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7 Steps to a Successful Catalog Marketing Strategy

If you’ve ever had any part in the production of a catalog for your organization or business, you probably understand how massive of an undertaking it is to design, print, write and distribute printed catalogs for your customers and prospects. If you’ve never been a part of an organizational effort to compile a catalog, you’d probably benefit from reading our other blog post on how to choose the best options for catalog printing.

There are many different reasons why printing a catalog might be necessary for your business or organization. No matter what you may need your catalog for, the following guide is intended to help you make a catalog that’s strategic and maximizes the ROI of your catalog marketing campaign.

Step 1: Outline your marketing goals

Should you still use catalogs in your marketing? Or are they outdated? New data suggests they're bouncing back in a big way.When it comes to developing the actual messaging or words that will go in your catalog, it’s essential to know the intended purpose for that publication.

Knowing the purpose for the catalog will not only the words, but also the images you choose, the order in which you display various products and, even more importantly, the selection of recipients that will make up your catalog’s audience or readership.

Once you know what your marketing goals are for publishing the catalog, you should come up with what you think it will take to reach those goals. What products need to sell more? What services do you offer that you wish more of your customers knew about?

These are the kinds of questions that will help you stay on track towards your goals as you go about writing, designing and otherwise creating your catalog.

Step 2: Determine your catalog type

Based on the needs you determined in the previous step, you should be able to come up with a general idea of the type of catalog you will need.

There are many different types of catalogs, and they all have different purposes, so we’ve outlined a few of them below and included a short description of each to help make the differentiation between them a little more pronounced. Always make sure your strategy is backed by evidence and data.

Catalog Types

Informational – these catalogs can be for either customers or employees as they are mostly text that is intended to educate or provide information on a given topic. For employees, this could be a training manual that you wish to use internally for years to come. For customers, this could be something like a magazine that outlines the details of your company’s latest news and how it will impact your services or products offered.

These catalogs are primarily for teaching or branding aesthetic purposes. Catalogs like these aren’t trying to make hard sales, they’re trying to establish a certain persona for your brand that will hopefully later be useful in encouraging customers to go with you over a comparable competitor.

Promotional – these are the standard examples that you probably think of when you are asked to think about a catalog. These catalogs feature a specialized selection of items offered by a single brand. The specialized selection of items in this kind of catalog is purely for promotional purposes.

These could include a number of purposes such as increasing sales of a particular category of products, or to announce a new special offer or even to highlight an entire category of products or services that your business or organization offers.

Services Listing – these are a more specialized type of catalog, purely for businesses that are primarily offering services and not products exclusively. The goals of such catalogs tend to be driving readers to call, visit a website or otherwise get in communication with you to get a quote or schedule an appointment for your given services.

Category or Topic-focused – these catalogs feature a specific division of your business or a certain line of products you offer. These are often individually branded to reflect the branding of the division they represent. For example, a tech division of a business could publish a catalog that visually features a lot of different wires and computer chips to set the mood.

Full-Line Catalog – these catalogs list every individual product, service and configuration a business has to offer so that a reader can quickly reference it to get the pricing of a specific good or service. These kinds of catalogs enable the advertiser to provide mail-in forms for readers to place their orders via mail.

No matter which kind of catalog would better suit your business, it’s important to choose one that checks off all the boxes for your marketing list of needs that were established in the first step.

Step 3: Do some pre-content creation contemplation

For each type of catalog, the design and content writing preparation process and workflow may differ, but there are still certain traits across all catalog types that show us what it is about successful catalogs that make them truly successful.

The most effective and well-received catalogs demonstrate knowledge of:

If you want a more effective catalog, you've got to  know your product forwards and backwards, inside and out.

The product

You absolutely must know the product you’re selling before you can even start thinking about how you can sell it. Sure you may be able to glean some idea of what you’re selling by reading about it or by thinking back to a time when you were a customer buying it, but there’s nothing that can compare to the hands-on experience of closing a sale with a customer.

