Catalog Doctor: Avoid the ‘Lazy Syndrome’ Epidemic
PATIENT: Doc, when the economy tanked in 2008, my catalog turned from well to sick — we had declines in 12-month buyer counts, reactivation, average order and prospect response. How can I make it well again?
CATALOG DOCTOR: You may be suffering from “lazy syndrome,” which has become an epidemic. But there’s a good chance of recovery.
Through our long boom, I watched many catalog/multichannel merchants get lazy. They fell away from cataloging fundamentals and adopted the approach, “Put it on paper, they’ll buy.” In a boom period, that may be enough. During a bust, it’s not.
In a bust period, you — and your whole catalog team — must think more and work harder on catalog fundamentals; you’ll be surprised at the gains. This month, let’s look at sales fundamentals.
I say “sales” instead of “marketing” to highlight a fact we tend to forget: Your catalog is a salesperson. In fact, catalogs originally served as replacement salespeople. They had to do all their same work. Today, many books don’t perform the fundamental tasks that can turn a sale. Try these five prescriptions, and call me in the morning.
1. Answer this product question: What will this product do for me, and why should I care?
There’s way too little product analysis from the customer’s standpoint, and you can see the consequences in weak, unconvincing copy. With today’s tight dollars, customers need a lot more convincing to open their wallets. The analysis needed to write effective copy is hard work, but the results are worth the effort.
Prescription: List all the product’s features, then all its benefits. Look at your list and imagine the customer saying, “So what?” It’s your job to answer “so what” and overcome each objection — overcoming objections has always been key for salesfolks.
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.