order
companies find that they are able to collect only about 60 percent
of their credit sales, this may be no small consideration. However,
the bank will charge you several percentage points on each order
charged against its credit cards. If you are new to business, you
may also have a problem convincing a bank to let you use its credit
You should also know that some individuals who have become mail
order millionaires did so dealing on a strictly cash basis with
no credit cards.
If you sell expensive items, or inexpensive items likely to total
a fair amount for each order, credit card sales may be worth investigating.
If you are going to enable your customers to order through a toll-free
number (see below), credit cards definitely make sense.
Toll-free numbers allow your customers to order more easily, which
will increase your sales. The question is, will it increase your
profits? Toll free means that the caller doesn't pay; but you do.
Some mail order operators have found that, for their product, use
of a toll-free number is not profitable. Others have found that
a toll-free service is what makes their business profitable.
As with other important business decisions, one way to find out
whether you should use a toll-free number is to test one. Installation
and toll costs vary; you can find out more about toll-free numbers
through your telephone company.
! Does the headline appeal to self-interest, offer
exciting news or arouse interest?
! Is the headline positive rather than negative?
! Does the headline suggest that the reader can obtain
something easily and quickly?
! Does the headline make use of the powerful words
of mail order advertising?
! Does the headline stress the most important benefit
of the product?
! Does the headline grab the reader and cause him
or her to read further?
! Is the headline believable?
! Does the headline tie in with the copy?
Are all the following elements of the offer present in the copy?
||Additional reasons to buy
! Do you gain interest at once through the use of
a story, a startling or unusual statement, a quote or news item?
! Do you show benefits and advantages that appeal
to emotional needs so that your offer is irresistible?
! Do you establish credibility with your reader through
the use of testimonials, statements by your accountant or some
! Do you encourage immediate action by listing a reason
to order now, e.g., limited quantities, time-limited offer, etc.?
! Is the copy written in a conversational tone?
! Does your copy move right along?
! Do you use short words, short sentences and short
! Do you use several subheadings throughout your copy?
MAINTAIN GOOD RECORDS
A word of caution: to succeed in mail order, keep accurate records
of all figures that are important to the success of your business,
! Results of advertisements.
! Advertising costs.
! Printing costs.
! Postage costs.
However, do this in the simplest, easiest and least time-consuming
Use a Computer
Although you can start a mail order business without a computer,
it is hard to imagine anyone operating very long without one. More
than any other single tool, a computer will help you keep accurate
records, increase your productivity and stay competitive. Before
you buy a computer, wait until your business is established and
you have a profitable product. Once you have established good credit,
a computer should be one of your first important investments.
A computer can help you to perform most of the key functions of
running a mail order business. Below is an outline of how different
software systems can help you.
! Maintain an updated list of customers.
! Find new customers.
! Research media.
! Track most popular products.
! Record ordering information: how frequent, average
size, fulfillment dates, etc.
! Maintain income tax records.
! Make what if forecasts and plans.
! Record price information.
! Maintain cash flow information and projections.
! Write and maintain a file of your business letters.
! Personalize your direct mail.
! Write advertisements.
! Do your own layout.
! Do your own typesetting for advertisements.
The computer has revolutionized the mail order business, and it
can help you to become successful. When you are ready to get a computer,
go to your local business software store. They can show you many
of the programs available. If your town doesn't have a software
store, get a copy of one of the many computer magazines that are
published. You will see many programs advertised and described and
you can obtain catalogs listing hundreds of programs that can help
you run and build your business.
REPEAT BUSINESS -- KEY TO MAXIMUM PROFITS
Continuous profits come from continuous sales. As already suggested,
rarely is a profitable mail order business established on a one-time
sale. Paul Muchnick, president of Paul Muchnick Company in Los Angeles,
suggests the following methods for stimulating repeat orders at
1. Never forget the customer -- Your list of customers
is your most valuable asset. Use it to send offers of merchandise
at frequent intervals.
2. Use package stuffers -- Include a regular catalog
or special offer in outgoing orders. Such enclosures can bring
in new sales and will ride free, as postage and packing costs
already are being paid to ship the merchandise.
3. Offer quantity discounts -- Everyone loves a bargain.
A discount price or a similar incentive for an order over a given
amount will stimulate larger orders. Gift certificates are another
way to spark sales, especially during Christmas and other holiday
4. Advertise on envelopes -- If you are enclosing advertising
in the envelope, consider using the envelope itself to feature
one or more special offers. The additional printing cost may prove
insignificant compared to the extra sales produced.
Mail order can be a profitable and interesting full- or part-time
business. But remember, you will probably lose money before you
start making it. So don't make major investments until you have
gained experience and until you have found the right product, the
right price and the best means of communicating to the most receptive
Brumbaugh, J.F., Mail Order Made Easy, North Hollywood, CA, The
Wilshire Book Company, 1979.
Burnett, Ed, The Complete Mail List Handbook, Englewood Cliffs,
NJ, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1989.
Caples, John, Tested Advertising Methods (fourth edition), Englewood
Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1989.
Cohen, William A., Building a Mail Order Business (second edition),
New York, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1985.
Cohen, William A., Direct Response Marketing, An Entrepreneurial
Approach," New York, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1984.
Gosden, F. Jr., Direct Marketing Success, New York, John Wiley
and Sons, Inc., 1986.
Hoge, Cecil C. Sr., Mail Order Know-How, Berkeley, Ten Speed Press,
Hoge, Cecil C. Sr., Mail Order Moonlighting, Berkeley, Ten Speed
Holtz, Herman. Mail Order Magic, New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company.
