If you haven’t yet taken advantage of the myriad of benefits that direct mail catalogs offer, you’re missing out. Despite digital trends in advertising and the e-commerce boom, many consumers still rely on print catalogs for their first introduction to new products.

Ready to see what catalogs can do for your company and your products? Below are the nuts and bolts of how to mail a catalog. Hint: it’s easier than you think!

How to Mail a Catalog that Gets Read

If you’re already familiar with direct mail campaigns, you’ll learn that the steps to mailing a catalog are very similar.

1. Set your goals and budget.

As with any marketing endeavor, it’s critical to understand your goals and the corresponding budget. The goals are necessary to determine if the campaign was successful and they need to be quantifiable, but they must also be realistic to the budget.

Answering the question of how much a catalog costs to make, is difficult because the cost of a catalog can vary greatly, as low as $.50 or as high as $30 per catalog, depending on several factors:

  • Total design cost
  • Number of pages
  • Quantity ordered
  • Size of pages
  • Weight, type, and finish of paper
  • Shipping and postage

Budget considerations will continue into steps two and three below, as they dictate how many catalogs you can send and any design restrictions.

2. Identify and segment your audience.

Getting your catalog in the hands of people most likely to use it is critical for a successful catalog mailing. One of the most common audience segments to send catalogs to are existing customers. They already know your brand and appreciate your products, so they can be an ideal audience.

This is another area to consider in your budget. If you already have a list of potential customers to mail to, the additional cost of variable data printing is nominal. However, if you also have to purchase a list of people to send it to, that will add to your overall budget.

3. Design the catalog.

After the budget, there are many options, which is why it’s important to use an experienced catalog partner who can help guide you through the options. The top four things to consider in the design are:

  • Catalog Size – Standard catalogs are the size of letter paper, 8.5” x 11”, and give you the opportunity to showcase full-size images with more space to advertise while standing out stronger in a mailbox. The most common catalog size is 5.5” x 8.5”, which is more cost effective to print and mail.
  • Paper Type – stock, weight, and texture. Thicker paper costs more, but it also stands out more, especially when printed on matte paper. Thinner, glossier paper tends to be used for promoting lower-cost products while thicker and matte stocks are ideal for high-end products.
  • Page Layout – You’ll likely choose a number of page templates that make sense to use throughout the entire catalog. This saves time in the overall design process and reduces costs greatly.
  • Account for color – As for color experts, Artisan firmly believes color is everything in a catalog. Whether black and white, full color, or spot color – color really is the “wow” factor. To that end, consider partnering with a printer like Artisan that can assist in the premedia of the catalog, including color correction and color matching.

4. Send the catalog.

how to mail a catalog mail being put inside the mailboxPretty self-explanatory and the easiest of the steps. Once your stunning catalog has been proofed and printed, it’s off to the post office. Catalogs do qualify as USPS business bulk mail in the flat, standard/marketing mail, or first-class categories. As previously mentioned, postage rates will depend on the size of the catalog and how many you are sending.

For example, a flat-size Every Door Direct Mail catalog can be sent for as low as $0.187 each (this is the most cost-effective method, but not personalized).

Direct mail offers the opportunity to personalize and target your customers. A 5.5” x 8.5” catalog mails under USPS marketing mail at a rate of $0.256-0.302 (up to ¼ thick and 3.5 ounces)

Some catalog printers, such as Artisan Colour also offer storage and shipping options as part of the total package. This reduces the number of vendors you need to deal with, can be cheaper, and reduces the amount of man-hours your company needs to send the catalog.

5. Track results.

You have your goals from step one, so once the catalogs go out to your customers it’s time to start tracking results. PURLs – personalized URLs – make this incredibly easy and focused. Embedded on the direct mail piece through a QR code or similar, a unique web address is created as a response channel, allowing you to then follow it up with user-targeted landing pages.  

By adding a PURL, you can capture the crowd who prefer to respond online over picking up the phone or mailing in a reply card. This tactic also enables easy incorporation of omnichannel marketing, like landing pages, email, SMS, and social media. 

Precise tracking means you’ll generate more leads and sales.  

When tracking results, it’s tempting to focus on specific weeks and months, but better to track trends overtime periods. You can only track what is measurable and it’s best to focus on what is actionable, such as what changes could be made to future catalogs. 

Some common catalog KPIs (key performance indicators) are:

  • Gross dollars per catalog.
  • Repeat customers.
  • Number of customers (tracked and compared over longer time periods).
  • Selling expense to sales ratio. For instance, a 30% ratio means that $0.30 of every dollar of net revenue is spent on selling overhead like catalog printing, postage, lists, etc.
  • Gross profit ratio

2 Of The Best Things To Do To Improve Catalog Marketing Performance

how to mail a catalog taking a picture at catalog with a celphoneYou can follow the five steps above and have a successful catalog, however, when you integrate the catalog with your entire marketing workflow and utilize variable data printing you can get even more out of your catalog.

Marketing Integration

While print is powerful on its own, the success rates of digital integration in print marketing cannot be ignored. Catalogs should always include website and social channel information – how your customers can connect with you and complete a purchase.

Make it simple with a QR code that links immediately to your website. And consider a digital version of your catalog available online, for those customers who prefer digital or want to revisit something they saw in the physical catalog.

Variable Data Printing

Variable data printing is a great complement to a catalog campaign, as it allows you to target specific groups within your audience and personalize the catalog. Multiple studies show that personalized marketing not only increases conversions but also improves the consumer’s opinion of the brand and overall marketing experience.

Variable data printing can help you track results and KPIs through custom QR codes or promo codes. When using these codes, you can better track how many customers read the catalog and what their responses were, such as visiting the website or making a purchase.

You can take it a step further to also determine which products were purchased, and thus what your customers responded to most in the catalog. This then guides the design and boosts the ROI of future catalogs.

Catalog Considerations

Some of the catalogs’ strength comes from the fact that they are not digital. Consumers are getting overwhelmed with emails and social media ads. Receiving a catalog in the mail stands out and is refreshing. What’s more, is that catalogs work with digital marketing to drive more traffic, and thus more sales, to an e-commerce website.

A Harvard Business Review study tested a control group that received no communication from a company against a group that received only emails and a group that received emails and catalogs. The email and catalog group saw a 125% increase in inquiries and a 49% increase in sales over the control group, plus a 77% increase in inquiries and a $28% increase in sales over the email-only group.

The same study found that more than 90% of consumers browsed the catalogs and kept them for about seven days. That is an unheard-of open rate for email marketing campaigns, of which many end up in the trash folder within days, never to be seen again.

The physical lingering of a catalog in a home or office is one of its greatest selling points. Making this even more likely is when a catalog’s style and quality rival that of top magazines. The catalogs sit on coffee tables and the brand stays top of mind.

Uncoated Paper Catalogs

Artisan Colour can help you design and execute a successful catalog campaign that is right for your company and your budget. With over 20 years of catalog experience with some of the top brands in the world, we can see a project through from concept to design, printing and personalization. To learn more about catalog pre-media and printing services, contact us or call (480) 948-0009.

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