Revving Up B-to-B Catalog Effectiveness
There are some great-looking B-to-B and hybrid B-to-B/B-to-C catalogs these days for both exotic and mundane product lines. But beautiful or ugly, plenty of them compromise response and profit by using layout and copy that ignore key selling and design principles. Applying those principles can help creative teams and management realize full value from their catalog mailing investments.
Along with consultant Sandra Blum, author of “Designing Direct Mail That Sells,” I discussed this in a session at the MeritDirect Business Mailer’s Co-op in White Plains, N.Y., last week.
By taking the audience on a visual tour and analysis of more than 20 catalogs we analyzed, we were able to point out how even the most successful catalogs had glaring weak spots that kept them from being even more effective.
I noted how the most fundamental problems arise from a failure to see catalog layout and copy through the eyes of customers trying to get information to make buying decisions. Catalogs too often present buyers with a confusing array of choices and little help on how to decide, which result in lost sales. B-to-B catalogers can improve their customer perspective by building charts that organize product line user benefits and applications. Then apply those insights to create pages with greater persuasive impact.
“Even familiar design rules need to be applied with an understanding of a page’s selling objectives,” Blum added. For example, most designers know that a photo of a person “has the power to increase the time spent with a page,” she said. “But placed incorrectly, with no connection to the sales message, that photo might actually be a harmful distraction, overpowering the product and key copy.”
Catalogs are funded, created and mailed to make sales, Blum noted. “Aesthetics is only one element of the B-to-B catalog design mission. Catalog merchandising takes a balance of graphics, logic, information presentation and navigation that goes beyond creating attractive product displays or copy-fitting ‘as is’ manufacturers’ descriptions,” she said.
I know applying all the high-impact suggestions from the session may sound daunting. However, most B-to-B catalog content is stable, so design teams can start small and fix a section or element with each release.
Daniel Harding is vice president of MeritDirect. You can reach him at (914) 368-1068 or firstname.lastname@example.org.