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Perfection in a mail order catalog is like can 

continually approach it but never quite reach it. In the case of 

many catalogs, however, it is not necessary to achieve perfection

or even approach it very closely - in order to make the catalog 

vastly more profitable than it is at present. Relatively small 

improvements can result in a more-than-proportionate enlargement 

of that all-important figure on the bottom line of the financial 


Making as many improvements as possible as quickly as possible is

probably the most profitable procedure. But even making each new 

catalog a little better than the one which preceded it can 

produce substantial increases in sales per catalog and in total 

sales over a period of time.

Following are 60 suggestions that should help your catalog do a 

better selling job for you if you are not already using these 

ideas. Whether you use all of them in connection with your next 

catalog or adopt a few at a time in the course of producing 

several future catalogs, the ultimate result should be very 

noticeable and very gratifying.


1. Look at your present catalog with extremely cold, critical and

unsympathetic eye. Pick out all the faults-large or small-that 

you could find if you were no longer the owner of the catalog but

a nitpicking customer who has been disappointed in his or her 

last purchase from you and is still sore about it. Such a review 

could be very enlightening-even if it should prove slightly 

embarrassing-and could make your new catalog much more 


2. Put your "letterman" on your team. Review all incoming 

correspondence from customers and prospects during the last two 

years for comments, suggestions or criticisms that may be helpful

in preparing your new catalog. Screen all future correspondence 

of this nature as it arrives and place copies of the useful 

letters in a special file to be reviewed before starting your 

next catalog.

3. Think of your catalog as a means of helping your prospects 

accomplish something they want to accomplish or create an effect 

they want to create-and prepare your layouts, copy and 

illustrations accordingly.

4. For each major type of product you sell, determine as many 

reasons as possible why different groups of prospects or 

customers do buy or should buy this product. Arrange your groups 

of prospects or customers in their orders of importance. For each

group arrange the reasons for buying in order of their 

importance. Then arrange the reasons in their order of importance

to your total group of prospects or customers. Use the most 

important reasons as the basis for the copy and illustrations you

use in this catalog.

If there are significant differences in the primary reasons for 

purchasing different types of products, make the presentation for

each specific type of product fit the product of using the same 

type of presentation for different types of products...

5. If the preceding reasons indicate that different appeals are 

needed for different groups of prospects or customers, change the

wrap-around, letter or introductory page of your catalog to 

appeal to different groups, and separate your mailings 


6. Plan your catalog completely before you start preparing 

layouts and copy.. Use all 60 suggestions in this list as your 

guide for your planning..

7. Plan to ring your cash register more often by using approaches

in tune with the times.

8. Plan to attract new customers-reactivate dormant customers-and

get bigger and better orders from present customers by adding new

and excitement and extras pleasure to owning or using the types 

of products offered in your catalog.. For example, feature 

dramatic new items, unusual items, items that are especially 

timely, etc... Include unusual facts of interest about specific 


9. Plan to add interest to your catalog-and give it a much longer

life--by including helpful information on how to use, operate and

maintain your products...unusual uses, etc.. This is information 

that customers can use to advantage and will want to keep for 

future reference, Such information also increases customer 

confidence in your company which correspondingly increases the 

customer's inclination to buy from you.

10.. Determine whether items that were unprofitable or barely 

profitable in the present catalog should be promoted more 

vigorously in the new catalog or should be dropped and replaced 

by new products, Never keep an unprofitable product in your 

catalog just because it is one of your favorites. If it doesn't 

sell, get rid of it!

11. Give your company a distinctive personality. Promote this 

personality in all future catalogs as a means of making your 

company not "jut another mail order marketer" but a very special 

marketer in the minds of your prospects and customers.


Use Procedure 12 to 19 to make your prospects want your products:

12. Write your copy to tie in with and stimulate the specific 

reasons for buying discussed in the preceding section.

13. Wherever possible show your prospects how your merchandise 

can accomplish the results desired by the prospects to a greater 

degrees than competitive products-and prove it by citing results 

of lab tests, field tests, wards received, other special 

recognition- and especially testimonials and case history 

stories, preferably with photographs. Give the prospect every 

possible incentive to buy from you rather than somebody else.

