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Catalog Marketing

March 21, 2007

sandford-son-013.jpg  One of my favorite places for weekend shopping is Northern tool & equipment.   If Tim Allen’s tool man persona had a favorite store, this might well be it.   In a increasingly cost competitive world of online marketing where clicks, page views, and driving increases to the daily average cart value at checkout are key metrics, I find Northern’s approach insightful. 

I’m used to my mailbox being stuffed with yearly master catalogs, quarterly / seasonal catalogs, and weekly / monthly promotional mailings from them.   Just observing this flood of material, one might imagine they were stuck in the early 90’s catalog / telesales model.  Far from it.  They have a great web presence.   What really surprised me this week was a yellow and black cardboard box in my mail.  When I opened it, I found a new, hard bound catalog pictured above.  This was really nice.  I mean it felt like a text book, and was made with top quality ink, paper and binding.  Way too nice to toss out with the other catalogs knowing that there would be more.   How could this be cost effective?   Sure, I’ve spent thousands at the store, but I don’t think they sent this to me based upon that.

No, I think they know the target demographic.  Let’s face it,  most of their customers are probably like me – guys who will flip through the pages and find dozens of things that they can’t live without.  They’ll chew over it a while, and eventually rationalize their way to a new power washer, or perhaps a hydraulic log splitter, maybe a 1 inch drive socket set with sockets big enough to have tightened the propellers on the Titanic.   That kind of careful study doesn’t happen while sitting in front of a computer pokeing around a website.  Nope, that kind of thinking happens in the home “reading room”, wherever that may be.   And, a hard bound, handsome catalog is far more likely to stick around than the dozens of flyers in the mail or newspaper.   In the end, successful marketing is about getting your product in front of likely buyers, in a manner and a time when they are most receptive.   I think these guys understand their target audience rather well.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2007 12:46 pm

    I get some catalogs from Jeg’s, Summit, etc and I have to say: the reason I don’t even bother reading through them is that the parts aren’t purely for MY cars. I don’t want to look at engines for a Ford, or parts for a Mopar. If I’m going to take my precious time to read someone’s mailing, it had better be about my GTO or Kat’s Camaro. Now a general tool catalog would be more enticing, but targeted marketing is where it’s at.

    I have a feeling I shouldn’t go peruse Northern Equipment 😀

  2. March 21, 2007 2:54 pm


    I also get catalogs from Summit and agree that they are more generic, although they have created sections within their catalog tailored to particular popular families, of which the L98/LT1/LS1 family spans both your GTO and the Camaro.

    More to your point thought, Mid-America, one of the largest parent companies for car catalog sales has a Corvette specialy line. The publish catalogs based on the generation of the car, in my case I get catalogs for the C4 and C5 vettes. They keep track of what you own and buy and target you accordingly.

    GM (in my opinion) also did a good job of publishing “Corvette Quarterly” of which I received many copies commencing with my purchase. It creates excitement around the current generation while priming the customer for purchase of the next – a real soft sell. I’m not a big trade in guy, and ultimately I’d like to own an LS7 Zo6 too, but it’s going to have to wait. Did GM in Australia do anything similar to build more of a GTO community?

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