How To Produce A Great Catalog

When getting started with a catalog, the first step is to decide who’ll take the lead on this mammoth undertaking. Do you have someone in-house who can take it on or likes that type of work? That’s one option to consider. It’s also important to consider the level of work you expect. Unless the proper training is there, you’ll likely not receive the caliber of work you’d get from professionals who create catalogs regularly as their primary job.

Outsource Or Divide And Conquer

Most importantly, analyze this project like you would any project with your business. It’s easy for projects like these — ones that are completely different than what your team is accustomed to — to capture a huge amount of your staff’s time and energy. Figure out what’s the best use of time for your team and how you can accomplish the goal most effectively, economically and efficiently. In this respect, it may be beneficial to outsource the project.

9 Principles Of Good Catalog Design

Keep it simple. Don’t fall into the “more is better” pit. Interesting is great but not at the expense of readability. Mix too many fonts (types, treatments, sizes) and colors, and you may just end up with confusion.

Require readability. Catalogs are notorious for conveying mega-volumes of information. That’s great, but if you cram it all onto one page, you may reduce the readability so much that you contradict your goal. The paralyzed reader passes you by.

Know your audience. An acronym that makes sense in house may mean nothing on the street. Yes, you know your petunias are always 72s, but does your customer? How many carex does it take to pot up a 10-inch container? Put yourself in their shoes to sell.

Find great photos. It’s great to have a description, but the old adage “A photo is worth a thousand words” was never truer than in a catalog. You can say “stunning” a thousand times and never have the same impact as a photo. Be willing to go the extra mile for good photography, and consider hiring a professional photographer. If you opt to find your own, whether from the internet or another photographer, be sure you know the usage rights on the shots and attribute as required.

High resolution matters. Yes, that shot looked great on your phone when you took it. Yes, it looks OK placed into the file you’re viewing on your computer screen. That doesn’t mean it will look good in print. Printed documents require high resolution images (minimum 300 dpi). Simply put, your monitor compresses the image so you can see it quickly and at the size you want to, but your printer needs more information to make it look clear, crisp and stunning.

Make it easy to do business with you. Do you feel like you’ll see your phone number, eMail and web address in your sleep after flipping through the catalog? Good. That’s about how often it needs to be in your catalog to ensure your customer sees it. Don’t make them work for it; pepper the pages with the most pertinent information.

Ask for it. Don’t assume that just because your catalog is in your customers’ hands, that they will go to the phone or computer and place that order. Frequent, obvious calls to action, such as, “Place your order today,” are the foundation of good business.

Be consistently consistent. Pick a style and stick with it. Establish a simple template up front. Choose font, color and size for headlines, subheads and bodycopy. Have a standard image size and treatment (frame, color, drop shadow).

Know when to break the rules. Having a template doesn’t mean unbreakable rigidity. You may have a series that begs for more photos or a brand new introduction that warrants its own special layout. You may need to mix things up to keep things together, which may mean adding an image to a page to keep that series all together.

To keep from being overwhelmed, break your catalog project down into smaller, more manageable bites, and tackle them one at a time. Even if you work on several portions at the same time (and you likely will), the fear factor is far lower with this approach than assigning one person to start at the beginning and slog through the entire project.

Start by establishing a basic outline, then divide and conquer. A typical layout includes:

• Introduction/welcome letter
• Information about the company
• New products and special offers
• Product selection (establish your list, then go in search of images)
• Specs and ordering (inventory, shipping, minimum orders)
• Index

Information To Include

How do you know what information to include, and how much of it? Start by taking a look at your audience and asking yourself some questions like:

• Are you reaching brokers, growers, retailers or consumers?
• Will you need a different version for different audiences, or will your catalog need to have different sections to meet different needs?
• Do you want customers to use your catalog as a cheat sheet to eMail your sales team or as a handy reference to go through page-by-page when they call customer service to place their order?
• How much information should you put into your tome? Is this more of a quick reference or the end-all-be-all guide to your greenhouse?
• Will you have an online version, whether with integrated shopping cart technology or a simple clickable reference?

Deciding the last question up front means your designer can build the catalog in a way that makes conversion easier. There’s not enough space here to get into all of the elements of electronic catalog design; that’s a whole different animal. But even if you start by uploading a PDF to your website, that’s still a digital option that makes it easier for customers to do business with you.

Answer each of these questions; then consider what to include. If you’re selling plants, think about genus, species and variety names, common name, container, tray or plug size, sun requirements, height, spread, color, hardiness zone, culture, availability and, of course, price.

Few catalog elements beget arguments like price. Every company has its own policy about whether to include it, and managers have many different opinions. Consider whether you are making it easier for the customer or making it easier for the competition to grab a chunk of your business. Are you locking yourself in or leaving the door open for those who seek transparency of business? The best decision is the one that’s right for you.

Stick To A Style

Consistency is as comforting for you as it is for your reader. This means more than standard fonts and colors, although those are key to any operation’s identity.

Think about how you will handle the plant names. It is proper to use the full botanical name (Aquilegia caerulea) on first reference, and after that it can be listed as A. caerulea. Aquilegia c., while convenient, should not be used. Italics should be used in both cases. Unlike botanical names, there is no consistent rule for capitalizing common names. Will you use purple fountain grass or Purple

Fountain Grass? Will you use single quotes around variety names (correct usage) or forego them for simplicity?

