Catalog Doctor: The Lost Art of Effective Cataloging
Four true catalog case studies:
1. circulation down 31 percent, sales up 27 percent;
2. circulation flat, sales up 37 percent;
3. circulation down 7 percent, sales up 15 percent; and
4. circulation down 17 percent, sales up 19 percent.
Are these historic sales from 2005's good old days? No, they're real numbers from real companies in today's challenging economic environment.
Are these merger and acquisition companies, combining titles and lists? No, these are single-title, small- to medium-sized companies with long-term ownership.
Huge page count increases? No, flat or reduced page counts.
Big web expansion, with pay-per-click, search engine optimization, mobile, YouTube and email initiatives? No, flat or reduced online investment.
Then where are these sales increases coming from? What do these catalogers have in common?
They're all producing catalogs using what used to be catalog best practices — and now are almost a lost art. Can I cover the lost art of cataloging for you in 1,000 words? No way. But I can lay out some best practices to help lead the way.
1. You Must Work Really, Really Hard so Your Customer Doesn't Have to
This hard work is mostly hard thinking: study, analysis, logic, devil's advocating. Apply it to every facet of your multichannel marketing scheme to eliminate all barriers between your customer and getting a sale. Barriers stand in the way of sales, lowering response rates. Therefore, removing barriers opens the way to sales, lifting response. Barriers include catalog copy that forces consumers to go online to get their product questions answered; difficult or confusing return policies; a website that forces consumers to sign up before they can place an order; an email program that's hard to opt out of; unclear or hard-to-scan design and copy (see below); and too few or too many catalog contacts.
Susan J. McIntyre is Founder and Chief Strategist of McIntyre Direct, a catalog agency and consultancy in Portland, Oregon offering complete creative, strategic, circulation and production services since 1991. Susan's broad experience with cataloging in multi-channel environments, plus her common-sense, bottom-line approach, have won clients from Vermont Country Store to Nautilus to C.C. Filson. A three-time ECHO award winner, McIntyre has addressed marketers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, has written and been quoted in publications worldwide, and is a regular columnist for Retail Online Integration magazine and ACMA. She can be reached at 503-286-1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.