How Catalogs are Driving These Traditional Businesses

Pinetree, a seed company, does almost all of its business online, but it’s marketing the old fashioned way – with printed direct mail catalogs.

“Most of our customers get the catalog, they flip through it, they mark it up, and then they go to our website and they order online,” explains Melissa Emerson to CBS News’ Kenneth Craig.

That succinct description of Pinetree’s catalog customer journey is what’s behind the success of one printing company in Maine, where the digital age hasn’t hurt their business – it’s helping it thrive.

Jim Gibbs, VP of Dingley Press in Lewiston says a good number of their printing clients are an online-only business that relies on printed catalogs to generate sales.

“They can only grow their business to a certain point where they need to reach new prospects,” Gibbs explains, “and they’re returning to catalogs to generate those prospects.”

He notes that the kind of customer a business gains through a direct mail catalog is the “holy grail” of customers, as they tend to make repeat purchases and have good lifetime value.

Thirteen billion catalogs will move through the US mail system this year, Craig continues, citing an industry trade groups, and the modern catalog is the perfect venue to combine product descriptions with brand storytelling. Pinetree often includes stories from their garden in with their product descriptions, taking advantage of the new style of a catalog that is much more than simply a sales tool.

Asked about the importance of catalogs to her business, Emerson was clear: “We wouldn’t be a company without our catalogs. It’s the driving force behind everything we do.”

If you have any doubt about the value of printed catalogs in a digital age, look no further than Pinetree Garden Seeds. Oh, and request a catalog while you’re there. It’s a beauty.