These may seem like mundane or maddening musings, but they’re the foundation of a great book. The attention to detail presents a professional image and helps position you as an expert. Plus, they make it easy for your customers to know exactly what you’re talking about. We can’t say it enough; don’t make your customers work for it. If they have to stop and think, it may stop the sale.

The 8 Most Misspelled Words In Horticulture

(Don’t laugh … the easy ones often get overlooked!)

1. Variety
2. Accommodate
3. Commitment
4. Dependent
5. Commercial
6. Vernalization
7. Perennial
8. Foliage

Edit Your Content Carefully

Once you’ve got your rough draft, proofread it. Then proofread again and again. It typically takes at least three reads to see all of the blips and bumps in a document. Read on the first pass for basic grammar, the second for quirks in your collection and the third from the raw view of your customer, someone who’s never seen this before.

Be sure to list patent and trademark information correctly.
Ideally, get at least three different sets of eyes on the catalog before it goes to print. In the best-case scenario, you’ll bring in members of your team from different areas of the company with completely different viewpoints. You’ll be amazed what they notice.

Leave a Reply

More From Business Management...
Hendriks-Half-Open-Roof_GGS

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environments

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Horticulture Priorities

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadlines Approaching

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More
Latest Stories
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Hor…

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadl…

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More

March 25, 2015

NASS Reports U.S. Honey Production Was Up By 19 Percent…

Honey production in 2014 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 178 million pounds, up 19 percent from 2013, according to a March 20 report from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Read More

March 23, 2015

UF/IFAS Appoints Joseph Albano As Director Of Mid-Flori…

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has a new directors for its Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (REC) on Apopka, Fla. The role has been filled by Joseph Albano, a research horticulturist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with more than 25 years of experience.

Read More
Plantbid website screenshot

March 20, 2015

Plantbid Brings Open Sourcing To Greenhouse Growers

Plantbid bridges the gap between buyers and sellers for sales and marketing networking on their own terms. The web-based, plant-sourcing platform aims to save growers time and make the business of buying and selling plants more efficient.

Read More
National Floriculture Forum 2015 029

March 18, 2015

2015 National Floriculture Forum Focuses On Marketing I…

The 2015 National Floriculture Forum, held March 6 to 7 in Minneapolis, Minn., zeroed in on the topic of marketing in horticulture and included visits to Gertens Greenhouses and Garden Center, Bailey Nurseries, Bachman’s Floral, Home and Garden and Tangletown Gardens. The annual meeting allows greenhouse and floriculture faculty, graduate students and industry partners to meet and share updates on current research, issues and initiatives.

Read More

March 18, 2015

H-2B Situation Goes From Bad To Even Worse

On March 5, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it will no longer accept or process H-2B labor certifications or requests for H-2B prevailing wage determinations in light of a March 4 decision. Shortly after the DOL announcement, the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Citizenship and Immigration Services followed suit, announcing it will at least temporarily cease approving visa petitions. These announcements essentially shut down the H-2B program for any company that has not completed the DHS H-2B visa petitioning process.

Read More
SAF CAD

March 18, 2015

Growers Ask For Immigration And Healthcare Reform Durin…

Nearly 90 growers, retailers, suppliers and wholesales attended the Society of American Florists' (SAF) 2015 Congressional Action Days March 9-10. The delegation, representing 18 states, arrived on Capitol Hill at a time when two major industry issues - immigration and healthcare reform - are especially prominent in national headlines.

Read More

March 17, 2015

Pike Nurseries Implements Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Independent garden retailer Pike Nurseries has announced it will become an employee-owned company. Pike Nurseries management has combined with its sister corporation in California, Armstrong Garden Centers, to operate under an established Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Read More
Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center

March 11, 2015

University Of New Hampshire Research Farms Ranked Among…

The University of New Hampshire's university farms were recognized as being among the top in the country by Best College Reviews, which published a ranking of the 20 best university farms in America. The university, which was ranked No. 20, was noted for having an academically centered farming operation. UNH has four horticulture, agronomy, and dairy farms, as well as greenhouses, which are centered on teaching, research and outreach.

Read More
Crop Protection Of The Future

March 11, 2015

Help Us Find Out How Crop Protection Has Changed Among …

Is your environmentally controlled greenhouse production area 500,000 square feet or larger? If so, we want to hear from you. Please take our Top 100 Growers survey to help us get an accurate picture of our industry from the perspective of our largest operations.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

March 10, 2015

GrowIt! Mobile App Now Available For Android

The mobile app GrowIt! Garden Socially can now be used by gardeners with Android-based smartphones. Now available on the Google Play Market, GrowIt! helps users find plants to fit their lifestyle and connect them with other local gardeners.

Read More
Nexus Corporation's Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Wom…

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and …

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s…

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Maryland Green Industry Associations Unite

The Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association recently announced that it is expanding its reach to include the greenhouse industry, meaning it has become The Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association (MNLGA). The change comes as a result of the planned dissolution of the former Maryland Greenhouse Growers Association and the invitation for those members to join the existing and renamed association.

Read More
american-hort-logo

March 4, 2015

H-2B Cap Hit, Adding to Visa Program Woes

The H-2B visa cap for the first half of fiscal 2015 was hit late in January. As a result, some growers may not have access to the H-2B workers they need during the months ahead. The visa cap and resulting labor shortages will have impacts throughout the horticulture industry.

Read More

March 2, 2015

Avoid Surprises On The Delivery Dock

A call in advance about problems with a plant shipment to a retailer you supply goes a long way toward customer satisfaction.

Read More