Six Essentials for Planning an Effective Brochure

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Even in this digital world we now live in, brochures can be your company's best friend. They can work in conjunction with your other sales literature. Or alone. What's more, they don't even need to be printed, with PDF and eBook technology making it very easy to read one on a tablet, desktop, or even a phone. However, without careful planning, preparation, and execution, the entire process can become a waste of your time and money. So, follow these six steps to create an effective brochure that will increase inquiries, acquisition, and even retention.

  1. Know Your Brochure's Place in the Buying Process: Your product, the market, even your approach to how you want to make the sale are all major factors in how you write your brochure. Determine where your brochure functions in the buying process:
    Leave-Behinds: Named for the type of brochure you leave behind after meeting a potential customer. It should support what you have just presented. 
  2. Point-of-sale: The type of brochure you may pick up while waiting in line at the bank. It can be a good tool to raise interest, and get people asking for more. 
  3. Respond to Inquiries: Someone asks about a specific product and you drop a brochure in the mail, or email, to follow up. It should be expansive, give them as much information as you can.
  4. Direct Mail: Your sales letter sells but you can also include your brochure into your direct mail package. However, great direct mail is more than a letter and a brochure, so think carefully about how to make it stand out.
  5. Sales Support Tool: Similar to leave-behinds but you use this type as a selling aid through a sales pitch.
  6. Know If Your Brochure Stands Alone: Some companies have one brochure for one product and that's it. Others use their brochure in combination with other advertising mediums (commercials, print ads, direct mail, etc.). If you're writing a brochure to be used with other forms of advertising, your content will be determined by the ad campaign.
    For example, you've created the perfect direct mail package. Your sales letter covers the reasons your prospect has to buy your product now.
    Don't follow up your direct mail masterpiece with a repetitious brochure. You've already convinced your potential customer that you have a great product. Now show them the benefits and features your product offers. The brochure here should complement your DM piece, not parrot it.
  7. Know Your Audience: You've already determined where your brochure fits into the buying process. Don't forget to target that particular audience. Decide what type of information this audience needs and write your brochure accordingly. You wouldn't want to write a response to inquiry brochure the same way you'd write a sales support brochure. Remember, write specifically to them. Make it too broad, and no one will be interested. Trying to please everyone results in pleasing no one.
  8. Organize Your Selling Points: Your brochure should have a beginning, middle and an end, just like a book. Most people will look at the front cover, back cover, maybe even flip through the pages to see if it's worth reading.
    How you determine the organization of your selling points depends on #3 - Know Your Audience. Once you've determined who's going to read your brochure, then you choose the approach that will best fit these readers.
    For example, say you own a car dealership. You might want to write a helpful brochure-like, "10 Things to Look for When Buying a Car." Now you can go into detail of what a customer should look for and how your company can help in the buying process.
    It adds credibility to your company and the fact that you have this type of brochure could make the difference in whether you get the sale or your competitor does. After all, you were the one that wrote a helpful brochure your customer needed and used.
  9. Be Accurate, Thorough, and Concise: Before you start hammering away at the copy in your brochure, take the time to think about the information you want to include and, just as important, what you don't need to include.
    Open up most brochures, and you'll find lots of words. That's because brochures need to contain as much information as possible to get your potential customer to the next step - the purchase.
    Someone who is interested in your product will read every word of your brochure. However, your prospect will feed their paper shredder if you're not providing them with useful information - or worse - your copy is dull. Give them just what they need, without bogging them down in endless pages of exhaustive copy.
  10. Make it Stand Out: You've got this far, but it's still easy to hit a huge hurdle at this point. After following the first five steps, it can be tempting to just throw everything into a templatized layout with standard stock photos and call it a day. But these days, people are way more visual than they were in the past. And not only that, but they have to deal with a lot of noise and clutter from other advertising and marketing sources.
    This is when the skills of a superb designer, art director, and production specialist can help. Give serious thought to the covers, and the first inside page. This is your most precious real estate. It does all the hard work of enticing the reader inside, so make it count. 

Don't cram the pages with lots of copy. Keep it light, give it air, and if you have to go from 16 pages to 20 to achieve that, then either cut the copy or reevaluate your budget. Also, give thought to how it feels as well as how it looks. There are millions of paper and card choices out there. Some feel velvety-soft, others shiny and slick. What do you want to get across? If this is going to serve as a digital brochure as well, consider that. The subtleties you incorporate with paper will not come across digitally.