Catalog Doctor: Conquer 'Fear of Selling'
PATIENT: Doc, catalog response has dropped. We've made some changes, but my team says they're all based on catalog rules. Look at our recent catalogs: Do you see what could have caused the drop?
CATALOG DOCTOR: It looks like your team has been infected with “Fear of Selling,” caused by catalog marketing myths. Particularly susceptible are decision makers without marketing backgrounds, marketers without catalog experience and designers who never see test results. Try the following prescriptions for debunking catalog myths.
* Myth No. 1: Copy on the cover detracts from the visual communication. Myth No. 1 creates fear of having selling copy on the front cover — especially several messages in large type.
Prescription: Realize that cover copy usually lifts response. Remember, you're helping consumers by giving good-for-them reasons to open your catalog. They're busy, don't make them figure it out themselves. Just make sure the copy is timely and useful, like: "42 New Products Inside," "Grand Mother's Day Gifts" and "Tips and recipes for cooking with hot sauce.”
* Myth No. 2: "We sell lifestyle, so lifestyle, not products, should go on the cover." Myth No. 2 creates the fear of showing products on the cover because they look too "commercial" and not "aspirational."
Prescription: Folks will trash a product-free aspirational cover if it's not clear what you're selling. A famous brand like L.L.Bean can put a painting on the cover because everyone knows they sell outdoor clothing. But few brands are that well known. Your catalog should show your products in use in a lifestyle setting, combining aspiration with clarity (e.g., a model wearing your resort-wear in a resort setting, your upscale pots in an upscale kitchen). Insets of products plus aspirational images can work, too.
* Myth No. 3: Keep to a strict design formula for brand consistency. Myth No. 3 creates fear of making the catalog look fresh, and locks it into looks that are boring for your customers (or makes them think they've already seen it, so they toss it).
Prescription: Create a branding style guide, but don't make it so rigid that every issue of your catalog looks the same. Create lots of templates. And sometimes break from templates. For example, put a free-form page in a grid catalog, or devote a whole page to one product in a dense catalog. Your logo, style guide fonts and color palettes will lend branding consistency. Your customers will have reasons to read every catalog.
* Myth No. 4: "Don't put the 800 number or URL on the front cover — there's nothing to buy from the cover anyway."
Prescription: Your catalog is more than an invitation to open and look inside; it functions like an ad — a memory trigger to needs ("I've been meaning to order new shirts") and brands ("I like their shirts"). A URL on the front cover makes it super easy to immediately browse online. An 800 number on the front cover makes it easy to call when you know what you want ("Can you look up what candy I gave my brother last year and send it to him again?").
Have you tried the prescriptions, but find that fear of selling is hanging on? Test, then share test results with your team. Seeing results in black and white usually affects a cure.
Susan J. McIntyre is founder and chief strategist of McIntyre Direct, a full-service catalog marketing agency and consulting firm in Portland, Ore. Reach Susan at (503) 286-1400 or email@example.com.
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.