And the Winner Is ?
By Lois K. Geller
Cataloger Hoofprints.com caught our eye and got a free mini-makeover.
In February's Creative Corner column, "It Only Hurts When You Laugh," I asked for submissions from folks interested in a free, mini-makeover from Mason & Geller. I didn't expect many entries, but Target Marketing readers surprised me. While there were a good deal of deserving entries, Hoofprints.com's owner, Gina Keesling, sent in an irresistible letter, complete with horseshoes running across it.
A letter should sound like it comes from a human being at a company. Keesling's letter accompanying her catalog did. Most of the other entries came with a mini-makeover coupon, but no letter. Tsk, tsk.
Here's a bit of what Keesling wrote:
My main dilemma is this: Our feedback is almost exclusively positive. If I had a sale for every person who says: "I LOVE your stuff! I always mean to order, but I never get around to it," we would have amazing sales. This is our single most frequent comment. People love the catalog, they love the products; I need to figure out if there is a way to cause the ones who "don't get around to it" to take action and order!
I liked the Hoofprints.com catalog immediately. It was targeted to farriers, although I wasn't sure what they were.
It turns out a farrier is a professional hoof care expert and shoer of horses. Keesling told me that her husband had been a farrier and that's how she got the idea for the catalog. However, she isn't selling horseshoes and nails, anvils, hammers, or long leather aprons. I guess farriers can get that stuff just anywhere.
What Keesling sells are greeting cards, T-shirts, caps, etc., all about farriers and their woes—like getting kicked. Her Web site also has lots of information about farriers and all sorts of helpful advice, including how to find a farrier, which, astonishingly, turns out not to be difficult at all.
Keesling's personality radiates from her catalog. You can tell she loves what she does. Most of her greeting cards are her own creations, and their messages are warm and perfectly made for the equine professional.
There also are products for dog lovers, and on the order form she includes photos of some of the horses and dogs she's owned since she started the business in 1988.
I called to tell her she won our mini-makeover, and she was as charming on the phone as she is in the catalog.
The Main Challenge
Keesling says her main challenge is that people say they love the Hoofprints catalog, but haven't gotten around to ordering from it. Of course, the first suggestion is to test a new offer. Keesling currently doesn't have an offer. She has tested free shipping, buy-one-get-one-free, and 50 percent-off selected items. Because she prints all 100,000 copies (a year's supply) of her catalog at one time, she prefers not to print the offer on the catalogs. Instead, she usually tests offers in e-mails.
She says she might test an offer with a dot whack on the cover (a dot whack is a sticker that can be printed or affixed to the cover).
To stimulate ordering, I suggested she try the dot wack on the cover, and also add an offer to the bound-in order form. The order form can be added each time the catalog mails, so the offer can change.
I also suggested she try a "hard" offer, such as a special mug with lots of quotes about "What not to say to a horse lover." She liked that idea. Another idea to test is a bumper sticker that might appeal to horse lovers.
The Second Challenge
Another challenge is that the catalog has many different design elements. Our art director thought it would be good to bring the different elements together. He pointed out that copy would be easier to read if we eliminated the type over graphics and used dark type on plain white or a very light background.
He redesigned the cover to show products and directed customers to the appropriate pages inside—instead of depicting the target audience. He also added a small table of contents in the lower right. Of course, we'd also suggest a great offer in a burst or a circle on the cover.
To avoid confusion, he took off the double headline and just used Hoofprints.com.
The Inside Front Cover
I always think the most important "personality" place in the catalog is the inside front cover where you might find the letter from the editor, owner or spokesperson of the brand. In the case of Hoofprints.com, we didn't realize the copy with the drop-out white type on the catalog's inside front cover was her letter. It was very hard to read in an italic font. It was also unclear that the beautiful print of a farrier with children was an item she sells.
Our solution was to make the letter look like a real letter from Keesling (including a photo), and put a frame on the print so people could see what a lovely work of art it is.
The Inside Page
On the inside pages, we gave more prominence to a music CD that does very well. We've blown it up, so it's
easier to see, and eliminated many of the background images of clouds and sky, which made the copy difficult to read. We also organized the products so the equine sympathy cards are
featured separately from the jewelry and the framed horse photo.
More Makeover Tips
We've redone many catalogs, including a great one for children's books, as well as efforts for women's clothing and cars. Here are 10 techniques we use to lift response.
1. Make the copy easier to read. Try fewer type faces, more serif type, no reversed-out type.
2. Organize products so they're easy to find.
3. Use a great offer that entices people into the catalog.
4. Incorporate involvement devices and stories throughout the book.
5. Merchandise the most profitable and most desirable products on right-hand pages.
6. Use people in the layouts.
7. Work on the pagination, so that every page counts and there's little merchandise that won't sell.
8. Use the order form as a cash register by offering impulse items and making the form fun and interesting to fill out.
9. Include a toll-free number and/or URL on every page.
10. Personalize the message near the address to make it relevant to the prospect.
Let me hear what you're thinking, and what's working for you. Your e-mails, letters and challenges make my day!
Lois K. Geller is president of Mason & Geller Direct, a direct marketing advertising agency now located in Hollywood, Fla. Reach her at email@example.com.
Below are pictures from Hoofprints.com's mini-makeover.
The catalog's before photos are on the left;
the new and improved after shots are on the right.
|To up the selling power of the Hoofprints.com catalog, we highlighted more products, provided page numbers to pull prospects inside and added a mini table of contents.|
|Copy in a reversed-out, italic font disguised Keesling's letter on the inside front cover, so we made the letter more obvious by changing the typeface and including a photo of Keesling.|
|On the inside pages of the catalog, we gave more selling space to a top selling CD and eliminated some of the background images.|