Despite rumors of its demise, catalog marketing can be successful when properly executed. Because of incumbent printing, production and postage costs, catalog marketing can be quite expensive and unprofitable if not implemented correctly.

Besides high profile, big budget consumer catalogs like Crate and Barrel or Victoria’s Secret, what are effective techniques for business-to-business or niche market catalogs?

To answer this question, we will share the top 10 Catalog marketing and design tips below:

1. Catalog Brand Identity

Foundational to catalog marketing success is the strength of your brand. Established brands enjoy brand awareness while new brands must rely on effective brand naming, and compelling graphic identity. Strong brands typically use their brand names or trademarks for their catalog name. Unknown brands must use a compelling catalog name, but might also consider a literal descriptor to avoid confusion. Other aspects of brand identity include logos, and the subject of our next best practice, design.

2. Catalog Design

Hand-in-hand with brand identity is effective catalog design. The first impression of the catalog, and the decision to open and interact is driven by the catalog cover. The cover must be aesthetically appealing, but also convey what the contents include. Depending on the category, an offer or hook can pique interest, or create a sense of urgency. Catalog interiors should have user-friendly organization. Larger catalogs should have a table of contents, folios or tabs. And remember, white space is good! A critical aspect of catalog design is the subject of one of our next best practices, photography.

3. Catalog Copy

Catalog copy must be clear, concise, easy to read, and depending on the category, educational or even entertaining. The catalog user must be able to find all information required to make a purchase decision, or risk losing the sale. Ordering information and pricing should be presented in easy to read tables.

4. Catalog Photography

The best catalogs are highly visual, allowing the user to breeze through with minimal effort. Photography supports the visual experience. Environmental photography is most effective, or imagery of products in real-life settings, ideally with people interacting with your products! Product photos are still a necessity, but when possible, make product secondary or equal to environmental photography. Think thumbnails!

5. Make Ordering Easy

Communicate multiple options for ordering including toll-free 800 telephone (ideally with memorable number!), website or mail-in form. Not surprisingly, mail-in form use is declining in use but should still be included in your catalog. Many buyers prefer to fill it out while looking through the catalog so they can keep track of things. The 800 number is useful for buyers with questions. List and highlight ordering options on every page or spread.

6. The Mail List

The old adage, “your direct mail is only as successful as your list,” is more truer than ever with the high costs of mail catalogs. When procuring lists, make sure each has been qualified within the past year. Be sure to de-dupe lists, and use change of address databases (NCOA). Likewise, internal lists should be re-qualified, de-duped, and expanded with professional telemarketing qualification. Capture new prospects via multiple online registration forms.

7. Catalog Promotions

Create a sense of urgency with promotions! Offer free shipping for 15 days from today! Purchase $100, get a free premium item. Buy before midnight, get a $25 coupon off your next purchase. Encourage repeat purchases with a loyalty program. Upsell and cross-sell related items. Think! Think neon violator, Order Now!

8. Consider Niche Catalogs

The general catalog could go the way of the yellow pages. Other than mega-brands, niche-targeted catalogs can help you reach and convert more customers. Segment your customers by type and buyer behavior to identify niches and verticals. Research underserved niches and test market. Identify list options for niches.

9. Cross-Channel Marketing

In 2013, the print catalog must coexist with a corresponding website or electronic catalog version. Why? Because customers like both! The printed catalogs might be the communication medium, but the Internet website is the preferred ordering mechanism. In addition, search engines now index PDFs, including electronic versions of catalogs, so PDFs can rank in search results. Likewise, catalog promotion must be cross- or multi-channel. The Internet casts a wide net of prospective customers via search engines. Paid search including pay-per-click can deliver website traffic. And social media can rank high in search results and drive traffic to the online catalog or ecommerce website. Finally, email marketing is effective in driving website traffic and ecommerce sales.

10. Measurement

One key benefit of catalog marketing is the ability to measure results. Telephone, mail and online orders can easily be tracked to the catalog mailing using simple codes. Sales conversions can be measured and reported by catalog type, mail date, lists and related. Track promotions when used and report trends. Marketing automation software can support measurement and reporting.

Effective Catalog Design and Marketing

No question, catalog marketing is declining with ever-rising postage and printing costs, and the pending elimination of Saturday postal delivery. Nevertheless, there are still opportunities for catalog marketing success. Especially when employing these catalog marketing best practices. Regardless of your products or category, always test different variables like design, lists, paid search campaigns, measure results, and continually improve your catalog marketing.


For more information check out our whitepaper: Catalog Marketing Best Practices

Need help with your next catalog?

Modern Marketing Partners is a full-service print and digital agency with deep experience in catalog design and production. Clients include Fortune 5000 corporations and entrepreneurial start-ups. Check out some of our catalog examples below and to request a complimentary consultation, please fill out our contact form or call 630-868-5060 today!

Examples of our work:


WeatherGuard Van Cover


WeatherGuard Van Interior

Brochure Design March Pumps

View more in our marketing portfolio.