When Does It Make Sense to Print a Catalog?

Before the internet took over the world, it was common to send catalogs full of products available for purchase to customers all over the country. Understandably, this practice has somewhat declined. But for millions of businesses, printed product catalogs are not only viable, but advantageous.

How can you tell if printing a catalog makes sense for your brand?

The Persistent Benefits of Catalogs

Let’s start by looking at some of the most prominent and persistent benefits of catalogs, even in today’s age of mostly digital communication.

  • Inexpensive printing. Printing a catalog is less expensive than ever. Thanks to advanced printing technology, and intense competition due to the internet, printers are able to reduce prices to a level that makes printed catalogs affordable for most businesses. There are other expenses to consider in the catalog printing business, such as producing the files for the actual catalog and distributing the catalog once printed, but this makes the return on investment (ROI) equation immediately look more favorable.
  • Direct mail possibilities. Many business owners appreciate printed catalogs for direct mail possibilities. You can reach people with direct mail that can’t be reached easily online, and if you already have a list of people’s names and addresses, you can take advantage of it by sending them regular catalogs. Even if only a small percentage of people actually buy from these catalogs, you should make all your money back and more.
  • Product displays and demonstrations. Printed catalogs are one of the best ways to display your products and show how they might look or work in a given scenario. Digital videos are also excellent for showcasing different products, but they don’t have the tangible impact that printed catalogs do.
  • Stronger persuasive appeals. In some contexts, a catalog gives you the opportunity to make stronger persuasive appeals. The design of a piece of printed collateral is fundamentally different than the design of something digital, like a landing page; while not strictly better or worse, it provides distinctive persuasive opportunities.
  • Support for omnichannel campaigns. Omnichannel marketing is one of the most commonly practiced marketing philosophies of the modern era; the goal is to reach as many people as possible in as many different areas as possible to increase brand visibility and familiarity. If you’re already dominating several channels online, printing catalogs can expand your repertoire.
  • Higher engagement and action rates. If done right, a printed catalog can offer higher engagement rates and action rates than other types of marketing collateral or advertisements. It all depends on who your target audience is and how you speak to them.

When Does Printing a Catalog Make Sense?

When Does Printing a Catalog Make Sense

So when exactly does printing a catalog make sense for your business?

These are some of the most common scenarios:

  • You have a large inventory of products. If you have a large inventory of mostly physical products, a printed catalog could be the best way to display them all. People are more likely to flip through hundreds of pages than click through hundreds of pages online.
  • Your target audience loves catalogs. Who is your target audience and how do they feel about printed materials? If you’re serving older generations or people who have a fondness for traditional, tangible experiences, they may appreciate the catalog experience.
  • Your close competitors all print catalogs. Take a look at your closest competitors. Are they all already distributing printed catalogs? If so, you’re probably missing something. Most companies that print catalogs regularly do so because they know it’s a good way to make money.
  • You have a plan for an omnichannel campaign. If you want to conduct a truly omnichannel campaign, you’ll need to achieve a brand presence on as many channels as possible. That also means leveraging non-digital media – like printing and distributing physical catalogs.
  • You have a robust direct mail list. Do you already have a potentially robust direct mail list? If so, printing catalogs could be a great way to take advantage of it. Just be sure to clean the list first.
  • You’ve printed catalogs successfully in the past. Return on investment (ROI) is your ultimate metric for determining whether a project is worth investing in. If your company has printed catalogs and found success in the past, why not revitalize your efforts?
  • You have the budget. In some respects, launching a new catalog printing endeavor is an experiment. If you have an ample marketing and advertising budget, that experiment could be well worth making.

If one or more of the preceding qualities applies to your business, you should definitely consider printing a catalog. It might take some time and some experimentation to figure out what works best for your niche, but if you put in the effort, it should eventually pay off.

Evaluating the Costs and ROI of Catalog Printing


Delving into the financial aspect is crucial before making the decision to print a catalog. Firstly, ascertain the total cost involved which includes design, printing, and distribution. Analyzing the cost per catalog and comparing it against the anticipated return is a prudent step. This involves understanding the lifetime value of acquiring new customers through this method as well as the retention rate of existing customers. Employing tracking methods such as unique discount codes can help in measuring the effectiveness and ROI of your catalog. If the numbers make sense and there is a positive ROI, it’s an indicator that catalog printing could be a viable marketing strategy for your business.

Embracing the Digital-Physical Hybrid Model

In the contemporary market landscape, blending digital and physical marketing strategies can offer a competitive edge. A printed catalog can act as a tangible extension of your online presence. It’s an opportunity to drive traffic to your website by including QR codes, website URLs, or social media handles in the catalog. Moreover, the catalog can serve as a physical reminder of your brand, staying in homes or offices for longer periods compared to digital adverts that can be easily scrolled past. Additionally, integrating customer reviews and testimonials in your catalog can bridge the trust gap, as potential buyers often seek validation from other customers.

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