Catalog and Direct Selling: Punch Up Your Product’s Resume
Turn a good idea into a best seller
Every product is like a job seeker. A product has a resume; it interviews each time it’s shown on a catalog page or Web site; and if it presents its qualifications properly, it has a good chance of closing the deal for the salary … er, price … it demands.
So how do you give your product the edge in a market filled with similarly qualified products? The same way you do in the business world: Network your way in the door, present a killer resume and nail the interview cold.
Get in the Door
If your mailing list has done its job, your product already has an advantage, because it is knocking on the door of someone who is looking for what your catalog has to offer. Unfortunately, if your competitors’ lists are equally productive, the competition in the mailbox will be intense.
Choosing the right products to punch up is essential. Proper merchandising assures customers that you understand their needs. Properly merchandised product is then challenged with getting face time from the customer. Placement and repetition are two important factors that help the product achieve this goal.
Placement: The upper right-hand corner of a spread generally is the first place customers look. Placing your product in this hot spot provides the best opportunity to show off its stuff. Other hot spots in the catalog include the cover, the back cover and the center spread. Allocating these pages of prime real estate to promising products is a way to turn good performers into best sellers.
Repetition: Consistent product presentation across all customer contacts (direct mail, space advertising, etc.) improves customer retention of product benefits. Repetition within the catalog itself also is effective. Repeating a cover or back cover product inside the catalog gives the product twice the exposure and a consequent incremental increase in sales.
Dress for Success
Like a referral from a trusted colleague, a product referred to customers from a brand they trust is a credible testimonial. By “dressing” your product with familiar brand creative, it will benefit from each and every positive brand experience.
Positioning creative to appeal to the specific target audience is equally important. If customers are upscale and sophisticated, showing up for the interview with neon star-bursts and big, fat type will not make a good impression. Align your creative with your market.
A Killer Resume
Every item in the catalog is selected for its potential to become a best seller. Your product must effectively communicate its primary job qualifications and make an impact while doing so. The three essential qualifications are skills, experience and accomplishments.
Skills. A product’s skill set is defined by a specification sheet. Completing a comprehensive spec sheet for the copywriter and creative team is perhaps the most important step in building a product resume. If the creative team doesn’t understand a product’s benefits, neither will customers. A spec sheet is the foundation on which the creative team builds effective, benefit-driven product presentations, attributes, headlines and selling copy.
Experience. Data-driven analysis quantifies a product’s performance history. Sales information, margin goals and detailed square-inch analysis are good tools for measuring a product’s competence and potential. Performance history helps the creative team identify the best candidates for every job. Using this data, the creative team places high performers in hero spots, reallocates space and realigns product categories to take advantage of teamwork opportunities so every product can perform to its full potential.
Accomplishments. The product’s past success can be communicated many ways, including customer testimonials, manufacturer endorsements, editorial copy, industry seals of approval and product-testing achievement icons.
A product’s accomplishments are what differentiate it from the competition, and a product resume should highlight only the accomplishments that strengthen the product’s worth in the mind of the customer.
Ace the Interview
Once your product is in the door with an appropriate resume, acing the interview is the key to closing the deal. In product interviews, first impressions count. A purchase decision often is made within seconds of introduction. To maximize this narrow window of opportunity, a product must present its primary benefits at a glance. It must show, not tell, why customers should hire it.
Photography. Photography is the products’ interview suit: If it doesn’t speak well of the applicant, the best resume in the world will make little difference.
• Primary benefits should be obvious at a glance.
• In-use insets with captions to help illustrate benefits not readily apparent from the product’s appearance.
• Props must be minimal to keep from upstaging the product itself. For example, if a cookie sheet features elaborately decorated cookies, the cookies become the focus of the photograph.
• Props and environment should be product, brand and target relevant. Communicate the size of a small mixing bowl, for example, by cracking an egg into it.
Attention Getters. Icons and copy violators are effective at-a-glance communicators. A “customer favorite” icon helps the product show its benefits, rather than relying on copy that may or may not be read. A highly technical product can sell difficult-to-illustrate benefits at a glance by using callouts with corresponding pointers identifying attributes of technical interest.
References. Customer testimonials, “customer favorite” icons, “best seller” icons and editorial copy are effective strategies to help a product demonstrate past accomplishments.
Accept the Offer
Selling a product to a customer is not so unlike selling yourself to a prospective employer. Using proven marketing techniques, relevant creative presentation and the basic rules of cataloging, any good idea can close the deal and become a best seller.
Gina Valentino is vice president and general manager of J.Schmid & Assoc. She can be reached at (913) 236-8988, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Beki Weight is senior creative strategist of J.Schmid & Assoc. She can be reached at (913) 236-8988.