A baker’s dozen creative ideas make your catalog more responsive.

It’s said that “enough drops of water can become a river”. That’s true in your catalog effort too. Every little step you do to make your catalog more successful will add up. With perseverance and great product, and utilizing the following ideas, you can get a river of sales flowing into your coffers.

  1. Add copy to your covers:Testing proves time and again that a catalog cover with copy outperforms one without — much to many creatives’ chagrin. But this makes sense. The most newsworthy things get our attention most quickly. Notice the newsstands near grocery checkout and you can see, they’ve figured out how to get someone to take a look! Even with a photo of a popular celebrity, it’s still not enough “juice” to get away with plain cover that doesn’t tell the customer why they need to open up and look.

    For this Crazy Shirts catalog, the cover with
    the teasers pulled in 124% more in sales.
  2. Make a list of your core competencies and your unique selling propositions. Often catalogs are so merchandise-focused that they can’t separate themselves long enough to see that, from the outside, consumers need more clues as to what makes you the one they should buy from.  It’s time to interview customers and ask them, what words or phrases that describe why they come to you. If there are benefits such as exclusive products or handmade goods or exceptional customer service, that don’t show up in the discussion, it’s time to rethink your positioning.
  3. Make the back of your catalog work harder. Got one product for sale on the back cover? Try two or three! Got any teasers into key spots inside the catalog? If not, it’s time you did! Got different price points and categories of products on the back cover? If not, you’re not telling the whole story. Your back cover has to tell a more complete story and work even harder than the front cover. Remember that when you put it off ‘til the last minute… like everyone else does. This back cover is actually the thing you should be working on FIRST.

    For both B2B or consumer catalogs, the back cover still has a lot of work to do. Its most important jobs – selling product, and getting customers inside. 
  4. Think of your catalog as a “Paper Salesman”TM it represents all the best of who you are to your prospects. It steps through all the selling steps to engage a prospect, answer their questions, and call for action. It keeps your customer or prospect interested via design and copy that is thoughtful and compelling. Every product in your catalog deserves its day in the sun – and you don’t feel it’s worth it to do a 100% sales effort for a product, then that product is wasting space in your book. Don’t fall for the ‘it’s there because it just has to be there.” even if it’s a poor performer.  Put those things on your website where space is cheap.
  5. Paginate for sales, not for merchandising.   I’ve seen some extraordinary leaps in response when we repaginated a book that had been plugging along at a low level for many years. People have changed so much in terms of shopping habits, and even what kind of features get their attention, and they continue to change. Create a smart, marketing-driven pagination that is reflective of your customer base and who you are marketing to – and who YOU are.
  6. Make it easy to find things in your book. I’ve heard a million reasons why catalogs don’t have tables of contents, and none of them are in the customer’s best interest. A table of contents does not need to take up much room, but it’s one of the most commented-on and called-upon features in your entire catalog! How do you know you need one? When your customers give up on the catalog completely and only go online when they need something. Beware – your catalog is the thing that works harder to establish your brand and customer loyalty, so if you become only a website to them, you’ll eventually lose their business.
  7. Make it easy to read your book. Teeny little reversed-out type might please a twenty-something graphic designer, but to anyone with money it’s a total turnoff. And it’s not about taste or even style, it’s about human physiology. You can’t make someone read something they find uncomfortable to read. While magazines get away with it on occasion, most have turned back to a much more practical and easy-reading format.
  8. Add an offer to your catalog.A good offer is what’s needed to get customers  moving right NOW to order. Those of you who have been disappointed with offer strategy just haven’t tried enough offers and tactics. If you need to brainstorm on this to find the best offer, go outside and speak with experienced pros who have done lots of offer strategy in a wide range of products and services.  And don’t be afraid that once you start doing an offer, you can never go without one again. Just use different levels of offers so that people won’t “expect it” every time, and you can do it without it costing you a lot of money. And meanwhile you can also increase customer loyalty.Testing of offers is an essential step to finding the right one.


  9. Consider how the human brain is wired. Reader gravity is an extremely powerful way to choreograph your customer’s movements across a spread, picking up items for their shopping cart. Many consider it hocus pocus, but I’ve seen with my own eyes (and by the response clients have told me about) that this kind of thoughtful and strategic thinking is well worth the extra bit of time it takes to get it right.
  10. Use a designer that embraces response and makes it a priority.  Probably only 1 out of 100 designers know about reader gravity or comprehension through proper use of typography and color. And sadly, the great majority of them simply don’t care. But, it’s not THEIR money being spent to mail the catalog — it’s YOURS. And it certainly is your problem if your income and your job are depending on this being a successful mailing.How do you find out if a designer is an advocate for your success? Ask them how past work has done. Ask them for response numbers – not just ‘it did well” or “customers loved it” or “the client loved it”. These are mealy-mouthed phrases for “I don’t know and I didn’t ask”.
  11. Use a real copywriter who loves to SELL.Often the copy for catalog products ends up being the merchant or — oh NO! — the designer. A great copywriter knows that selling is their business, and they write copy to sell your product, not just describe it. A great writer will ask you for unique selling propositions, and they want to see, touch and try the product so they can understand why someone would want it. They don’t rely solely on product sheets to get their information.Yes, this takes time and it often costs more than hiring a “wrist” who calls themselves a writer. But I’ve seen great copy alone increase sales by hundreds of thousands of dollars in tests I’ve participated in. Not sure to hire? Ask around, or (to be self-serving!) talk to us! We enthusiastically sell our clients’ products through compelling copy, every day, and we love to see our clients thrive through stronger creative!
  12. Wondering if your catalog will do better with a change in creative (or anything else)?  Test it! Testing does not have to cost a fortune and if done properly and scientifically it will prove itself a valued ally in the drive for better response. It is so worthwhile to test creative and offers that it should be built into every annual mailing plan and budget. Test first using email or your website, and then once you have a feel for it, do a real on-paper test to confirm results.
  13. Can’t afford to test it?  Research it!  For a smaller budget, it’s possible to utilize research such as eResearch (not focus groups and certainly not ‘grandmother research’) to figure out what rings the bells of your house file customer, and your prospect.  To get the most accurate research done, I highly recommend you look outside your company for an unbiased research pro.Why? First, you’ll get the best and truest readings when you use an outside resource who’s expert in eResearch. My experience has been that research done internally (by an internal team who answers to an internal boss) will always be tainted to some degree regardless of all best intentions. It’s human nature to tend to turn things just a tiny bit to create a hoped-for outcome… especially when everyone wants it to be so.  A proven professional research specialist will tell you the truth and has the discipline and the lack of buy-in on the outcome to keep the study on the straight and narrow – and they’ll work with you to interpret results at the end so you can plan your next steps.

If you’re looking for ways to incorporate any of the ideas I’ve presented here into your own catalog, feel free to give me a call at 408-269-6871 and we can discuss what’s worked for you and what’s not working. Together we can determine a course of action to get your cash register ringing!


Filed under Uncategorized

2 responses to “A baker’s dozen creative ideas make your catalog more responsive.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s