14. Put special emphasis on your products and/or services which 

are exclusive or markedly superior to those of your 

competitors-and tell your readers WHY your products and/or 

services are superior!

15. Take the prospect "behind the scenes" if practical and show 

what you do (especially exclusive or improved procedures) to make

your products better than competitive products.

16. Make the most of new items the first time you offer them; 

they are only new once.. Give them every opportunity to succeed 

saleswise by giving them preferred position and allowing adequate

space for you to do a proper educational and selling job on them 

at the time they are introduced.

17. Assure prospects that is easy to use these products...that 

instructions are included with each order (if true) and/or are 

available in specific books or magazines (preferably obtainable 

from you)...and cite case histories to prove how successful other

customers have been in using them.

18. Tell prospect how to start using your merchandise properly 

and what other action should be taken-and when-or state that this

information will be included with the shipment.

19. If your products are bought primarily for pleasure or are 

considered a luxury or "non-necessity", help the prospect 

rationalize the value of the purchase.

Use Procedures 20 to 26 to make it easy as possible for the 

prospect to make an accurate selection of the types of 

merchandise and the specific items of each type best suited for 

his or her purposes:

20. Group all items of the same type in the same section of your 


21. Arrange the groups of items in their present or potential 

order of importance to you profitwise. Put the most important 

group at the front of your catalog and the least important near 

the end of your catalog (but not on the last three pages).

22. Within each group , arrange the individual items in

descending order of quality, price, popularity or promotional


Give the most important items the most valuable positions and 

extra space for copy and illustrations. Allocate positions and 

space to the other items in the order of their importance.

23. If practicable, use the Sears system of offering the same 

type of item in three different qualities-- GOOD, BETTER and 

BEST- with different price ranges to match the differences in 

quality. Usually it is more effective to talk about the BEST 

quality first and the GOOD quality last.

24. Use COMMON copy to present features or qualities that are the

same for all or most items of the same type.

25. Use INDIVIDUAL copy to talk about the features or qualities 

that make each specific item different from all or most of the 

other specific items in the group.

26. In preparing the INDIVIDUAL copy above, use "parallel 

construction" to help the prospect make a point-by-point 

comparison of the specific items as quickly, easily and 

accurately as possible.

Once the prospects have selected the merchandise they wish to 

buy, make it as easy as possible for them to order Procedures 


27. Be sure your ordering information is easy to understand.

28.. Make your order form easy to use, with adequate space to 

write the necessary information.   

29. Put in one or more extra order forms to make it easier for 

customers to order again..

30. Encourage prospects to order by phone on credit, charge or 

c.o.d. sales and encourages them to telephone for further 

information they may desire.

31. Offer a 24-hour phone-in service through an arrangement with 

a local telephone answering service who can answer your phone 

during the hours that your business is nor normally open.. This 

is especially convenient for the customer who shops in your 

catalog during evening or weekend hours.


Make it as easy as possible for customers to pay for their orders

Procedures 32 and 33

Offer credit card service on orders for a specified amount or 

more.. By putting a minimum on credit card orders you will often 

increase the original order to at least that minimum amount. 

Credit card orders tend to be nearly double the size of cash 


33. Make it easy to determine shipping charges so they can be 

included in cash-with-order payments.

Use order starters and sales stimulators such as 34 to 42

34. Use a wrap-around letter on the front of your catalog to 

stimulate ,ore orders and to do a selling job on the merchandise 

in the catalog; also to make special appeals to special groups or

call attention to merchandise in the catalog of special interest 

to special groups.

35. Use the wrap-around to offer order starters (loss leaders or 

hot items to get prospects in to the catalog).

36. Offer specials at intervals throughout the catalog to entice 

readers to start an order. Once they buy even one lonely item 

they'll tend to order other items to go with it.

37. Offer logical assortments of mixed or matched seasonal items 

to provide extra variety and pleasure at any given period of 

time. Make suggestions for these assortments and provide 

inducements for prospects to order them.

38. Offer assortments of mixed or matched items designed for use 

during different seasons in order to provide variety and pleasure

throughout the year (or most of it) instead of during just one 


39. Offer a free guide or plan for using each assortment above 

correctly and offer information on how to make the most effective

overall use of the assortments.

