Catalog Design Best Practices Part 2

Please enjoy part 2 of our two-part series on catalog design best practices.

7. Send your catalog to someone who cares
Why spend months agonizing over catalog details and spending $1,000s on photography when you are sending your hard work to people who will toss it right in the waste basket? Thus, our next piece of advice: your catalog is only as successful as your list. Lists are commonly generated from those who purchased on your site, called in to make a purchase, or mailed in a form. Going after previous buyers makes sense. However, the list you use to send out your catalog should be current and targeted to those who have in interest in what you’re selling. Be sure to de-dupe lists, and use change of address databases (NCOA). Capture new prospects via multiple online registration forms. Purchasing a list from a reputable source is also a way to go. Today’s marketing technology allows you to get very specific with your target buyer, down to location, income level, relationship status, and purchase preferences.

Aside from the list, consider niche-targeted catalogs to reach and convert more customers. By segmenting your customers by type and buyer behavior, you can identify niches and verticals and create product catalogs that cater to those specific desires. This could help you produce smaller, more targeted product lists that resonate with the buyers on a higher level.

8. Widen your digital marketing stream
Earlier we talked about cross selling within a catalog. Now we urge you not to forget cross media merchandising. Promoting your website within your catalog and your catalog on your website will have a greater impact when working together. Today, a print catalog must coexist with a corresponding website or digital catalog. Why? Because customers demand both! Ignore the power of the Internet at your own peril. A printed catalog might be the initial communication medium, but the website is the preferred ordering mechanism. In addition, search engines now index PDFs, including electronic versions of catalogs, so PDFs can rank in search results. Organic search casts a wide net of prospective customers via search engines, and paid search can deliver immediate website traffic. Social media can also rank high in search results and drive traffic to the online catalog or e-commerce website. Finally, an email campaign announcing your new catalog can be as effective in driving website traffic as the printed catalog. Considering today’s marketing and technology trends, we would even say that, depending on your audience, you might be better off cutting the printing costs and only creating a digital catalog that you market through online channels.

9. Size does matter
When designing your catalog, it’s important to choose a size that will be economical and also showcase the products in the catalog most appropriately. Formats such as a standard full-size, slim-jim, or digest-size in whole signature page counts tend to be the most economical to print and mail. These are widely-recognized formats that fit most needs, but a standard format may come across as plain and boring, not getting the notice you desire. The key to choosing the right size is knowing how much information the catalog should contain. If you intend to showcase hundreds of images and descriptions, choose a larger size to avoid page congestion.

In addition to page size, also consider page signatures, which are a group of pages that are printed on both sides of a single sheet of paper using a process called imposition (links to Once folded and trimmed, these pages follow a typical page sequence and become a specific set of pages within the catalog. Printing in even signature page quantities, such as 16, 32, 48, 64, etc., will provide the most pages for the dollar. If you can’t hit increments of 16, then the next best option is signatures of 8 pages.

10. Consistency builds recognition
It may be tempting to change your catalog’s design from year to year to make it “new and fresh,” but we suggest you leave the brand guidelines intact. Using Coke as an example, can you imagine if they changed their corporate colors to green because they were just tired of red? Your brand may not have the same worldwide recognition, but the point remains the same. Your customers know you by your brand. That means the colors, fonts, style of photography, and tone should be consistent. You may be getting sick of seeing the same thing over and over again, but your consumers are not looking at your brand collateral nearly as much as you are. They rely on consistency to find you, remember you, and refer others to you. Protect your investment by keeping your catalog design the same for several years, and if you decide to change, do it in small increments over time. Repetition builds a brand’s identity, and that in turn brings consumer acceptance and sales.

11. Measure your success…or lack of it
A crucial ingredient in just about any marketing effort today is ROI. You have to be able to measure, evaluate, and refine. A catalog is no different. If you produce a catalog and don’t get the results you were hoping for, your problem may not be your products or your list of recipients. It could go back to organizing for sales. One tactic that helps ensure you are giving the most appealing products the limelight is square inch analysis. After several months have passed since distributing your catalog, analyze the profit results. Using this method, you calculate the total cost of the catalog (design, printing, mailing) divided by the total square inches of available selling space.

6” x 9” = 54” per page
100 pages (includes cover) x 54 = 5,400”
5,400/$50,000=$9.25 per inch

Then figure how much each product cost to show in your catalog by multiplying the cost per square inch times the amount of space each item received in the catalog.

Product A: 4” x $9.25 = $37

Compare this cost against the total profit earned on each item. Give the top 20% of most profitable products more space in your next issue. Give the bottom 20% less. By evaluating this repeatedly you will continue to optimize your catalog costs and maximize profits.

So, do you need a catalog expert?

Streng is a full-service creative agency with decades of experience in catalog planning, design, and production. Call 630-584-3887, today!