5 Copy Tips for Increasing Catalog Sales

It’s February and the one time of the year that most copywriters aren’t buried in new products. It’s the perfect time to look at your catalog’s copy with fresh eyes and make it even better. If your copy needs a boost, here are 5 copy tips that may help.

Develop a strong message for each catalog

Customers are always interested in what a catalog can do for them. Why did the company send it? What things are worth opening it for? Is it the biggest catalog of the year? Is it the last sale of the season? Does it have the largest assortment of winter snow removal equipment available. Why should people open your catalog? Don’t let that message stop at the cover. Messaging is a conversation, keep it going. Leverage headlines and editorial to make the catalog a shopping experience rather than just pages of products.

Review best seller copy

It’s easy to get in the rut of putting out the next catalog and focusing attention on new copy for new items. The big money is in the best sellers though. Take the time to look at them—really look at them for two things. First make sure the copy is razor sharp, benefit driven and relevant. Increasing sales on your top products by 5% will do more than increasing sales on your bottom products by 50%. Next, see if there are some nuggets of wonderful copy that are giving those products a boost. Is it a story? Do they all fall in a single category? Are they written in first person? Figure out what sets the copy for these products apart. And yes, if it turns out that the product is amazing and the copy isn’t that great, there’s an opportunity for you!

Pick 10 good items and really sell the hell out of them

When I was the Art Director for the L.L. Bean Travel catalog we changed the copy on the travel pajamas from a fabric story to a travel story. It turned out that the primary sales opportunity wasn’t about packable and light weight. They were important benefits, but what moved the needle was, “It only took one midnight fire drill to convince us to always pack pajamas.” Booyah! Sales went through the roof. It’s rare to have the time to rewrite an entire catalog, let alone the top products, but make time to upgrade 10 and see what happens.

Add testimonials

If you don’t have testimonials in your catalog already, I would encourage you to start using them. There is nothing more believable than a genuine happy customer. Finding the right number and placement is a process, but in general, a few great testimonials are better than lots of lukewarm ones. The great ones will have a halo effect on the whole spread.

Give customers a reason to keep your catalog

The past few years have seen catalogers cut back on everything. Editorial copy has taken a beating because it doesn’t sell products. Great editorial copy can give catalogs a long tail. By that I mean customers hold on to them and the order curve has a long tail rather than a short life. Beauty is a great way to give catalogs a longer life, but great editorial copy can do the same thing. Combine the two and you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Chances are you don’t have to look very far to find it either. If you have a catalog, you have expertise that you can share. If you curate products, you have opinions you can share. If you cover a specific product area like outdoor living, or industrial sealants, there is news you can share with customers that is valuable and worth saving.

Sarah Fletcher

President/Creative Director Catalog Design Studios Inc.
Co-Founder Catalog University


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