40. Offer a gift or discount for orders of certain sizes and use 

a stairstep graduated approach to increase the value of these 

discounts or gifts as the size of the order increases.

41. Offer a gift-shipping with gift cards.

42. Provide extra services such as "Seeker Service" for items not

listed in the catalog. Through extra service techniques you will 

make your customers more dependent on the information you provide

and they will become more dedicated customers.

Stimulate promptness in ordering Procedures 43 and 44

43. Use action incentives to spark early orders, such as premiums

for ordering by a specified date; special offers for a limited 

time only; etc. When a time limit is involved, send a reminder 

(letter, promotional mailing, second catalog, etc) timed to 

arrive two weeks ahead of expiration date (as nearly as you can 

time it with current third class mail service).

44. Mention frequently and prominently in your catalog that 

anyone who orders merchandise from this catalog will 

automatically receive the next catalog free. If you wish, this 

offer can be modified to require the purchase of a specified 

amount during the life of the catalog or by a specified date.

Other suggestions Procedures 45 to 53

45. Use the back cover of your catalog for special offers; also 

the inside front and back covers and the pages facing the inside 


46. Use teaser copy and cross-references throughout the catalog 

to entice readers (into other sections. This can be especially 

effective when related accessory items are sold.

47. Concentrate service information on a Service Page; locate it 

on a page conveniently adjacent to the order form; and use 

frequent cross-references to this page throughout the catalog to 

stimulate extra page traffic.

48. Humanize yourself and your catalog by making it seem like the

catalog came from helpful, friendly people. If your business is 

truly a "family business" don't hide that fact.

49. Watch your language! Avoid using technical "industry or 

business jargon" in your selling and service copy; keep legal 

phraseology to the absolute minimum in your guarantee.

50. Make your entire catalog harmonious in layout and copy style 

but not monotonous. Include enough variety to keep the reader 

interested instead of becoming bored.

51. Give your catalog a longer life by emphasizing the length of 

time that you will be able to ship from it and suggesting that 

readers keep the catalog for future reference.

52. Ask for referrals from your satisfied customers; also names  

of friends who might like to receive a copy of the catalog. 

Consider testing the "cluster concept" that neighbors are very 

similar and nail to your customers next door neighbors.

53. Sell subscriptions to your catalog by providing a location on

the catalog for readers to remit 50 cents for a "full years 

subscription to your catalog." You can also suggest that they 

give a "gift subscription" to a friend very inexpensively (and 

thus pay for the catalog you mail to the referral).


54. Use the basic or major catalog to establish the value and 

regular price of the merchandise. Use other, smaller catalogs or 

solo mailings to promote sales from the major catalog or to 

provide special reasons for buying (reduced prices on individual 

items or special assortments, closeout, etc).

55. Ask the recipient to pass the catalog along to an interested 

friend if the recipient already has a copy or is no longer 

interested in this type of merchandise.

56. Re-mail the same catalog to your better customers 3 to 5 

weeks after you mail it the first time.

57. Prepare an alternate cover for the catalog and mail the same 

catalog to your entire list several weeks later. You'll find it 

will do just about as well as the first mailing did.

58. Mail to your BETTER CUSTOMERS monthly, featuring items 

carried in the catalog- don't rely solely on the 

once-or-twice-a-year catalog.

59. Use your catalog as a package stuffer-enclose one with every 

order you ship. Your best prospect is the person who just placed 

an order with you and received prompt and safe delivery of the 

items ordered.

60. Be prompt in acknowledging orders (with thanks), answering 

inquiries, shipping merchandise and making refunds or exchanges 

if necessary. Remember the old adage of that great retailer 

Marshall Field, "the customer is always right." Less than 2% of 

the population will intentionally try to take advantage of you 

and the other 98% are well worth cultivating.

...And just as every good mail order catalog has something extra 

thrown in for good measure make the customer's our

extra one for good measure!

61. If you receive a change-of-address notice from one of your 

customers, immediately mail a copy of your catalog addressed to 

"The New Residents at (the former address of the customer)" 

because the new residents probably has tastes and interests very 

similar to those of your customer-after all, he bought the same 

house! To give this mailing added power, you might tip a note 

onto the front cover of the book stating that "the Smiths used 

our catalog regularly, maybe you'll find it equally useful."