How to Choose the Right Design Team to Implement Your Catalog
When clients come to me with questions about starting a catalog, invariably the subject of creative development comes up. Should it be their internal creative department despite its limited knowledge of catalog development; their agency, which really knows the business; or someone else entirely?
My answer to those questions always is this: Choose designers who specifically know the mail order catalog market. Why? Consider the following:
A catalog used to generate sales via mail/Internet ordering is a very different animal from a branding vehicle. It may look similar, but companies that create mail order catalogs know exactly how to build a catalog that not only builds your brand, but also sells your product. That’s the key difference: what looks simple actually is highly specialized and technical. Beautiful doesn’t always sell, and catalog design companies know how to generate sales.
• They understand the key drivers of stimulating response.
• They also understand the budgetary constraints that separate mail order from brand building.
How To Start, Who To Choose
If you’re entering the catalog arena for the first time, you’ll likely have a limited testing budget and no time to figure out how to build a mail order catalog on your own.
A catalog marketing agency, especially one with specific knowledge in your category should be a core member of your startup team. Start by contacting a number of catalog agencies and invite them to develop creative concepts for you. You’ll immediately see who gets your business and who doesn’t based on their comps.
In choosing an agency, look for one that does all facets of the catalog production process, from photography to layout and design, and even prepress (or pre-media as it’s often called now). That gives the agency a major stake in the process and provides you with complete accountability.
You’ll also see a wide range of prices for building your catalog, so gauge the price/performance ratio of catalog marketing. Remember this as you review pricing: Every penny more your catalog costs per unit, you need to generate 2 cents more in sales.
And don’t skimp on the design. A good design company can help you balance this out.
Your catalog serves a strategic purpose. Do your math up front on your breakevens and projected P&Ls. Don’t get so hooked on the creative that it takes on a life of its own. Photo shoots and design are the “sexy” side of the business, but you make your money based on targeting the right product to the right market, and then building creative to speak to that market in a manner that sells.
Thus, I implore you to remember the 40/40/20 rule. Lists and offers (merchandise) make up a combined 80 percent of the potential impact you can have on your direct marketing efforts, while creative comprises only 20 percent.
Next week, I’ll discuss more on executing your creative in house, and I may even tell you one of my favorite success — and subsequent failure — stories (which begs the question: can creative lightning strike twice?).
Speak to you next week.
Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing and a professor of direct marketing at Miami International University of Art and Design. He can be reached at email@example.com.