Product Manager: Is It Time To Create A Catalog For Your Product?

by drjim on February 22, 2010

Why Not Create A Good Looking Catalog For Your Product?

Why Not Create A Good Looking Catalog For Your Product?

Why Create A Catalog?

So here’s a novel thought for you to consider Product Manager: why not create a catalog for your product? Based on a recommendation from a friend, I’ve been reading the book “Catalog Design: Creating Desire” and it has given me a whole new appreciation for catalogs. I used to just get them in the mail, scan them quickly, and then toss them aside. Now I better understand just what a valuable product tool they are…

Look, no matter if you are a product manager for a single product or for a whole line of products, you are actually selling a number of different things. Whether it’s different configurations of your product(s), training, different bundles, different support programs, etc. we are all selling more than just one thing. This opens the door to creating a catalog to describe to our customers everything that we sell.

As product managers we are always thinking about our competition. We’d all love to have a way to make our products stand out in their markets. Since none of us have an unlimited budget, it’s time to get creative. Does any of your competition currently create a catalog for their products? If not, then you’ve got a real opportunity here.

Brochures don’t count. A catalog is a “book” that allows you to lay out everything that you offer to your customers in one place. A brochure just provides information on one product. A catalog will allow you to build an image for both your product and your company.

What does it take to make a catalog?

In order to create a catalog, you need to first start by selecting a theme that you want to use for your catalog. This is going to depend greatly on the type of product that you manage and the people who are your customers. Remember, businesses don’t buy products, people do. The theme needs to be something that your customers will respond to – something that they want to be part of.

Once you have a theme selected, you next need images – photos. You are going to need a lot of these because the whole purpose of a catalog is to allow your customer to experience your product. Don’t even think about filling a catalog with screenshots of some software product. Instead, spend some time and think about what your customers do with your product and include images of the end results that your customers want to achieve.

Finally, you’re going to need words. But not just any words. The words that you drape in and around your photos need to explain what your customer is seeing in the photos and how they can get the same results. The tone and the specific words that you use need to reinforce the theme that you’ve chosen.

How do you go about using a catalog?

Once you’ve gone to the effort of creating your catalog, the next step is the most important. You’re going to have to sit down with your sales team and go through the catalog page by page in order to make sure that they understand it.

One they understand the theme, the content, and the intent of the catalog, then they can take it to their customers. As a part of their selling process they can go through the catalog with their customers in order to show them what’s in it and to motivate them to take a closer look after the salesperson is gone.

Finally, you will also need to update that part of your company’s web site that deals with your product. Its look and feel needs to be the same as the theme that you used in the catalog. As customers read the catalog and decide to visit your web site to learn more, the theme should carry over to the web site.

What does all of this mean to you?

No matter how fancy we get in this all-electronics age, it turns out that catalogs still serve a purpose. They do a fantastic job of laying out in one place a company’s entire line of products and telling a story to your customers. Catalogs are not going away anytime soon.

As an example of this I’ll refer you to my favorite catalog, Cruchfield. They do a great job of transforming commodity electronics into a product that you really want to buy from them.

Catalogs can provide a product manager with a unique way to make your product stand out in a crowded market. Please note that creating a catalog is the start of a long-term commitment. Once you’ve created one, your customers are going to be eager to see the next edition…

Do you think that you sell enough products that you could fill a catalog?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

One of the best interviews that I’ve ever read was with Steve Jobs (of Apple fame) in which he scoffed at doing things like focus groups and such in order to get input for the fantastic products that Apple makes. He said that since what Apple is doing is so revolutionary, getting input from potential customers wouldn’t help much because they couldn’t even imagine what a product could do. I do respect Steve, but could he be wrong?

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