Does Your Back-To-School Catalog Design Make The Grade?

August 30, 2012

The back-to-school season is the second strongest sales period of the year for many retailers, especially those in the family clothing industry.  There’s huge potential in back-to-school marketing, and direct-mail catalogs printed with a back to school theme can yield enormous return on investment.  Consider the following facts from the U.S. Census Bureau: 7.7 billion:  dollars spent at U.S. family clothing stores in August 2011 2.4 billion:  dollars spent at U.S. bookstores in August 2011 79 million:  estimated number of students in U.S. schools The market is gigantic, and you can get the most out of your marketing efforts by printing direct-mail catalogs.  Why?  Because direct-mail catalogs get you in front of any highly-targeted market (parents of kindergarteners, college seniors, etc.) in the convenience of their own homes, in a format they’ll be likely to share with other target customers, without the distraction of advertisements and other online nuisances. So, we’ve established that: a) a huge opportunity exists for back-to-school marketing and b) direct-mail catalog marketing is one of the best ways to reach a back-to-school market.  So how do you get the most out of back-to-school catalog marketing?  The following five tips will help you make sure your back-to-school catalog design makes the grade.

1.  Attention-commanding cover

Use a photo or illustration to craft a catalog cover design that can’t be ignored.  Highlight special sales or a representation of the products inside in a way that your target customer base will appreciate.

2.  Create desire

The pages of your catalog should lend the impression that if a product is purchased, the buyer will be like the person depicted using it.  Fashion catalogs have long practices this technique, yet I continue to see T-shirt catalogs lists upon lists of T-shirts without humans.  Show how your products will be enjoyed, and who will enjoy them, and you will create desire.  TIP:  Put your worst-selling product on a hot model; it could soon rival your bestsellers, which would probably do well enough on their own.  It should also go without saying that you should have a photo of every single product.

3.  Feature specific products

Give specific products special full-page features, complete with several images, charts, diagrams, product comparisons, testimonials and more.  Push your bestsellers, of course, but also experiment by featuring products that are in the low-to-mid sales range.

4.  Showcase your products in use

Don’t just tell customers how a product will make their lives better, show them.  When customers can see how they’ll benefit with their own eyes, they’re more likely to buy.  This goes hand-in-hand with creating desire.

5.  Emphasize key points

Determine what the key selling point of your product is.  I have a client who specializes in high-quality historical products.  His catalog designer made the prices for each product the largest portion of the description.  This was counterintuitive; my client wasn’t known for his prices, he was known for his quality and authenticity.  These characteristics should have been more prominent than individual prices, and his return on investment increased after I made this suggestion.  Emphasize the most important features, benefits and your unique selling points to make the sale.  Prominent pricing is only important if your catalog’s unique selling point is discounts – the pricing itself. These tips might seem simple, but a quick flip through the catalogs you receive will reveal that many catalog designers do not heed them – and that costs sales.  Follow these tips, and you’ll be on the fast track to catalog marketing success.  

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About Brian Morris

Brian Morris serves in various capacities as a freelance writer, content developer and public relations specialist for growing small businesses. When he’s not writing, he can be found on the racquetball court - usually getting his tail kicked by guys 20 years older.

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