Catalogue conversations: You can’t shut them up!

The drive to communicate has always been an essential part of humanity. Digital channels are simply a way to communicate faster, but not necessarily better or with greater clarity.

It’s only 30 years or so, that the w.w.web and the affordable mobile phone became available. It’s less than 20 years that we have been able to use our mobile phones effectively for none-voice and internet based communications. And only just under 15 years for Facebook, Twitter and the plethora of digital platforms. This massive opportunity to communicate has not necessarily allowed us to converse. We chatter instead of talking and the exchange of messages, somehow, gives the impression we are communicating at a much deeper level than we actually are.

Communication is defined as ‘the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs’ – but very often its just ‘imparting’ and less ‘interchange’. It’s very
much about delivery. Emails are broadcast, we post Facebook comments and website are hosted (we hope visitors will find us).

The earliest form of long distance communication was the hand-delivered message. It was generally written or verbal, but could also be communicated by a token or symbol. The postal service
brought us reliability – but it was hardly quick, although you could get a postcard delivered and answered within a day! Letter-post, on the other hand, gave us a reliable means of sending greater information on a universal scale; mass communication had arrived. I have a collection of my grandfather’s turn-of-the-century postcards. He would send short notes to relatives, also in
service, much like we would a text. His letters, on the other hand, were much more engaging and conversational.

Catalogues start the conversation.

I remember the late, great Don Libey starting a presentation with: ‘direct mail used to be great, you sent out stuff, people sent you money and you sent out more stuff!’ – if only it were that simple. Yep, we send out stuff but increasingly it’s ignored, deleted, dumped or simply lost in the mass of traffic we all receive.

We can all reflect on the merits of a well-structured DM piece. I know what makes a great catalogue – it’s a sum of its parts, the same with all other DM. And by mailing we differentiate it from
all other marketing activity.

DM, and particularly a catalogue, instigates the sales conversation in a very direct way. It tells you stuff you don’t already know. It makes you aware of products you’ve never heard of. It
makes the customers feel invested in. Enhances the senses on so many levels. It also simply says – hello!

Hardwired laziness

As a species, we are naturally lazy, it’s deeply hardwired and we avoid effort wherever possible. Effort costs energy and we take the path of least resistance. We like to keep things simple. Effort –
whether it’s physical or mental – takes up energy. It’s a physiological cost. Catalogues bring products to the customer/prospect, it makes the effort, it instigates the conversation.

We like what we know!

A repeated experience, that triggers an enjoyable response, develops familiarity. We are more comfortable with what we know, a phenomenon know as ‘cognitive ease’. We believe what seems right and familiar. Regular catalogue mailings, that are easy to understand and recognisably familiar, instigate a comfortable conversation. And this conversation will be shared. This also contributes to overcoming the inherent laziness of customers!

The gregarious catalogue

Catalogue ‘pass through’ is something to be highly aware of. Typically a catalogue will pass through 5 hands – that’s 5 more conversations instigated. And whether B2B or B2C, they are likely to be in the same demographic. From coffee table syndrome to building site banter – if your catalogue is exposed to a similar group as the recipient – then your catalogue will be shared and another conversation will start. I know info can be shared by digital channels, but a catalogue is real and exists. It can be physically shared by the group and start another conversation, within the group
or outside of it.

It can also extend a conversation. When leaving a sales meeting (exhibition or seminar) the conversation about your company, its brand and its products will continue if a catalogue is left behind. It will be shared with those who weren’t at the meeting. And a catalogue will be more effective than a simple brochure, it will be able to talk about far more and in greater depth.

Catalogues talk, and they talk about much more than your products. A good catalogue instigates meaningful conversations about every aspect of your business.

By Ian Simpson, MD, Catalogues 4 Business Ltd

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