catalog marketing

How to Develop a Catalog Marketing Strategy

Ann O'Brien

October 13, 2022

If you sell products, a catalog is one of the best ways to let your customers see them and learn about them in a relaxed, low-pressure way. Millions of catalogs get mailed out every year, and they are still a powerful marketing tool. Here’s how to launch a product catalog marketing campaign that delivers solid results.

Why Product Catalog Marketing Works

Studies have found that direct mail, which includes catalogs, brochures, and other direct mail promotional items, moves more consumers to make purchasing decisions than online marketing. Even customers who place their orders online prefer to look at a catalog before making their decision. Combined with a well-designed website, a product catalog marketing campaign can help your customers choose your products over those of your competitors.

Why does catalog marketing work? One reason is that it engages customers. A 2020 article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) declared that “Catalogs Are Making a Comeback.” The article noted that the most successful product campaigns combined websites, e-mail marketing, and print catalogs.

Product Catalog Marketing Is Persuasive

What makes catalogs work? The author of the HBR article says, “They increase the vividness of a product by enhancing the consumer’s ability to visualize and imagine product usage experiences. Vividness is highly influential in consumer behavior as it can increase consumer involvement and joy in the purchasing process.”

In other words, a catalog allows the reader to imagine what it would be like to own the product and how the product would enhance their life. This is especially true for products that are considered wants rather than needs. Make your products vivid, and show consumers how they make their lives more enjoyable.

What if you sell products that are industrial, mechanical, or not related to anything particularly fun? You can still create a catalog that is engaging and enjoyable for your readers without leaving out important technical details.

Types of Catalogs

Many companies have physical stores, but use catalogs to reach more customers. Examples include J.C. Penney, Belk, and Hallmark. Others are online only. They don’t have physical retail stores, but they use their catalogs to reach most of their customers. These include Avon, Lang Calendars, and Swimsuits for All.

Every industry has its own suppliers who regularly send out catalogs. Business-to-business companies use catalogs to provide product information, minimum order requirements, shipping options, and the technical specifications of each product. This may be too much information for an online catalog, so printed catalogs are more useful to these customers.

Are You Ready for Catalog Marketing Success?

Catalogs can help you share information about your business in an engaging way that will move your customers to pick up the phone or go online to place an order. Here are some tips to get you started on a successful campaign.

Research Your Audience

Figuring out your target audience is one of the most important parts of developing a winning catalog marketing strategy. You must understand what motivates your potential customers to buy the products you’re offering. This research doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should be thorough. You can use surveys and customer reviews to discover what people like about your company and products.

Social media can also point you to some ideas about how to reach your target audience. What do people say about your products in online reviews? Join social media groups related to your industry to discover what people respond to and how you can improve your outreach to them.

Knowing your target audience will guide you in choosing the right design and content for your catalog. Spend time on this research. It will pay off when you have a true understanding of what motivates your ideal customer.

Choose a Mix of Promotional Items

Research has found that catalogs work best as part of an overall marketing campaign that includes advertising, smaller direct mail pieces, online advertising, and a website. Public relations and promotions are part of your catalog marketing strategy. You can vary these approaches by considering what appeals to your ideal customer.

Building brand awareness takes time. It requires a coordinated effort that includes using the same colors, logos, and images in all your marketing materials, stationery, signage, and direct mail pieces.

Get a Powerful Mailing List

There is an old saying that your direct mail is only as successful as your mailing list. There’s no point in spending money on design, printing, and postage if you’re not sending your catalogs to potential buyers. Current and past customers are the best bet, but it’s possible to expand beyond that. You can order direct mail address lists from companies that specialize in those services. You can choose zip code, age, income, and other demographic information to produce a targeted list.

Offer Catalog-Only Specials

One great way to make your catalog stand out is to offer deals and specials that only come with the catalog or mailer. Many catalogs include a discount code the customer can use to get the special.

Some of the best-known specials include the BOGO (buy one, get one free) or a price reduction for ordering several units of the same item. Free shipping and gifts for orders over a certain amount are also very popular. You can offer coupons and discount codes in your catalog and on your website. They entice new customers and make current customers feel valued.

Offer Engaging Content

Catalogs influence more buying decisions than websites or TV ads. As we saw above, they help customers connect emotionally to the products. To make sure your catalog induces those feelings in your reader, write content that shows you know what your customer values.

For instance, a catalog of children’s products would focus on how the toys don’t break and are easy to keep clean. The text would make parents excited about seeing their kids have fun while learning. A catalog aimed at specialty coffee drinkers would describe the beans, where they came from, and why they produce certain flavors. The writing would emphasize how it feels to drink a particular blend.

Choose the Right Pictures

Catalogs are visual. The best catalogs have irresistible front covers that inspire readers to start turning the pages. A well-designed, appealing catalog is enjoyable to read through. The customer can imagine walking around wearing those clothes or relaxing on that beach chair. The catalog becomes a way to take a brief mental escape and imagine a better life through your product.

Track the Results of Your Catalog Marketing Strategy

How do you know if your product catalog marketing is working? There are several ways to measure your results, including trackable codes, dedicated toll-free numbers, and call tracking software. You’ll know which catalog inspired the most customers to place orders. Measuring your success is the final piece of the catalog marketing puzzle.

Longest Running Catalogs

Catalogs have always been part of marketing. Are you wondering which ones have been around for the longest time?

  • Tiffany’s Blue Book (1845 to present): The first mail order catalog was this small booklet in the famous Tiffany blue colors. It is still around, but now it focuses on the world’s most rare, exclusive gems. Tiffany & Company still has retail stores all over the world.
  • Sears (1888 to 1993): Sears has stopped mailing its large, famous catalog, but the company still sells online and in retail locations.
  • Hammacher Schlemmer (1888 to current): This retailer of unique goods started as a New York City hardware store. The landmark store is still in operation, but most of the company’s sales are from its catalog.
  • Montgomery Ward (1872 to 2001): At one time, Montgomery Ward was a giant retailer second only to Sears. It no longer has a retail store, but still sells online.

Catalog Marketing Can Boost Your Sales

Catalogs influence customers to make buying decisions. A well-designed catalog marketing strategy can increase your sales and enhance your brand awareness. If you need expert printing of your catalogs, talk to Publishing Xpress. We help businesses look their best in print.

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