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Catalog Tips & Tricks

Q: How do I get started?

A: First, determine your objective. What does the tone and look need to be? Do you want to project bold and powerful or subtle and understated?

Second, decide who your audience will be. Will the piece go primarily to people who know about your business? Will it introduce your company to prospects? Are you trying to reach target groups? Knowing just who will be reading the material will help you create and communicate the message, look and tone you desire.

Third, before starting on the production make sure you plan the elements that will be included: products, prices, and a fulfillment plan. If the latter is a stumbling block, consider hiring a fulfillment house to take orders, process payments, and send your products.

Fourth, organize your products into clearly defined groups so that the catalog will be easier to put together and the final product will be easy to navigate.

Finally, begin to plan, write and perfect the copy.

Q: What should go where in a catalog?

A: The best catalogs typically follow this format:

  • Front cover: logo, tagline, volume. Note that the cover is your single most important and impactful page, so be sure not to clutter it with too much information.
  • Inside front cover: table of contents (especially with larger catalogs)
  • Internal pages: primary contact information (phone, fax, email, or web site), page numbers
  • Back cover: logo, return address, contact information, mailing panel if self-mailer; sometimes some featured products

Q: When my products are photographed, should I group them or have separate photos for each product?

A: It is typically better to show each product separately. That makes it easier to find the associated description. If you photograph each product separately from a consistent angle, a designer can combine them later if necessary to conserve space on the page, but it is more difficult to separate the products from a single shot.

Q: What can I do to make my catalog more effective?

A: Plan carefully in advance.

Make sure that you emphasize the unique selling points of each product. Point out what it is that makes them special and what problem they help to solve (not just what features they have).

Target carefully. Define your audience and pick a niche.

Q: Is it better to print a full color catalog or to save money with a two-color design?

A: Research shows that 4-color catalogs generate the best response. Products presented in full color look more attractive, grab more attention and generate more sales than one- or two-color catalog designs. Only in some select cases are the modest cost savings of one- or two-color printing justified. Companies which move from one- or two-color catalogs to full color catalogs experience a significant jump in sales with little to no change in product line and distribution.

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