A quick look at how a direct-mail business has grown with help from the World Wide Web.
When Drew Munster started his San Luis Obispo, Calif., direct-mail business, Tennis Warehouse, with minimal funding a few years ago, his catalog was a two-page black-and-white affair with limited product listings and a few photos. Munster applied that same penny-pinching ethic when he started exploring the World Wide Web. In six months he has not only saved printing and postage costs but actually expanded his catalog by building his own Web page.
The old two-page catalog cost $1,200 to print and mail every two months to a homegrown list of 3,000 names, and it listed about half of Tennis Warehouse's line. It took Munster just two weeks to roll out a basic 30-page electronic catalog listing all 200 of his products. About 50 items are hypertext-linked to color photographs and text that details product features. Munster can and does update his inventory, advertising copy, and prices at a moment's notice, instead of waiting for the next print run.
The total cost: $430 a month. In the first six months he saved $1,000 over the cost of the old print catalog. Munster pays a local service provider $30 a month to maintain his Web site and six electronic-mail accounts. His largest start-up expense was hiring someone at $6 an hour for 10 or so hours a week to handle the E-mail -- mostly requests for more product information. In addition, Munster pays $150 a month for a hypertext link from the World Wide Web Tennis Server. The link is an important form of advertising: it leads those who click on it directly from Tennis Server (http://www.tennisserver.com/) to Munster's site (http://www.callamer.com/tw).
While Munster has not stopped his mailings altogether, he doesn't need to do as many. His sales in 1994 were $250,000; in 1995 they were $750,000, and he credits the Web site with at least 25% of that growth. "We have all the business we can handle," he concludes.
* * *
How to Create a Web Page Drew Munster of Tennis Warehouse (see "Bootstrapping on the Web," above) designed his own World Wide Web page. Because he has computer experience, he was comfortable working directly in hypertext markup language, or HTML, the coding language for creating Web sites. For those who are less adventurous, there's The Web Server Book (Ventana, 1995, $49.95). It's bundled with a CD-ROM to guide users through the creation process step-by-step. The book covers Web browsers, design software, and key elements to include on any Web page. And it recommends software packages that make HTML work easily with popular word-processing software. The book is available from Ventana (at 800-743-5369), or it can be ordered at http://www.vmedia.com on-line.