Through experiences like these, you learn what it is about your product or service that is critical to customers in the final stages of their purchase decision making, and this knowledge will guide you in deciding which products/services to feature in your catalog to generate the highest ROI for your business.

Knowing what your customers need and want is essential to composing a good catalog.

Your customers

Who’s already buying your product or services? What are they saying about it? If you can answer both of these questions for each of your listed products or services, you can synthesize an understanding of your overall customer base, including notes on how they spend or make purchasing decisions, or how they engage with your content.

Having this basic understanding of who your customers have been historically and will likely be in the future.

Knowing your competition well will shape how you craft your own messaging in an effective catalog.

Your competition

While it may helpful for you to come up with content or wording on your own projects, it's important great to know exactly what your competitors are doing, it’s important not to let that content limit what you think is possible with your own. When a potential customer is attempting to understand how your pricing or product details compare to a competitor that offers a similar product or service, you want to make sure your content is going to be unique and stand out.

If you repeat all the same things your competitor says, this could even work against you if you don’t hold the top spot in search results for a given keyword or topic relating to your shared product listing. By thinking of new information to add and new ways of describing your product, you attract a new set of potential customers and you maybe even rekindle a relationship with your past customers who may have forgotten about purchasing from you in the past.

Step 4: Select a method to make marketing more measurable

Before you even start designing layouts or writing copy for your catalog, you need to figure out how you want to measure the reception and success rate of your catalog.

We've got a set of examples of how you can make your catalog campaigns more useful.Say, for example, that a prospect receives your catalog in their mail, and they’re so moved by its beauty that they decide to purchase one of the items prominently featured on the front cover. In this instance, they decide to create a new account and place an order through your website.

In this example, there’s no way of attributing the final sale to the original catalog mailing. If your marketing campaign can’t tell that this sale is directly related to a prospect reading a specific mailed catalog, then how can you ever gather an idea of how effective your catalog marketing campaign is?

This is why it’s absolutely essential to be careful and take your time when working through this step of your catalog marketing campaign’s development.

There are many methods of measuring readership or correlating catalog reads to individual sales, but only a few of them are effective enough to yield results that are accurate enough to rely on when calculating your campaign's ROI and reach. To help you make a decision on which one to incorporate, we’ve included some of the best ones along with a brief description of each below:

  1. QR Codes – once thought to be a dying technology, QR codes have made a tremendous comeback thanks to Apple finally adding an automatic QR code scanner to its camera app, as well as a an exclusive QR code scanning widget that can be enabled by a user.
    1. Readers can quickly flash your QR code into view on their phone’s camera and voila! They’ll be offered a link that they can tap/click on to be offered a link to the requested URL (which can even be unique to the specific printed piece and can be identified as the source of that website visit)
    2. One of the main advantages this has over other unique identifiers like personalized codes or URLs is that the reader doesn’t have to manually enter an address into their phone’s browser to get to your site. In addition, they typically don’t even know the link is being used to record a “conversion” for marketing metric purposes.
  2. Response Codes – these are basically unique bits of text and/or numbers that a reader can type in during digital checkout or speak while ordering over phone or in person so their purchase can be marked as a sale attributable to the specific referring catalog.
    1. Response codes can also serve the function of a single-use coupon code for those who order using the code printed in their catalog.
    2. This works without the customer even realizing the code is special to identify their purchase as one related to a specific catalog.
  3. PURLs (Personalized URLs or Landing Pages) – these are conceptually similar to the QR code since they’re basically unique links that a customer would need to type into their browser to visit, thereby registering a “conversion” for marketing metric purposes.
    1. PURLs allow you to place special identifiers on your visitors through code so they will be easily identifiable as having come from a catalog
  4. Other web, telephone or mail sales metrics – need to be monitored as well to make sure the results you get from the new catalog-specific digital campaign have something else as a base for comparison. If you’re able to get relatively stable metrics for the frequency of “conversions” or site visits that were a result of a user reading your new printed catalog.

