A stack of catalogs and a computer screen displaying a catalog flipbook

These days, not all marketers will view catalogs as a centerpiece of their marketing mix. Digital marketing tactics like search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC), social media and email tend to steal the spotlight. However, traditional marketing hasn’t gone extinct and is still effective… and that includes catalogs.

We’ve seen firsthand that catalog marketing still has its place. In just the past few months, we’ve worked on catalog or product guide jobs for multiple clients, including some of our biggest.

In Modern Optical International’s case, it is their most important marketing asset. They mail it to their entire customer base and hand it out at sales meetings and tradeshows. In addition to the print catalog, they also post a digital catalog on their website as a resource for online shoppers.

We have worked with Modern for many years (see and learn about the 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 editions). Our work even earned us a MarCom Award in 2017.

We’ve been in the Digital Age for some time now, and the fact that companies haven’t universally abandoned catalogs in favor of more modern alternatives is telling. There is an obvious demand for them. Businesses wouldn’t invest in print catalogs or digital catalogs if people weren’t interested in them.

It also makes a great component of the larger marketing strategy and can be an enticing piece of content to get leads into your sales funnel.

In this article, we examine how catalogs fit into the current marketing landscape. Find out why traditional catalog marketing still works and how to get the most bang for your buck. We’ll also share tips to help you make your catalog a marketing powerhouse online.

Traditional Catalog Marketing

The traditional way to market using catalogs is to distribute hard copies. This includes:

  • Mailing a copy to everyone on an existing list
  • Mailing a copy to interested parties upon request
  • Sales reps handing out catalogs at client/lead meetings
  • Distributing copies at tradeshows

Why It Works

Printed catalogs still work in the Digital Age for multiple reasons. First, some people are just “old school” and prefer traditional marketing methods that don’t require them to go online.

Another reason is that it’s an outbound marketing tactic that puts your messaging right in front of people without them needing to do the work of looking for it. Your business’s print catalog is handed directly to them during a face-to-face interaction or is delivered to them in the mail. What the recipient does with it after they receive it is up to them, but at minimum, it’s a guaranteed impression.

Finally, print catalogs work because they typically offer the most thorough overview of a company and its products/services. It’s the primary reference someone can turn to when they want to learn about a product, find out how much it costs (or find out how to get a quote), see photos, etc. No other traditional marketing piece offers the level of detail of a printed catalog.

PolyJohn catalog example
The 2024 PolyJohn product guide

Tips for Your Print Catalog

Print catalogs require an investment from your company for printing and mailing costs. You’ll want to ensure you maximize the return on investment (ROI). Below are some things you can do to have a quality print catalog produced without blowing the budget.

  • Plan Ahead – Research possible vendors before committing and have a vision for what you hope to accomplish in the short and long term.
  • Consider All the Spec Possibilities – There are numerous possibilities when you consider all the paper, size, color and mailing options. Have an idea of what you want, but be open to alternatives. Flexibility can work to your advantage!
  • Prepare Files Properly & Check Your Work – Improper file setup can result in production delays or errors.
  • Trust the Experts – Carefully consider the advice and recommendations your vendors provide. They are experts in their respective fields and can help make improvements and possibly save you money, too!
  • Be Strategic with Direct Mail Drops – Don’t send any catalogs until you verify the accuracy of your mailing list and explore options that can reduce your expenses.
  • Think Like a Marketer – You’re not just sending mail; you’re marketing! You can potentially save money if you partner with a vendor that offers multiple marketing services and knows how to improve results with omni-bound marketing.

For more details, read our article on ways to lower print and mail costs without sacrificing quality and service.

Adventure Marketing Solutions Marketing ROI Toolbox

Go Digital with Your Catalog

We live in the age of digital marketing. Therefore, it only makes sense to have a digital catalog that showcases your offerings. Digital catalogs can be accessed at any time by anyone with internet access from their desktop computer or mobile device. Your business can develop an online catalog in conjunction with a print catalog or as a standalone item.

Digital catalogs give marketers many options for distribution:

  • Direct access via the company website or a landing page
  • Email (bulk via promo/newsletter blast or individual via sales rep correspondence/email signature)
  • Social media (organic post, ad or both)
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) ad
  • QR code on other print collateral (brochure, sell sheet, etc.)
  • Company app
Modern Optical catalog spread example with QR codes
The 2024 Modern Optical International catalog features a spread that includes QR codes to direct users to specific pages of the Modern Optical website where more comprehensive information is available.

