Writing Copy For Online Catalogs

by : Wild Bill Montgomery

What's one of the things that most of your ad copy has in common?

You write your copy for one primary product or service.

Since most of the ad copy is done in this manner, you may find that writing
"Great" Catalog Copy is a little different. Online catalogs are a very
popular medium on the Internet, but unfortunately there are only a handful
of web site owners who give their catalog copy any justice. Even though we
have grouped this copy lesson into catalog copy, there are several different
types of catalogs to consider. Some catalogs feature every product that
their company sells, while others focus on a specific product line or
specific selection of items chosen for a particular criterion.

Aside from your web site traffic or email list(s) subscriber base, the three
most important parts of a catalog are:

1) Product Placement in the catalog.
2) The Amount of Space you give each product.
3) Graphics, Photos or Illustrations used.
4) and of course, The Ad Copy.

While ad copy is not the most important part of the catalog, it directly
affects each of the other parts. Without great copy, the other key parts of
your catalog have to work that much harder to be effective. This article
provides some tips on writing more effective "Catalog Copy".

Here are my Top 8 Tips for writing Catalog Ad Copy:

1) Match the amount and format of your copy to your catalog.

While the major consideration of most offline catalogs is space, this
is usually not a worry for online catalogs due to the low cost of server
space today. Unfortunately, the reader's attention span has not changed. If
you are offering a large amount of products you will want to keep your copy
short and to the point, while catalogs with few products can afford to write
longer, more in-depth copy. Keep this in mind: More copy does not
necessarily mean better copy.

Write copy appropriate for the product. You don't write down home,
earthy copy to promote ball bearings. You could, on the other hand use this
approach for personal items or a product/service that reflects a change in
your home. Match the type of copy you write to the product and audience.

Another consideration in format is the type of catalog you are writing
copy for. Some catalogs are used as a sales aid, which would require a more
direct, hard punch type of copy. Order Catalogs would be more
straightforward, citing features, advantages and benefits in a more orderly
and less flashy manner. Another words, get the information out there in the
most favorable light, but keep it brief. This is not to say that it should
be boring. Copy still has to move the prospect to action. Still another may
be a promotional catalog, where you are setting the stage for a move to a
"For more information, click here" page. Here you would keep the copy short,
but would use a more persuasive and dazzling approach, Like writing
headlines. Again, because space is not a concern for most catalog
webmasters, this is the best approach for catalog sales on the Internet.

2) Visual Aides, such as graphics and photos play an important part in your
copy. Each has it's own use and should be thought of in that sense. While
graphics and animations can create eye-catching lead-ins to your copy, they
would not be used to display the product. Think about it. Would you be more
likely to click on a product that has the cartoon look of a graphic or the
actual likeness of the product? The same applies to displays or packaging.
Remember use graphics to draw attention and photos (or illustrations in some
cases) to present the product.

3) Make your readers comfortable with ordering from you. Money back
guarantees have no substitute on the Internet. This is the number one
request from buyers. They want a guarantee that they won't be ripped off.
Another one of the biggest foes of Catalog and Internet Purchases is the
fact that people have to deal with a faceless seller. Reassure your buyer by
mentioning names. Name other firms or clients that have used your service.
They need not be famous people or companies. Here's a testimonial from
Martha. The buyer doesn't know Martha from dirt, but because Martha liked
the product or service, your prospect feels a little more at ease. Again,
photos play an important part. If they buyer can see you, they feel closer
to you. "You" being yourself, staff clips or for that matter photos of
anybody. A letter from the President of the company written to the buyer in
a personal form is a big helper too.

4) A key to ad copy, including catalog copy is and always will be to show
your buyer how your product will save them money or benefit them more than
your competitors product or service. "Lowest Prices", "Now Discounted",
"Revolutionary Product" or the old standard "New & Improved" are all
examples of Power Words that convey this important thought. For more Power
Words check here . But of course
it's more than just using a couple of attention grabbing power words, it
still takes great copy to support them.

5) Time is always an important factor. Unlike turning pages in a catalog,
navigating an online catalog can be much more involved. Always make it
possible for your buyer to locate the product in two or 3 clicks. I'm sure
you've heard this before; Humans are, by large, impatient beings and the
longer it takes them to reach the product in question, the more chance you
have of losing them. Use indexes and/or categories. Not just one, but
several. Make it possible for your visitor to access the product from
several different angles or headings. Remember Wild Bill's Rule. Never make
them look past 2 or three clicks from your opening catalog page.

Page load times should be kept to a minimum. All web designers keep
load speeds at or near the top of their lists. This factor is especially
important on catalog sites. Your goal is to host visitors that are here to
buy, not to be entertained. Keep your flashy Java Modules, Javascripts,
DHTML Time Lines and Page Graphics to a minimum. Your pages need to load at
the peak of efficiency, just like turning a page.

6) Add "Value" to your catalog. Even catalogs can benefit by content. The
Internet is all about information. Use content as a draw targeted prospects
to your catalog. Say for instance that you host a catalog for tools and home
improvement items. A perfect benefit for this catalog would be How-To
articles on Home Improvement. For beauty supplies, you could give tips for
makeovers. Get the point? Offer content relative to your products to
properly align this free or low cost marketing idea to your product base.

Offer extras! There is nothing new about offering your buyers "FREE
EXTRAS" for purchasing your products. FREE Extras could be slow moving or
stagnant products, a how-to guide, a toll free number, free delivery or a
free product support. The idea is that you are giving the buyer something
extra for buying from your catalog.

7) Just as any other web site, the opening page or cover page to your
catalog should begin the selling process. Just as magazine, book publishers
and yes, catalog publishers spend a lot of time and resources designing and
implementing the covers, so should you. You have to have an opening page
that says "Open Me, I'm Worth It!" Think of your "opening page" as a big
headline. You must use all your writing and design skills combined with
enticing graphics and/or photos to convince them to turn to the next page so
to speak. Whether true or not, a dull cover conveys the appearance of dull
products. Goodbye Sales! Here is the place to begin aligning your copy with
your product line. "Comprehensive Product Line", "Product Superiority",
"Problem Solutions" and "Price" as a whole should be addresses and enforced
right here. You could be giving away the best made product, for the most
popular fad, and if you can't get them to open the cover (or click inside),
you won't be giving away spit.

8) Make ordering easy. Recently, I needed a CD Burner and I visited an
online catalog, whose copy and presentation was excellent. They had
comparable pricing and quality products. I was ready to buy. I went to the
order form and found a 2 page demographics survey that had to be filled out
for the privilege of purchasing their product. I Don't Think So! Keep your
form to the minimum requirements, clear and easily understood. If you must
have demographics, ask for them after the purchase. Getting back some
demographics is far better than getting no sales.

Accept Credit Cards. Except for very limited product lines you must
accept credit cards to survive. I myself don't accept credit cards yet, but
have not had a need to do it yet. Then again, I do not operate a catalog
site. People buying from an online catalog, expect; no demand to be able to
use their credit cards for immediate purchase. Make it clear what credit
cards you accept and that fact that you use a secure server for the

Closing Thought:

The Internet Shopping Arena is growing at unbelievable speedsFree Web Content, literally
destroying old name business that deny the Unbeatable Force of that we call
"The Internet". Every day more and more people turn to Online Catalogs to
fulfill their shopping lists. Are you ready? Is your online catalog up to
snuff? Only your web surfers know for sure!

My best wishes for your Success!