ian simpson1Our recent 'Channel Vision' study of 123 businesses found that more than half believe it isn't appropriate to have a catalogue. Interestingly a good tranche of these were drawn from the travel industry which has historically been a big user of catalogues. The research found that instead, businesses in the sector are focusing their efforts and resources on e-commerce.

I guess I'm not completely surprised by this statistic, after all catalogues are having a bit of hard time at the moment. They've been around a long time, are very familiar, do a great job, but are looking a bit long in the tooth, compared the ultra-sharp digital world. But don't be fooled by catalogues, they are ninja assassins of the direct mail world – they get to places no other medium can.

In fact a catalogue gives you the opportunity to be the curved ball. Catalogues and direct mail have incredible ability to get where no other form of communication can. Unlike digital media, a catalogue asks for nothing – it gives everything. You may not realise it but web, email, Twitter, Facebook, e-catalogues are incredibly passive. They rely on the receiver to do a large portion of the work and invest in time and hardware. You have to be pretty clued up and have a real need, to research products on the web. If the customer motivation isn't there, the business doesn't happen. In contrast a catalogue just drops on your doormat and shouts 'open me!' And it is that very immediacy that still gives catalogue the edge. It is direct mail at its best.

I'm not saying forget your e-commerce plans – I'm saying use catalogues to boost them. Catalogues and direct mail are great at targeting customers and guiding them to your web offering. This is because a key, and vital, point to remember is the catalogue is a vehicle and the web is a channel: vehicle = delivery, channel = route. A catalogue or direct mail piece finds you - a web page has to be found.

Catalogues and direct mail have the ability to deliver a message without being asked and with no effort required by the recipient; the vehicle. They can then direct the reader of the direct mail to a website to place the order or to access more information: the channel. Indeed GI Insight recently found that just under half of UK consumers are driven to visit a company website by an item of direct mail.

And - despite the prevailing bad press the direct marketing industry gets – the public, when asked, actually like receiving well targeted catalogues and direct mail. The crux of all this is 'well targeted'. If you can get your catalogue out to the right prospects and with right offer, you will be successful and drive sales.

Yes, contacting such customers or prospects with a catalogue or other direct mail is a higher cost than sending out emails, but research after research proves, that customers recruited by a catalogue or other direct mail are better spenders. They are also less likely to return goods or report undelivered parcels – they are quality contacts. Equally, if you follow up your web or email recruits with a mailer or catalogue it starts to cement a tangible relationship. Your customers feel invested in and valued. And don't forget, you can sell anything by catalogue or direct mail. So don't miss this vital and proven route to more business.

Ignore the digital evangelists. Direct mail works and is here to stay and catalogues are the most tested and proven of all pieces of direct mail. Take a chance and be the curved ball – you may just be surprised at the targets you can hit!

For a copy of the company's Channel Vision Report visit www.catalogues4business.co.uk or c call 0845-230 0258.

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