August 01, 2010

Dear Catalog CEOs: The Secret of Page Counts

Dear Catalog CEOs:

I, too, remember a day when a 600 page catalog represented a welcome arrival in the mailbox.

Today, the 600 page catalog is called "your website". The catalog, for those under the age of 55, represents a vehicle that "creates demand".

So if the job of the modern catalog is to "create demand", then one might think that we should try to optimize the size of the catalog, so that we can reach the largest audience as possible at the lowest possible cost.

I know, this flies in the face of everything we've been taught. The printing community and the USPS push us toward optimal page counts, and discourage small catalogs. We're enticed to add four or eight pages to achieve "efficiencies".

Why isn't our goal to achi
eve "the most profit"?

Every company can identify the relationship between page counts and demand, heck, I do this for clients every week.

Take this example, for instance. A business has a 124 page catalog, and is looking to mail the catalog to outside lists. Last year, the catalog $1.4 million in demand and generated 13,987 responses.

If you assume that 70% of the demand can be achieved on 50% of the pages (these days, you can often achieve 80% of the demand on 40% of the pages or you can do even better), then we can estimate what might happen with 56 pages.

We can simulate the outcome of the 56 page catalog, and in most cases, the smaller catalog is going to outperform the bulky, bigger catalog, regardless of how the smaller catalog is merchandised.

Here, we increase reach, from 600,000 customers to 1,650,000 customers. What's not to like about that, folks?

Here, we increase demand from $1.4 million to $1.9 million. What's not to like about that?

Here, we increase total responses from 13,987 to 19,878 ... isn't that the goal of acquisition marketing?

Here, we increase profit from $62,000 to $78,000. You just paid for a portion of your annual salary!

Oh, I can hear folks howling already ... "if you don't advertise the item, the customer won't buy the item, so I need to present everything in my catalog."


Why not advertise the best-selling items, and then direct the customer online for your full merchandise assortment?

The secret of page counts is that "smaller is better". Your printer and the USPS will encourage you to go bigger. I can profitably demonstrate that you can "go smaller", and I can help you grow your business in the process while going smaller. Your list vendor and your co-op will sincerely appreciate your new strategy.

If you want help running the simulations, I am available and ready to assist you ... the whole exercise takes an hour, or less!

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