This isn’t a trick question or a riddle. The answer is one that solves a lot of catalog marketer problems when it comes to making tough design decisions such as “How will we make our popular products visible?” or “What should the cover feature be?” or “How will we fill up sidebar and footers with valuable content?” Of course, your catalog marketing strategy likely includes tactics for featuring the products that your target market is most interested in and most likely to purchase as well as the information that’s most important to feature on the cover, first page, and back cover. But these kinds of decisions are always better made when informed. In the digital age, information is everywhere. In fact, it’s so ubiquitous, it can be hard to tune in and listen to what people are saying, considering there are so many voices. But listening is exactly what we, as marketers for our businesses, need to be doing. How will we ever know what our target markets are coveting, scorning or laughing at? In other words, how will we ever know how to appeal to their desires, interests and behaviors, if we can’t listen to their current conversation? Enter Quora and Reddit.


Just like a nosy gossip, the easiest way to stay alert to the whiplash trends of the world is to go straight to the source: the popular lunch table. Just kidding. But really, Reddit and Quora, for explanatory purposes, is where your target market is talking. Even better than gossip, Quora is a hub of actual knowledge. It’s a platform where anyone in the world can ask a question and Quora provides the answer in an open forum. While the site receives more than 200 million unique visitors a month, the company focuses on quality of information not quantity—this isn’t a fancy version of Wikipedia.


Say you’re an outdoor gear company like Land’s End or Keene. If you simply search “outdoor equipment” on Quora, you’ll find that your target market, a Millennial in her late 20s has recently asked, “Are hiking poles just a marketing ploy to get people to identify with being a hiker and buy the poles?” These kinds of listening techniques give marketers valuable insight into the concerns, questions, and even fears of their target markets. Does your market not take hiking poles seriously? Do they consider them a ploy? Then we probably don’t want to feature them too prominently in the catalog—yet.


As a provider of hiking poles, this is exactly your opportunity to step into the conversation with a thorough, informative, value-added answer. Quora and Reddit give marketers the opportunity to address these kinds of concerns in a positive manner, to turn the tide of opinion even and to demonstrate that their business is an expert in a field (like outdoor recreation equipment) by answering a question. You can build a relationship with your audience that’s more relevant by joining the conversation that’s already taking place. Answering your audience’s questions is the best way to produce educational, value-added content. In your next product catalog, you might consider inserting a call-out box that explains the benefits of hiking with trekking poles.


Turns out, you don’t need to hire a third-party contractor to analyze your target market. They’re all talking and the conversation is audible, you just need to know where to listen.