Catalog vs. Solo Package
Should you try both formats?
In the annals of great direct marketing companies, fortunes have been made selling with both catalogs and solo packages. Both formats have their place in direct marketing and each serves a specific purpose.
Unfortunately, many companies (especially startups) misunderstand the criteria for these formats and make critical strategic mistakes when using them. Likewise, seasoned direct marketers may forget the benefits of one or the other format, ignoring potential profits. Let’s explore both formats and why each of them should be considered in your marketing programs.
What Makes a Catalog?
A common mistake among start-ups is the belief that the company has what it takes to build a profitable catalog program. At its core, a successful catalog is a collective merchandise concept, not a single-focus, single-category product line. A catalog is a store, offering a variety of products under a single concept.
For example: A shoe store has a single-category product line, right? Yes, but a successful shoe catalog will not carry just dress shoes. It will add casual shoes, athletic shoes, socks and other footwear accessories to the merchandise mix. The reason: While customers may only need to purchase dress shoes once a year, they might buy other “types” of footwear all year long. This allows for repeat business.
Another common mistake direct marketers make is thinking a small collection of products will make a successful catalog program. Not so, especially when you are in prospecting mode. Catalogers must give prospects a wide variety of products and price points within a category. Never dabble in a category. As a rule, it’s difficult to make anything less than a 36-page catalog work while in growth mode
When Would a Cataloger Use a Solo Package?
A solo package is a format that comes in many shapes and sizes. Basically, it’s one or more marketing pieces—and can include a full catalog—placed in an envelope and mailed. Unlike a catalog, the marketing or product focus of a solo mailing should be much more homogeneous; by nature, it’s a simplified offering. In fact, a successful solo package works hard to simplify the offer (whether it’s selling a product, service, generating leads, etc.) and will repeat the message frequently throughout all of the components in the envelope.