Joffe, G., How You Can Make At Least $1 Million (But Probably
Much More) in the Mail Order Business, New York, Harper and Row
Publishers, Inc., 1978.
Jutkins, Ray, Direct Marketing: How You Can Really Do It Right,
Costa Mesa, CA, HOL Publishers, 1989.
Katzenstein, H. and W. Sachs, Direct Marketing, Columbus, OH,
Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company, 1986.
Kobs, Jim, Profitable Direct Marketing, Chicago, NTC Business
Lewis, H.G., More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Mail Order
Advertising, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983.
Nash, Edward, The Direct Marketing Handbook, New York, McGraw-Hill
Book Company, 1984.
Nash, Edward, Direct Marketing: Strategy/Planning/Execution (second
edition), New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1986.
Ogilvy, David, Confessions of an Advertising Man, New York, Macmillan
Publishing Company, Inc., 1988.
Powers, Melvin, How to Get Rich In Mail Order, North Hollywood,
CA, The Wilshire Book Company, 1976.
Rapp, Stan and Tom Collins, Maximarketing, New York, McGraw-Hill
Book Company, 1987.
Roberts, Mary Lou and Paul D. Berger, Direct Marketing Implement,
Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1989.
Schwartz, Eugene M., Mail Order, New York, Boardroom Reports,
Simon, J, How to Start And Operate a Mail Order Business (fourth
edition), New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1987.
Stone, Bob, Successful Direct Marketing Methods (fourth edition),
Chicago, NTC Business Books, 1988.
Tepper, Ron, Secrets of a Successful Mail Order Guru: Chase Revel,"
New York, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1988.
Mail Order Business Directory, Coral Springs, FL, B. Klein Publications,
Guide to American Directories (tenth edition), Coral Springs,
FL, B. Klein Publications, Inc.
O'Callaghan, Dorothy, Mail Order USA, Washington, DC, Mail Order
Direct Mail List Rates & Data, Skokie, IL, Standard Rate & Data
Consumer Magazine & Farm Publications, Skokie, IL, Standard Rate
& Data Service, Inc.
APPENDIX: INFORMATION RESOURCES
U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
The SBA offers an extensive selection of information on most
business management topics, from how to start a business to exporting
SBA has offices throughout the country. Consult the U.S. Government
section in your telephone directory for the office nearest you.
SBA offers a number of programs and services, including training
and educational programs, counseling services, financial programs
and contract assistance. Ask about
- SCORE: Counselors to America’s Small Business, a national
organization sponsored by SBA of over 11,000 volunteer business
executives who provide free counseling, workshops and seminars
to prospective and existing small business people. Free online
counseling and training at www.score.org.
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), sponsored
by the SBA in partnership with state governments, the educational
community and the private sector. They provide assistance, counseling
and training to prospective and existing business people.
- Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), sponsored by the
SBA in partnership with local non-government organizations across
the nation. Centers are geared specifically to provide training
for women in finance, management, marketing, procurement and
For more information about SBA business development programs
and services call the SBA Small Business Answer Desk at 1-800-U-ASK-SBA
(827-5722) or visit our website, www.sba.gov.
Other U.S. Government Resources
Many publications on business management and other related topics
are available from the Government Printing Office (GPO). GPO bookstores
are located in 24 major cities and are listed in the Yellow Pages
under the bookstore heading. Find a “Catalog of Government Publications
Many federal agencies offer Websites and publications of interest
to small businesses. There is a nominal fee for some, but most are
free. Below is a selected list of government agencies that provide
publications and other services targeted to small businesses. To
get their publications, contact the regional offices listed in the
telephone directory or write to the addresses below:
Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC)
The CIO offers a consumer information catalog of federal publications.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
Washington, DC 20207
The CPSC offers guidelines for product safety requirements.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
12th Street and Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
The USDA offers publications on selling to the USDA. Publications
and programs on entrepreneurship are also available through county
extension offices nationwide.
U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC)
Office of Business Liaison
14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20230
DOC's Business Liaison Center provides listings of business
opportunities available in the federal government. This service
also will refer businesses to different programs and services
in the DOC and other federal agencies.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
1 Choke Cherry Road
Rockville, MD 20857
Helpline: 1-800-workplace. Provides information on Employee
Assistance Programs Drug, Alcohol and other Substance Abuse.
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
Employment Standards Administration
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
The DOL offers publications on compliance with labor laws.
U.S. Department of Treasury
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20230
The IRS offers information on tax requirements for small businesses.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Small Business Ombudsman
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20480
The EPA offers more than 100 publications designed to help small
businesses understand how they can comply with EPA regulations.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville MD 20857-0001
The FDA offers information on packaging and labeling requirements
for food and food-related products.
For More Information
A librarian can help you locate the specific information you
need in reference books. Most libraries have a variety of directories,
indexes and encyclopedias that cover many business topics. They
also have other resources, such as
- Trade association information
Ask the librarian to show you a directory of trade associations.
Associations provide a valuable network of resources to their
members through publications and services such as newsletters,
conferences and seminars.
Many guidebooks, textbooks and manuals on small business are
published annually. To find the names of books not in your local
library check Books In Print, a directory of books currently
available from publishers.
- Magazine and newspaper articles
Business and professional magazines provide information that
is more current than that found in books and textbooks. There
are a number of indexes to help you find specific articles in
- Internet Search Engines
In addition to books and magazines, many libraries offer free
workshops, free access to computers and the Internet, lend skill-building
tapes and have catalogues and brochures describing continuing
Published - July 2011