You’re deep into planning your holiday marketing campaigns when someone suggests sending direct-mail catalogs. Are they crazy? Aren’t catalogs a dying breed, a leftover from the halcyon days of marketing when Christmas catalogs seemingly fueled entire department store holiday sales?

It turns out, direct-mail holiday catalogs aren’t a crazy idea after all; in fact, they might represent the best opportunity to reach your target market in a meaningful way and motivate sales you’d never have made via digital marketing.

Direct-mail holiday catalogs not only work, they’re exceedingly powerful marketing tools – so long as you do them right.

Just the facts

While it’s true that total investment in catalog marketing has decreased since the dawn of the Digital Age, that might be attributed more to the need to diversify a company’s marketing portfolio (plus an across-the-board plunge during the Great Recession) versus a lack of interest or efficacy in catalogs.

Consider the following:

These facts not only prove that catalogs work, but also lend insight into current catalog marketing trends.

The evolution of catalogs

Back in the day, so to speak, all a catalog had to do was list its products along with a few benefits to motivate purchases. With the Digital Age, this information can be maintained online, indefinitely, presumably for a lower cost than catalog printing. Despite this, longtime retailers – and even modern post-Digital Age eCommerce businesses – have turned to catalogs as essential marketing tools.

The reason? They recognize the new role catalogs play in the customer experience.

Instead of trying to directly sell customers on specific products and services, the most successful contemporary catalogers focus on inspiration and engagement. They show customers how their products can be used – and what experiences they help create – then encourage them to visit their websites to make their purchases.

Catalogs are highly visual, colorful, and tactile. They offer a more personalized experience. Customers can sit back in their easy chairs, by the fire, and browse through them. They can easily share them with friends and family members. In short, catalogs represent an experience that’s impossible to achieve via digital means, and smart retailers have taken notice. That’s why both longtime retailers like J.C. Penney and new-age brands like Bonobos make catalogs an important part of their marketing strategies.

Get the most from your direct-mail holiday catalogs

If you want to launch a powerful direct-mail holiday catalog campaign, you need to think like the aforementioned companies. Follow these catalog marketing tips to improve your results:

  • Turn your catalogs into helpful, valuable resources that help customers choose the best products for them
  • Use your catalogs to inspire catalogs – depict your products being used to create experiences
  • Focus less on mail order sales and more on identifying with your customers, conveying brand relevance and desire, and leading customers online to order
  • Take advantage of catalog printing discounts to print attractive, premium catalogs at ROI-friendly price points
  • Incorporate advanced targeting to send catalogs only to likely buyers – especially past customers

By shifting your mindset about the role catalogs play, you can avoid costly mistakes and enjoy the fruits of a successful direct-mail holiday catalog campaign this year.

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