How Great Catalog Design Boosts Sales
P.T. Barnum said it best: “Without promotion, something terrible happens…nothing!”
In other words, it’s not enough for a manufacturer to produce superior products, a distributor to offer a diverse range of products or a retailer to stock them. Or for a medical or healthcare facility to provide excellent treatment and therapy. If nobody knows a business exists, customers and patients will turn instead to a competitor that’s done a better job of communicating their products and the benefits from them.
Fortunately, there are measures any business can take to raise its public profile, and one of the most important is via its catalog. A business’s catalog presents a list of the products or services offered accompanied by descriptions, prices, and other information such as pictures or links.
Catalogs date all the way back to 1498 when publisher Aldus Manutius of Venice produced a list of the books he was printing. Tiffany’s produced Tiffany’s Blue Book, the first American mail-order catalog, in 1840, and other companies like Montgomery Ward were soon to follow.
Catalogs are effective because they carry a company’s message to a large audience inexpensively. In fact, in our era of the Internet and social media, they can be less expensive than ever. And today the overwhelming majority of businesses provide them online even though many still distribute hard copies as well.
Catalogs are also effective because they reach potential customers or patients wherever they are. People don’t have to visit some brick-and-mortar location to find out what your business has to offer.
Moreover, in many instances, catalogs provide the convenience of handling the whole shopping experience remotely. People can order what they want, pay for it, and have it delivered to their doors. It’s fast and often cheaper.
The catch is that today, pretty much every business has a catalog. That means it’s not enough for you just to have one, too. You need a good one. If it’s not, customers won’t bother trying to use it despite its inadequacies. They’ll consult some competitor’s superior catalog.
What Makes an Effective Catalog?
New catalogs should come out yearly or even several times a year. The new catalog doesn’t have to showcase every product on a business’s website or on its shelves, especially if there are a lot. It should showcase new offerings, so naturally, a good time to distribute one is when new products are coming out. For many businesses, the changing of the seasons is a good time, too.
The catalog should showcase deals and promotions. These motivate customers but will do no good if nobody notices them.
Nothing drives sales better than great photography. Combine compelling images with brief but informative text. Since you want striking images, you don’t want stock photos. You want original photos of your products. You want close-up photos of the product by itself, but it also adds impact to show it in context. You might, for example, want to show builders working with the power tools you’re selling.
The Paper Catalog
Though we live in an electronic age, print is still very much alive, and big, successful companies like Crate & Barrel and Neiman Marcus are still producing print catalogs. They believe that in a time of information overload, the print category may snag a customer’s attention in a way that an online presence might not, as well as do a better job of telling the “story” of a brand.
If you use a paper catalog, you’ll want to maximize its impact by putting it in the hands of as many potential customers or patients as possible. The traditional, tried-and-true method is via direct mail, but you can also put some in the box whenever you ship an order, leave some behind at the end of a sales visit, or hand them out at professional networking events or at any other occasion that seems appropriate.
The Online Catalog
Even if your business produces paper catalogs, you’ll almost certainly want an online catalog too, to reach additional customers and take advantage of ease of distribution and the ability to provide frequent updates. You can readily showcase new offerings and use dynamic pricing.
Customers typically find an online catalog by using Google or some other search engine, going straight to a business’s website, finding the catalog through a marketplace like eBay or Amazon, or thanks to a product mention on social media. However they come to the catalog, it’s important that the process of using it be as easy as possible.
That means customers can find, view, and compare possibilities and make a final selection fast, with a minimum of jumping back and forth. To that end, the search capabilities should be honed in order to quickly match the right product or service to the appropriate customer.
Similarly, the website, like the catalog, should have logical, intuitively obvious product categories and navigational hierarchies. Customers should be able to obtain as much product information as possible on the search results page. They shouldn’t have to open the product detail page only to find out that a particular item isn’t at all what they had in mind. Product pages should contain all the information a customer would want. Customers shouldn’t have to consult someone else’s site (like the manufacturer’s, if that’s not who you are) for more. Important information should be clearly presented upfront. The customer shouldn’t have to waste time scrolling and closely scrutinizing the product page to find it.
To accomplish all that, the catalog needs clear, complete product titles. These should enable a potential customer to find exactly what he’s looking for on the first try. The catalog also needs large, clear, high-resolution pictures and detailed yet easy-to-understand product descriptions to show customers exactly what they would be buying. Naturally, a product description should always include the price, a key piece of information for any potential customer.
If your resources allow for it, videos are a highly effective marketing tool. In addition to putting them in your online catalog, you can place them elsewhere on your website and link to them via social channels.
Finally, businesses should take advantage of all the potential of the Internet to distribute catalogs as widely as possible. They can embed catalogs on their websites, share them on social channels, and build subscriber lists and send them out with newsletters. You can build a subscriber list for a newsletter by having a sign-up option of your website where interested parties provide their email addresses. Just be sure to give them an unsubscribe link in the newsletter itself. Not only are these good Internet manners, but it will also prevent the newsletter from being tagged as spam.
Wow, That All Sounds Like a Lot!
It sounds like a lot to consider because it is, but fortunately, you don’t have to create the catalog yourself. To obtain the best results and maximize sales, it’s an excellent idea to hire a professional designer. Look at the designer’s portfolio to determine if you like his or her style. It’s a plus if the designer has designed catalogs or comparable work before. Once you pick a designer, show the pro some catalog designs you like and explain why you like them. This will help the designer create something that fits your needs and expectations.
We at Streng Agency would be happy to discuss your catalog needs with you. We can provide a hassle-free way to enhance your presence in the marketplace and increase your revenue.