Conquer “Fear of Selling”

By Susan J. McIntyre

Susan J. McIntyre, Founder

Debunking Catalog Marketing Myths

PATIENT: Doc, catalog response has dropped. We've made some changes, but my team says they're all based on catalog rules. Look at our recent catalogs — do you see what could have caused the drop?

CATALOG DOCTOR: It looks like your team has been infected with 'Fear of Selling' caused by Catalog Marketing Myths. Particularly susceptible are decision-makers without marketing backgrounds, marketers without catalog experience, and designers who never see test results. Try these prescriptions for debunking catalog myths.

Myth #1: “Copy on the cover detracts from the visual communication.”

Myth #1 creates fear of having selling copy on the front cover — especially several messages in large type.

Prescription: Realize that cover copy usually lifts response. Remember, you're helping your customers by giving good-for-them reasons to open your catalog. (They're busy, don't make them figure it out themselves.) Just make sure the copy is timely and useful to them, like: "42 New Products Inside", "Grand Mothers' Day Gifts", "Tips and recipes for cooking with hot sauce".

Myth #2: “We sell lifestyle, so lifestyle, not products, should go on the cover.”

Myth #2 creates the fear of showing products on the cover because they look too "commercial" and not "aspirational".

Prescription: Folks will trash a product-free aspirational cover if it's not clear what you're selling. A famous brand like L.L. Bean can put a painting on the cover because everyone knows they sell outdoor clothing — but few brands are that famous. Your catalog should show your products — in use in a lifestyle setting combines aspiration with clarity (a model wearing your resort-wear in a resort setting, your upscale pots in an upscale kitchen). Insets of products plus an aspirational image can work too.

Myth #3: “Keep to a strict design formula for brand consistency.”

Myth #3 creates fear of making the catalog look fresh, and locks your catalog into looks that are boring for your customers (or makes them think they've already seen it, so they toss it).

Prescription: Do create a branding style guide but don't make it so rigid that every issue of your catalog looks the same. Do create templates, but create lots of them. And sometimes break from templates (put a free-form page in a grid catalog, or a whole page for 1 product in a dense catalog). Your logo, style-guide fonts and color palettes will lend branding consistency. Your customers will have reasons to read every catalog issue.

Myth #4: “Don't put the 800# or URL on the front cover — there's nothing to buy from the cover anyway.”

Prescription: Your catalog is more than an invitation to open and look inside. It also functions like an ad — a memory trigger to needs ("I've been meaning to order new shirts") and brands ("I like their shirts"). A URL on the front cover makes it super-easy to browse online, now. An 800# on the front cover makes it easy to call when you know what you want ("Can you look up what candy I gave my brother last year and send it to him again?")

Tried the prescriptions, but find that cases of "Fear of Selling" are hanging on? Test — then share test results with your team. Seeing results in black and white will usually effect a cure.