LIVE FROM THE ANNUAL CATALOG CONFERENCE: Yes, There is a Doctor in the House

Chicago–Citrus catalogers were in season Tuesday afternoon at the Catalog Medical Center of the Annual Catalog Conference, as two competing companies received advice. They were among the scores of attendees taking advantage of the free clinic in the exhibit hall (booth #564), where top industry consultants diagnosed catalog problems and offered prescriptions for improvement.

One of the catalog “doctors,” Lois Boyle, advised the president of Norcross, GA-based Indian River Citrus to create a stronger brand identity. Boyle is president/chief creative officer of Shawnee Mission, KS-based catalog consultancy J. Schmid & Associates.

Indian River Citrus sells gift baskets exclusively to its house file through its Orange Blossom catalog, said president Carla Campbell. Boyle said the cataloger can’t assume that it has customers’ attention. “You’ve got to be like an old friend they haven’t seen for a while and are excited about,” she said.

She recommended that Campbell enlarge the company logo and name on its catalogs. She also said that the cataloger would do well to adopt a tag line–consisting of no more than eight words–that differentiates it from other citrus companies.

The 16-page catalog also needs to be beefed up, said Boyle. Doubling the page count would allow the company to offer shoppers a greater selection. “You want to give customers enough of an assortment so that they’ll find something they like at different price points,” she said.

At the same time, the copy, photo captions, and even the product names should convince customers that buying the merchandise will benefit them. For example, instead of calling a basket the Triple Decker, Boyle advised Campbell to call it Three Gifts in One.

Nor should Indian River Citrus be content to sell to existing customers. “Prospecting needs to be part of the mix,” Boyle emphasized. “Success is your 12-month buyer file, so you constantly need to be filling the bucket.”

Not 15 minutes after Campbell was finished receiving advice from Boyle, a competitor, Weirsdale, FL-based G&S Packing Co., received advice on launching a Website from John Deneen, president of Chicago-based e-commerce development consultancy SiteForm.G&S president Earl Scales said he hasn’t yet designed a Website because his customers, most of whom are 55 years old or older, did not seem interested in shopping online. But Deneen said the time had come for the 50-year-old company to market on the Internet.

For starters, a Website would allow the company’s repeat buyers to save all of their shipping information online for easy and fast ordering. Visitors to the site could also sign up to receive e-mails to remind them of upcoming gift-giving events such as birthdays and anniversaries.

And since citrus is a very specific product category, Deneen said, the cataloger could gain new customers via search engine marketing. “The more specific your product is, the more likely somebody will use search to find it,” he pointed out.

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