10 Essential Elements of Successful Product Catalog Marketing

How to design and deploy an effective promotional catalog

10 Essential Elements of Successful Product Catalog Marketing

Image by kaboompics via Pixabay.com

Modern marketing is all about storytelling. You can tell stories through text, images, or both. Storytelling helps you to speak past the prospect’s psychological barriers of skepticism and doubt, engages the consumer’s emotions, and adds a more personal dimension to the communication. One of the most powerful and effective forms of promotional storytelling is printed product catalog marketing

All the top brands — even those such as Amazon, who are market leaders in the online retail space — use printed product catalogs as a storytelling medium to engage customers, build their brands, and boost the bottom line. Catalogs combine beautiful visual and graphic elements with concise, persuasive text and the appeal of a tactile, high-quality product which customers enjoy browsing. Catalogs combine lifestyle and value statements with magazine-like immersive experiences and powerful marketing.

But the physical catalog isn’t an alternative to your online advertising and campaigns, it’s an integral complement to your business’s digital marketing strategy. The lines between life on- and off-line have blurred, and we now move seamlessly between the real world and virtual experiences. Catalogs can help bring traffic to your websites, online stores, and social media, too. Let’s look at 10 ways that printed product catalogs can drive engagement and boost sales.


Catalogs influence purchase decisions.

Research referenced in the Harvard Business Review shows that printed catalogs generate more custom than newspaper and TV advertising. In the same study, a company which deployed a combined email and printed catalog marketing campaign enjoyed an increase in sales of 15% compared to an email-only approach. It seems that a key factor in this success was the quality of the catalog.

So, it was lush with beautiful photography, product design and manufacture stories, customer testimonies, profiles of staff members, and high-quality printing. It seems that catalogs which are enriched with branding elements like these — components which make it a unique and in-depth experience for the reader, not just a list of products and pricing — are the ones with the most impact on consumer behavior.


Catalogs provoke emotional engagement

More than any other marketing medium — other, perhaps, than video, which is much harder to target — the printed catalog has a power to provoke powerful emotional responses in readers. It’s their emotions which hook them into the sales funnel and guide them along the consumer journey. Of course, to have this powerful emotional effect, your catalog needs to be more than just a product directory. 

Take to time to look at the catalogs produced by the major brands and you’ll see what makes a great catalog. Stunning photographic imagery, well-chosen models, and an element of branded storytelling are consistent factors across the board. Produce a catalog that finds its way into your prospects’ hearts and fires their imaginations, and you’ll have a catalog that sells.


Catalogs create a hub for multichannel marketing

The best catalogs offer an experience in themselves. Branded marketing sells more than a product. The product — whether food, clothing, accessories, furniture, artwork, books, a spa break or ski holiday, even cleaning products and D.I.Y. materials — is, in part, a lifestyle statement, an expression of consumer aspirations and values, and a tangible sense of connection to a community. Because catalogs are visual, tactile, emotionally engaging, they’re great for getting consumers to act on feelings, impulses, and desires. This is why — as evidenced by the study already cited and several others — people are more likely to buy from your online store if they’ve seen your products in a physical catalog first.

To make a super-effective catalog, integrate it into a multichannel user experience. Make it so that they can experience the products and brand story in the pages of the physical catalog, but add QR codes which take them to video-stories embedded on your online sales pages. Offer them the chance to subscribe to get updates, exclusive access to new products, discounts, and more. Not only does the catalog then become a hub which drives traffic online as well as attracting new customers offline, but it becomes a unique and valued product in its own right which customers will keep and share. 


Catalogs are more engaging and more memorable

The very fact that it’s a physical object, beautifully printed on high-quality paper, is what makes a catalog so much more effective than a digital-only campaign. A recent study discussed in The Conversation demonstrated that people remember much more when they read physical, print-on-paper pages than when they either read online or consume the information by audio or video. They also engage more deeply at an emotional and intellectual level with the material and lend more authority to printed documents than digital alternatives, even if the content is identical.


Catalogs can be tailored to specific demographics

Modern marketers have huge, granular, consumer databases to inform their campaigns. Combined with the primary market research, this enables you to implement surgical targeting to make sure your catalogs land straight into the mailboxes of the prospects and consumers who are going to love them and be most responsive. It also means you can ‘tweak’ several versions of your catalog to appeal to several market segments, thus tailoring the experience for each group and maximizing your return on investment.


Catalogs generate consumer data

The positive flip-side of using consumer data to target, design, and distribute your catalogs is that the catalogs can then be used to feed back useful market data to enrich and deepen your current databases. Using personalized codes, links, and coupons means you can track individual consumer journeys. This is valuable information for improving future iterations of your catalog. It’s also a great way to enable evaluation and assessment of the success and effectiveness of your current campaigns.


