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Product Catalogs: Tips, Tricks and Traps

Product catalogs are the heart of successful mail-order businesses. As a highly effective marketing medium, product catalogs not only tell your customers who you are and what you offer, but also have the ability to pitch promotional offers and make ordering perfectly easy on each andresources imageevery page. There's no other tool in your repertoire that gives you so many opportunities to market to both niche-based and broad-based clienteles than the product catalog. Of course, that doesn't mean that any old catalog will do — you have to reach your audience with the right message or your catalog will only be opened in File 13. Here are a few tips, tricks and traps to keep in mind when designing your next product catalog:

Tips and tricks

  • Include a gift certificate for first-time buyers: By offering 20 percent off or $10 toward purchases of $50 or more you'll receive a better response immediately.
  • Place deals throughout the catalog: Don't limit your offer to your catalog cover or inserts; instead, strategically place product deals on high-traffic catalog pages. If you have an expensive product that many people want but few can afford, for instance, you can offer a discounted alternative on the same page and compare the two, demonstrating that the alternative is a great deal.
  • Include product and company testimonials. Testimonials should be placed every few pages, and should relate to the content on those pages. Have an accessories page? Try a testimonial such as "Company XYZ always has the extra gear I need to really do it right." Big ticket items? Try something along the lines of "I was hesitant to spend so much on a TV, but I was reassured by Company XYZ's 100 percent guarantee. The product shipped fast, it works and the technical support I received during set up was excellent."
  • Show product prices as mark-downs: You know the familiar X through the old price? The reason so many catalogs incorporate it is because it works.
  • Product showcases and reviews: Showcase your featured products in quarter-page, half-page and full-page blocks for maximum emphasis. Augment the product features with favorable customer reviews.
  • Go big: Larger catalogs immediately command more attention and act as mini billboards when people are browsing them. Instead of 8.5-inch by 11-inch, try a 12-inch by 12-inch for maximum exposure.
  • Get it printed right: Catalogs that are too flimsy or otherwise printed with a poor process are easily torn, smudged or smeared. Make sure you go with a quality catalog printer such as PsPrint that offers 100-pound gloss cover paper stock for the cover and 70-pound matte or 80-pound or 100-pound gloss text for the inside pages. Most catalogs can have saddle-stitched binding, but large catalogs might need a Wire-O to keep the pages together.


  • Black and white pages: It might be more economical to print in blacresources imagek and white, but today's customers expect full-color images. More than a convenience, full-color printing adds credibility. If a competitor's catalog is printed in color and yours is not, guess who gets the sale?
  • Sloppy copy: It's worth hiring a professional copywriter to write your offers, calls to action and even your product descriptions, which should take on a uniform format.
  • Poor design: Hire a graphic designer to make your products and offers stand out, grab attention and land sales.
  • Shoddy printing: If your catalog looks bad, your company looks bad. You don't need to spend more than you can afford. It's OK to sacrifice a tiny bit on paper grade to go with full-color offset quality printing.
  • Bad list: This is one of the most important factors when it comes to mailing catalogs. If you don't have a highly targeted mailing list that meets your customer demographics, you're wasting printing and postage. A boat parts manufacturer, for instance, will not want to send their catalog to automotive retailers - they'll want to send them to marinas, boat clubs and boat owners.

Combine these elements and toss in a few creative twists of your own, and you'll be in good shape the next time you launch a product catalog campaign.