Revenue race: Are your employees ready for catalog season?

Revenue race: Are your employees ready for catalog season?

If you’re like many Americans, around this time of year you’re likely harvesting a stack of holiday catalogs each time you hit the mailbox.

Some regard catalog marketing as old fashioned, but a number of savvy companies are still publishing or advertising in such catalogs as part of profitable omni-channel strategies. Though many companies cut back on catalog distribution during the “aughts,” the Direct Marketing Association reports that 11.8 billion such publications were still being mailed annually as of 2013. Some (like Land’s End) found that sales declined precipitously when they dropped circulation, leading to the recognition that certain customers are more motivated to buy after viewing an item in a print catalog. Ultimately, research shows those who read catalogs spend more money and return more often than those who shop only by web.

“The oft-overlooked catalog has become a key component in a robust omni-channel strategy,” according to a related article from marketing consultant Kurt Salmon. “Catalogs are a potent source of inspiration: Some 58 percent of online shoppers say they browse catalogs for ideas and 31 percent have a retailer’s catalog with them when they make a purchase online.”

Get ready, call centers

Companies wishing to optimize catalog-driven sales must ensure their calling centers are effective, since DMA research shows those ordering by phone spend about 6 percent more than those ordering online (and customers using both spend even more). A significant 24 percent of those using both channels prefer the phone, and customer retention has also proven better with phone-in customers.

“Despite the ease and availability of online shopping, it turns out a significant number of people prefer the experience they get through a call center, whether it’s because they believe the service is more helpful or personalized or simply because they would rather interact with another human being,” notes the Kurt Salmon piece.

What can retailers do to best take advantage of catalog-driven phone sales?

When designing your catalog layout, prominently repeat your phone number throughout. Make calls to action emotional, clear in value and applicable to your target audience.

  • Know your customer. Inbound sales calls tend to come from two kinds of people: smart, goal-oriented types who follow logic to find better products, or customers who seek trust, empathy and a personal connection in business transactions, says Brian Massey on
  • Ensure your call center staff is well equipped and trained in both sales and customer service.
  • Develop lead-conversion templates and guidelines, but avoid rigid scripting that makes agents sound like robots.
  • Record and critique calls, noting which approaches are most effective. Ask star agents to coach others.
  • Follow up on unfulfilled leads in case the customer has questions or concerns that can be overcome.
  • Optimize call tracking and routing. Call-routing software like Dial800’s AccuRoute® can gather immediate data about inbound callers, using digital filters to custom-route your calls based on criteria most important to your business. After that agents can customize their pitches using incoming data about caller location, demographics, etc. And because each call is timed and recorded, regular summaries let you make campaign adjustments based on which strategies are working.

Talk to Dial800 about using customer information gathered from your inbound calls for enhanced strategy in your marketing campaigns.