What Catalogs are About

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We said that direct mail is an extension of door-to-door selling.

There Is a Different Perspective for Catalogs

Catalogs are an extension of in-store, retail marketing. When you mail a catalog, you are mailing a store.

Your Catalog Must Have the Same Features That Make a Store Successful

Location (getting it into the right hands), selection, price, personality, ambience, impulse buying opportunities, guaranteed satisfaction, convenience, prompt delivery, customer service, clear identity, and most of all unique merchandise.

When you create the right store, carry the right merchandise, and put it into the hands of the right buyers, your catalog will succeed – whether it is for industry or consumers.

Leafing through your catalog should be like walking through a store. We see merchandise displayed in an appealing way. There are departments. There is a feeling to the place. Every now and then something unexpected catches our eye.

We see a whole range of merchandise, from featured items down to the last-minute impulse buying opportunities at the check-out counter (the order form).

Basic questions are answered quickly by helpful salespeople (your copy) and we feel the store's sincere desire to serve us for many years to come.

The 2 Most Important Things Your Store Should Feature Are Unique Products and Convenience

As with retail merchandise, catalog success starts with smart buying. You want a unique line of goods, offering things not conveniently found nearby. You need a specific niche, a place of your own. That way you can plant your flag and say, "We are the best source for these products."

Convenience is extremely important to catalog success. Many industrial and consumer buyers don't have the time or inclination to go shopping in a real store. They order from a catalog because it is more convenient than spending hours locating another source. This convenience works on your behalf, but it can work against you if your fulfillment services are sloppy, inventory control is inadequate, or your merchandise does not live up to promises.

Like Retail Merchandising, Catalog Selling Takes Constant Reevaluation and Experimentation

Stores evaluate the profitability of an item or line of merchandise by the income-per-square-foot of floor space, or shelf space used to display it. Catalogers do the same. But in our case the unit of measurement is usually each square inch of catalog page space.

See how much of your display space is occupied by each item or family of items. That way you know how to value your merchandise in terms of profitability per page, or per square inch. This evaluation will tell you which items are the most profitable and lead you to changes that make your next catalog even better.

Generally, the more your line of merchandise changes, the more you should send new catalogs to your customers. A consumer clothing firm, for instance, should send new catalogs at least quarterly, while an industrial vendor with a line of products that does not change often can do well with a single annual catalog.

There is a key strategy that can make a catalog operation even more profitable. It's called:

Try to Get Everyone to Buy At Least Something

Catalogs are expensive to produce and print. Of course you want to make profits, but before you can make a profit you have to overcome expenses. You do this by including smaller items that will put you in a breakeven position with more of your customers. Having offset the expense of their catalogs with one small purchase, you'll make more net profits on the larger ticket items.

Remember to Be Highly Promotional in Your Catalog

Sell them the goods, don't just offer items. Have limited time offers for discounts, promotional coupons in the bounce back package, two-for-one offers, and use the merchandising tricks that are standard for large stores.

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