Catalogs are great sales tools, designed to generate leads or direct sales. Many businesses still use catalogs to market, list and sell their services and products. They may offer their catalog on a flash drive or CD but it’s still a catalog. Most still find it easier to flip through a printed version. In this world of social media and e-mails catalogs are still a very popular and effective way of advertising your services, business, and products. For many, a catalog is a key tool in their marketing plan, enhancing other initiatives like email and social marketing and other printed products, such as brochures, flyers and postcards. Catalogs are also a great way to present a lot of information to your customers and potential customers. Studies have shown catalogs last longer in businesses and homes of customers, where they scan and refer back to them for ordering and product knowledge, keeping your product, services, and company information in front of them.
Before you jump off the deep end and print a catalog there are some things you need to know:
1. Research, Research… and then maybe do a little more Research
Do you know who your target audience is? If not, you need to figure that out. Evaluate whom you want to send your catalog out to in order to obtain the most return on your investment. BEFORE you do anything else ask yourself the following questions:
A) what age groups are I targeting?
B) am I marketing to a male/female group?
C) what income level is my target audience (if applicable)?
D) if targeting businesses – what type business would use or benefit from my product or services? Make an extensive list.
E) is there a specific geographic area? Ex. 50 mile radius
Additionally, survey your customers to find out more about what they purchase, would they like to see you carry any other products/services? Ask them if you have good customer service or do you need to improve? Your goal should be to provide to your ideal customers something they find beneficial and valuable, while at the same time providing excellent customer service. Without good customer service you can forget it. Customers want and expect good customer service.
2. Details, Details, Details
OK, you’ve done your home work and you now know who your target audience is. You probably thought the hard part was over. Sorry, it’s just beginning! Now that you have determined who your target audience is you need to figure out what products or services you want to include in your catalog in order to obtain the most return on your investment. Pricing for catalogs has gotten much more economical with new printing methods but you still don’t want to waste your time or money. Review your sales reports, and see what your top selling products are. Do you have a new line of products you want to introduce? Are there any new products you want to add from customer requests? How many pages would you like your catalog to be?
Do you previously have a catalog? If so, review it with all this in mind and edit it.
3. Location, Location, Location
We have all gone into stores, and notice the “best sellers” are placed near eye-level, usually in a prominent location so that they get your attention. Think of your catalog in the same way. You want your “best sellers” or maybe your new items to be placed in a prominent location with a very flattering layout and nice clean copy. They would probably appear near the front of the book, unless you do a really nice center page layout.
4. Copy, Copy, Copy
As well as making your catalog look good visually you want to make sure you write good catalog copy that sells. In order to create good copy you must understand why customers buy from catalogs. Below are six reasons customers purchase from catalogs:
A. Saving money is the number one motivator for anyone to order your product or services instead of your competitor’s. Your catalog should stress cost savings. Place this on your cover, on your order form, on every page of your catalog, on each item where it is applicable. Get creative if you can retail vs. your price.
B. The buyer wants to make sure they are buying the correct product from a trustworthy vendor. How do they determine this?
Make sure your copy has clear and concise specs for all products or services listed.
Use testimonials. Include quotations from satisfied customers who praise your products or services in your catalog.
Guarantee. Offer a refund or replacement, if your product or services should fail to perform as promised. Remember – offer good quality customer service.
List a few facts about your company or product – years in the business, number of employees, number of locations, annual sales, etc.
C. Customers buy products for a few reasons: to resell the products at a profit, as a gift, or to use them for their business, personal, or home. In your catalog copy you must stress the benefit your customer will receive by purchasing from you. How he can make money, save money, quality service, an exceptional quality product, streamline production. You get the idea.
D. Have you ever heard the saying “If it’s free it’s for me?” Everybody likes freebies – it doesn’t matter if they are a business executive, a group of buyers accustomed to freebies, or your sweet little ‘ole grandmother. Your catalog could offer the buyer a free gift in exchange for his order. If you do this display the gift prominently on the cover and make sure it’s a personal gift, not a discount or gift of merchandise to the company.
Popular gift items might include a gift card, pen and pencil sets, flash drive, calculators, mugs, charger, stylus pen, pedometer, T-shirts, or stress balls. Get creative, if you have a unique or popular item use that shape or idea. Ex. An electric company could give away a nightlight in the shape of a light bulb or if you promote a “better idea” in your catalog you could utilize a light bulb shape.
E. Fulfill a Need or Want. A good catalog is a tool to use in order to obtain valuable and much needed information regarding the product. The more your catalog and its contents fulfill a need or service, the more likely the buyer is to order from you – again and again and again.
F. Solutions; your buyer isn’t looking for a specific product. He’s not you ask… he’s looking for a solution to a problem he or she has. Take advantage of this, be a problem solver. Have products or services in your catalog that show you can solve their problem, save them time and money. Again, stress the benefit to them. Offer convenience, make it easy. Can you say Cha ching!
Now that you are aware of what they are looking for it’s time for you to learn what makes for good copy. Be descriptive, paint them a picture, be precise, clear, and specific. Don’t be too technical unless the product requires you to be. State benefits or problem solving features for each item or service. Don’t crowd your pages, keep it nice looking and easy to read. Pick a clean font and easy to read colors. Keep in mind your catalog pages must be divisible by four unless you want to have a blank page for notes.
Make it easy for them to order. List a web site, phone number, e-mail, any contact information where they may place an order. Make it very clear. Some companies put the contact/order information on the bottom of every page of their catalogs. If you only put your contact/order information in one or two places make your order/contact info very prominent. Make sure it stands out.
Oh and did I mention, tell them how your products or services will benefit them. Stress what’s in it for them.
5. Follow up… Check back
OK, you’ve sent your catalog out so now you can sit back, relax, put you feet up and just wait for those orders to roll in. NOT! Your catalog may be out to your distributors, on desktops, counters or in the hands of the customer, but that does not mean it is doing everything it can for you. You have invested a lot of time and money so you want to make the most of this marketing piece. Customers are overwhelmed with advertising. You don’t want your catalog to get lost in the shuffle. There are several ways to get your catalog noticed. Follow up with sales calls, phone calls, e-mails, or frequent mailings of flyers or postcards to keep your name, product or service at the forefront. Remind them about any special offers, those freebies we talked about above, new products, services, or brands that are in your catalog. Keep marketing, driving attention back to your catalog.
6. Analyze – (yes, you heard me right)
Now for some detective work. Analyze the performance of your catalog. This is where many people fail. This is a very important part of your catalog marketing project or any marketing effort. Keep a spread sheet, track all of your results noting what worked and what didn’t; what sold, what didn’t? Be very specific. Did my sales go up? What products sold, what didn’t? Check with some of those very good customers you have, get their feedback. This is a critical tool for all future catalogs or marketing efforts. You don’t want to repeat products, copy, or efforts that weren’t successful. Remember, evaluate everything; not just the products, services, or copy you have included in your catalog but whom it was sent to, the time of year it was sent out, the colors used in the printing, are the pages clear and concise, and any other items you can scrutinize to improve your catalog. Keep editing and tweeking.