AND HOW TO AVOID THEM
First published on RetailOnlineIntegration.com blog January 2014
© 2014 Susan J. McIntyre
PATIENT: “Doc, we've run brick-and-mortar stores, and we've run ecommerce stores, but our catalog is new to us. What do we need to know to keep us from stumbling in this new-to-us channel?”
DOCTOR: “Catalogs have some significant differences from other channels, that can surprise people new to cataloging. Here are 9 errors that new-to-catalog firms often make. These errors don't have to happen—they are in your control. Avoiding getting seduced by them can put you on the road to catalog success.”
SEDUCTIVE ERROR #1: TARGETING TOO NARROW A PORTION OF YOUR BUYERS.
To get a reasonable response rate, don't just target your totally dedicated buyers. Your copy, imagery and product selection must also work for your half-dedicated and so-so buyers.
SEDUCTIVE ERROR #2: TOO MINIMAL OR NO COPY.
A “clean” design is trendy, but you can't sell without words. Tell why this product is better than others of its kind. List important features if they're not super-clear from the photo. Your job is to convince the reader to buy, not just show the product then walk away. Without enough “sell” in the copy, response drops.
SEDUCTIVE ERROR #3: BEING EXCESSIVELY CONSISTENT FROM PAGE TO PAGE.
Avoid having every page look similar to the next. Consistency is seductive...and easy: you give the product list to a low-cost production person and they populate the grid. But the audience will get bored, the catalog won't get read, and sales will suffer. Change up the layouts, keep the catalog exciting throughout. You'll increase your readership and your sales.
SEDUCTIVE ERROR #4: ASSUMING YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE FULLY SOLD ON YOUR BRAND.
If you tell your brand story only in your prospecting catalog, you're shooting yourself in your foot. Your catalog is only a sometime thing to even your best customers, and you need to keep reminding them why your brand is so good. In a sense, everyone is always a prospect.
SEDUCTIVE ERROR #5: MAKING COVERS BEAUTIFUL BUT DEVOID OF MARKETING.
Your cover isn't for framing. It's to lure the customer inside. What's fabulous about the cover product(s)? What else that's wonderful is inside this book? Are there holidays or events coming up you can help customers prepare for? Any great offer(s) inside? Say it on the cover.
SEDUCTIVE ERROR #6: NOT BEING CLEAR.
Clarity trumps everything. Clarity is the foundation upon which a successful catalog is built. I've seen new-to-catalog firms produce books where it wasn't clear what was for sale (really). And don't assume your fabulous but unclear layouts and copy will inspire readers to go online to figure it all out. Most won't go...or buy.
SEDUCTIVE ERROR #7: ASSUMING THAT YOU CAN KEEP EVERY CUSTOMER FOREVER.
I've seen numerous unseasoned catalogers keep mailing their entire buyer list for several years and not grasp why their response rates have gone into decline. Guru Dick Hodgson used to say “half of your customers will never buy from you again”. You must segment your list and mail scientifically to be successful.
SEDUCTIVE ERROR #8: ASSUMING THAT IF A CUSTOMER HASN'T BOUGHT IN 2 YEARS THAT THEY'LL NEVER BUY AGAIN.
In the inverse of #7, I've seen numerous unseasoned catalogers stop mailing what could be highly productive buyers because those customers haven't bought recently. Circulation is a science. If you don't know the science yet, start by going to an expert. It will pay off big-time for you.
SEDUCTIVE ERROR #9: BUILDING A MONUMENT TO YOUR PERSONAL TASTE.
The very fact that you own or run a catalog business makes you different from most people. It's highly unlikely that there exist enough clones of your personal taste to support an entire catalog. Look, listen and learn from your customers and craft your catalog for them.