How to design a catalog that sells

As you should now be aware, the contemporary printed catalog is more than a mere sales list; it’s a positive powerhouse of modern multichannel marketing which integrates seamlessly with your broader digital campaigns, furnishes a wealth of consumer data, encourages customer loyalty to your brand, and, not least, increases your sales and boosts the bottom line. But to make sure that you get that high quality return on your investment, you need to design and print a catalog equal to the task. So, here’s a quick checklist of 10 essential elements you must think about and plan to design a catalog that sells:

  1. Branded identity

A core aspect of a successful product catalog marketing is a personalized experience, a sense of emotional connection, and heightened memorability. So, it’s vital that you develop a clear brand identity. You should always include:

  • Your company name and the name of your catalog
  • A consistent, recognizable color scheme, font, and visual style
  • A unique and targeted brand “voice” in your text content
  • Your brand’s logo
  • Your brand’s tagline or slogan
  1. User-friendly design

Your catalog must be visually appealing and also easy to navigate and use. From the first impression on seeing the cover, to the length and size of the catalog, to the location of codes and order forms, nothing should be left to chance. So, there are several factors to take into account when thinking about the organization and layout:

  • A beautiful cover which attracts the eye but also communicates clearly what the catalog is about and who it’s for
  • A contents page which is easy to scan
  • In larger catalogs, color-coded category sections, tabs, and dividers
  • Balance of visual imagery and text
  • Plenty of white space: most consumer report finding browsing a catalog to be relaxing, so avoid over-crowding the pages
  1. Professional copy-writing

Writing the content for your catalog isn’t as simple as typing out words. The tone, style and vocabulary choices make a huge difference. If you’re going to the trouble of developing a visually beautiful catalog, then don’t take short cuts with the text copy. Always employ an experienced, talented copy-writer with a proven track record and a good portfolio.

  1. Pictures speak a thousand words

In the same way, you’ll need professional photography both for the cover, interiors, and product images. The most effective catalogs are primarily visual experiences. You must encourage your designer, copywriter, photographer, and printing service to communicate and collaborate as early as possible to make sure that your marketing aims and your catalog design are well-matched. But always use the best professional photographer you can afford.

  1. Make buying simple

This may seem obvious, but if you want your catalog to sell, you need to make buying easy! Think about how to include as many purchase options as possible from online ordering, to telesales, to mailing an order coupon. Make clear all payment options from cash in store, to bank transfer, credit and debit cards, and online payment systems such as PayPal, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and others. Offering credit terms and installment agreements is also helpful.

  1. The money’s in the list

This has become something of a marketing cliche, but only because it’s true! Your catalog is a perfect channel for capturing subscriptions to your email list. Always make sure that you clean your list regularly to check for changes of addresses and names, purge them of deceased persons or false identities, and keep them bang up to date. You can also usefully segment your list into degrees of responsiveness, age range, income, and location to help you with more granular and precise demographic targeting in future catalog iterations and campaigns.

  1. Promotions and discounts

Promotions and discount offers are a time-honored and effective way to increase engagement, boost sales and encourage repeat buying. Including free shipping, time-limited discounts, buy-one-get-one-free offers, mystery gifts with orders over a certain amount, and a loyalty program all work well. A catalog is a great space for cross-promotional activity and up-selling, too.

  1. Split catalogs

Back in the old days of traditional catalog marketing, a company would produce a vast annual directory of all its products in one hefty volume. But these days, it’s more profitable to produces series of smaller, closely targeted seasonal or niche catalogs. Splitting your product lines into a range of catalogs which will appeal to specific consumer segments can have a significant positive impact on sales.

  1. Mirror catalogs

It’s a good idea to have an online, digital version of your printed catalogs available on your website, too. These ‘mirror catalogs’ encourage multichannel engagement with your brand and develop brand recognition and trust across the real world and digital divide. You can also use the printed catalog to drive traffic to your online properties while giving the opportunity to those who find you first online to order a print catalog!

  1. Tracking and evaluation

It’s impossible to measure the success of any marketing campaign, digital or otherwise, unless you build in tracking mechanisms right from the start. So, make sure that tracking codes and product and consumer identifiers are an integral part of your design and ordering systems. Analysis of multiple aspects of your campaign, from the popularity of particular products to demographic information, the impact of discounts, sales, and offers on loyalty and subscription drives, can all be tracked, traced, and measured via your catalog.


The next step in your product catalog marketing campaign

There’s no doubt that, done well, printed product catalog marketing is a valuable, well-targeted arrow in your marketing quiver. You’ll need to work out a development and implementation plan with your marketing and sales teams. Then, once the aims and objectives of the campaign are mapped out, you’ll need to think about your design and distribution channels. Distribution will depend on your company location, target audience, and several other factors. 

But in terms of design and printing, get your custom printing service involved at the design stage. Experienced printers can help with information and advice about how design and materials intersect, and can share templates and other vital resources with your designer. We have decades of experience working with businesses on catalogs. Get in touch today for a no-obligation quote or a simple chat about the options going forward. One of our expert team will be happy to help.