Many SMS clients continue to use printed catalogs for a number of reasons and a few were recently explained in a previous post. I wanted to get into a little more detail and speculate about where catalogs may be going in the future.

Let’s start with a response rate comparison to other promotional methods*:

• Email – 0.2%
• Direct Mail – 3.7%
• Catalogs – 4.3%

The low cost and ease of reproducibility of email campaigns permit an increased number of customer contacts. But email marketing continues to ride a wave of skepticism due to the increased flood of spam over the past two decades. Email lists find filters and junk folders in an increased rate thanks to data mega-mining of search engine activity. Clearly, sales are converted at high rates, particularly in B-2-C campaigns, otherwise data-mining wouldn’t continue to prove to be big business, but industrial marketers must operate at a different level of interactive sophistication in an effort to cultivate measured and trusted relationships with their customers and prospects.

Direct mail has been the traditional print solution for most high-tech industrial manufacturers (outside of ads in industry trades) and combining a well-researched market with a clear message to a vetted proprietary list can still yield impressive results. Prospect and customer desks are far more free of promotional material than they used to be which theoretically means more attention is paid to the few pieces that find their way to them. But cost is, as always, a consideration and even a single disappointing initiative can make company marketers feel as though they’re wallowing in obscurity with stone-age techniques. As well, printed material cannot be altered so rapid changes in market behavior are impossible to follow. Adjustments can only be made to the website landing page, but by then messages can become muddled.

Let’s get this out of the way: catalogs are expensive and sometimes difficult to produce. Despite all of their advantages and their high response rates, the many small and mid-sized companies who see greater logic in maintaining malleable online catalog pages simply cannot find the room in their budgets to keep printed versions in production and viably updated. Still, it’s difficult to ignore that the industrial manufacturing markets still really like printed catalogs and leaving them off the table feels a little like keeping your best player safe on the sidelines and only risking them if you make the playoffs. So how do companies with limited marketing budgets take advantage of the printed catalog’s obvious strengths?

For the answer we return to the data-mining method that informs so many email campaigns. Naturally, the better a company understands the buying habits of their customers, the better they know how to sell to those customers. That is how email lists, search results (increasingly) and social media ads are generated. Well, similar information can be used to produce page-reduced, personalized catalog runs that target specific sectors of a company’s market. Statistics show that transactions are three-times larger when offers are personalized*. Also, limited-run, personalized campaigns can be spread throughout a budget year to get the best ROI. If done correctly, the right desks will be found and response rates will greatly increase.

Personalized catalog production is already gaining popularity in the consumer markets. How long before the industrial markets follow suit?

– S. Norton

For more info on how you can affordably produce your company’s personalized catalog through our experienced SMS staff, send an email to snorton@smsmktg.com and/or reply in the comments below.

* Xerox

 

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