The reason we put this tip before designing the catalog and writing the content is because the way you choose to track a piece will affect the overall content and design heavily, so it's better to know first and build your design around it than it would be to have to start from scratch.

Step 5: Get to work on your catalog contents and design

Now that you know all these things to take into consideration when crafting your messaging, go ahead and create all the content for your catalog. Apply your findings from the previous steps as you write the copy and design the layouts for your catalog.

Actually creating the contents for your catalog can take time, but the catalog you produce using our tips will be worth it.A few design pointers to note about some of the design elements and trends shared by the top performing catalogs:

  • Don’t copy what your competition has in their designs, but don’t be too different from what’s standard in your industry, either. The last thing you want to do is alienate your brand from your target market by being too bland or too eccentric. Making sure you have a catalog that sticks with the right demographics and audiences is essential and of utmost importance to not only your catalog’s success, but also your success overall.
  • Make sure you visually and verbally emphasize the products and/or services that you decided would need more promoting in Step 1.
  • Let your decisions with design and catalog formatting or layout be heavily influenced by any of the findings you may have gained while doing past catalog mailers or even smaller mailers like postcards. Ask yourself what worked best for your brand in the past? Then improve upon this to make it even better. What didn’t work? Don’t repeat anything like that and keep focused on how you can appeal even more to your target customer.

Step 6: Pick a printer that will maximize your savings and provide the highest quality of print

If you’re planning on mailing your catalog to a mailing list, you’ll have to find a printer that also offers in-house mailing services. Companies like Conquest Graphics that have their own mail center can make sure your mailers get going as soon as they’ve finished printing. The savings are tremendous for anyone choosing a printer that also has a mail center.

Conquest Graphics has better prices and better quality of print than most printers out there.Whichever printer you end up going with, make sure you select one that can truly provide the highest quality print and the highest accuracy of mailing.

If you choose to mail your catalog yourself, be aware that it may take much longer since you’ll have to wait for them to ship to your location before either sorting and mailing yourself or sending them off to someone else to do the mailing portion of the job.

One of the most important things to check when it comes to mailing your catalogs is whether or not the printer or mailing service is charging more than what the postage would cost you if you mailed it yourself. It’s hard to find companies like Conquest Graphics that don’t charge a cent more than the USPS fees to do mailing. So many printers and mail centers rely on seemingly tiny, but ultimately very huge hidden fees that are incurred on customers, sometimes even without their knowledge.

If you’re not mailing your catalog, this is when you’ll want to determine how you want to distribute your catalogs.

Trusting your gut instinct when it comes to the pricing of your project is sometimes what it takes to make sure you don’t get ripped off. Does the price seem too low? The quality will probably end up being terrible and turnaround times might be months out. Does it seem too high? They’re probably tacking on multiple ridiculous hidden fees that unfairly burden customers and decrease the overall value they end up receiving from their project.

Step 7: Record your results and calculate final ROI

Once you’ve given your catalog enough time in your prospects’ and customers’ hands finalize a collection of your various results measurements and do the necessary calculations to generate some kind of ROI statistic that can be recorded and referenced against future campaign results.

Hopefully, if you followed all of the pointers and tips outlined in this blog, you’ll have a very high ROI that indicates you’re actually adding value to your brand by choosing to print catalogs for your prospects or customers.

If you don’t seem to be benefitting and are constantly taking losses to publish catalogs when they’re really not adding anything to your brand or marketing voice, it may be time to consider dropping a few catalogs, too.

Either way, use the data you gain throughout your campaign to intelligently inform your next campaigns so you’re on a constant path towards improvement.

7 Steps That Will Make Your Catalog Marketing More Effective

Whether you’re new to catalog marketing or just updating your approach, learn how to develop the perfect catalog marketing strategy with this ultimate guide. We take you step by step through the various phases of planning, designing, creating and reviewing your catalog campaign so you can maximize its benefits to your bottom line.

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