Why It Works

Digital catalogs work largely because of the convenience they provide. They don’t take up any physical space and are always available. People can access them whenever and wherever they like as needed. Unlike physical catalogs, you don’t need to worry about losing or forgetting digital catalogs.

A digital catalog is also a more cost-effective option. Putting it online saves printing and mailing costs. It may also free up space in your office if your business previously stored/warehoused physical catalogs to have them readily available for distribution.

Online catalogs also offer more editing flexibility. If you need to make an update, you can do so and simply replace the old version on your site. That way, people can always access the most current version.

It’s not feasible to make frequent edits to the printed version. It would be too expensive to reprint every time an update is made. You just need to live with any information that becomes outdated and start fresh with the next edition.

Aurora Bearing catalog flipbook example
A flipbook, like this Timken Aurora Bearing example, makes your catalog readily available to anyone with internet access.

Tips for Your Digital Catalog

Digital catalogs are versatile and can provide a healthy boost to your digital marketing efforts. Below are a few things you can do to get the most out of your digital catalog.

  • Make It Interactive – Sure, your online catalog can be static, but there are more interactive options that will make the experience better for your users. You can incorporate hyperlinks that direct to more helpful content on your website. You can also consider creating a flipbook, which will include many more features than a simple PDF file.
  • Check Your Links – A good online experience can quickly be ruined if links are broken. Be sure to test all of the links in your digital catalog to ensure they work and direct to the correct destinations.
  • Trust the Experts – If you hire a marketing agency to create your online catalog, be open to their recommendations. They have plenty of experience from helping other clients and can help you get the most out of the project.
  • Think Like a Marketer – A digital catalog is an ideal component for a more expansive digital marketing campaign. Think of ways you can leverage it to attract your target audience and get them started on their buyer’s journey with your business.

Make Your Catalog a Lead Magnet

A catalog is an ideal medium to serve as a lead magnet. What is a lead magnet? It’s an irresistible offer provided to prospects in exchange for their contact information and other data.

A lead magnet is a door opener that introduces your business to a prospective customer. They will use the lead magnet content to learn more about your brand, and you can take the information they provide to learn a little about them and market to them more.

The lead’s information is typically captured via form submission on a landing page or website page. They fill out and submit the form, and after that, they can download a digital version, request a hard copy or both.

A tip for lead magnet forms is to keep them simple. The more information you require someone to submit, the more reluctant they’ll be to respond. Stick to only the information you consider essential to your follow-up marketing efforts. This may include:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Address
  • Company

For more information, read our article on how to create and promote a lead magnet.

Incorporating Your Catalog Into Your Sales Funnel with Marketing Automation

Using your catalog as a lead magnet also makes it a natural starting point for a digital sales funnel powered by marketing automation.

A sales funnel is the journey leads go through until they purchase. The progression goes from top of funnel/cold lead to middle of funnel/warm lead to bottom of funnel/hot lead. The catalog is the offer that gets them into the top of the funnel.

With marketing automation, the form submission to download or request your catalog can serve as the trigger that starts them down a nurturing path. Implementing nurturing emails enables you to keep leads warm, get them to show intent by responding to a low-commitment offer (turning them into hot leads), and finally, entice them enough to make them receptive to a sales pitch that will hopefully turn them into customers.

To learn more, read our articles on building a digital sales funnel and using marketing automation.

Adventure Marketing Solutions 48 Proven Workflows to Plug a Leaky Sales Funnel

Take a 21st-Century Approach to Catalog Marketing

Even in the Digital Age, catalog marketing can still make a positive impact on your bottom line. Whether it’s with paper catalogs, online catalogs or both, you can grab the attention of new leads or encourage customer engagement from previous buyers.

When developing a catalog strategy, consider not only how to get a quality catalog printed cost-effectively, but also how you can take a 21st-century approach that utilizes multiple digital channels as part of a larger campaign.

By thinking bigger with your catalog, you can increase leads and expand your customer base.

Have additional questions about catalog marketing or want to learn even more? Call us at 815.431.1000 or submit this form to contact us. You can also check out our catalog work for MBL (USA) Corporation and Aurora Bearing.

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