DESIGNING AND WRITING BROCHURES
by Joelle Steele
Every business, no matter how large or how small, needs marketing materials such as business cards and matching letterhead stationery. But, there is another highly effective marketing tool that is often overlooked as being unnecessary or too expensive, and that's the brochure. When used in a direct mail marketing campaign, brochures can help develop a need for products and services in the community and open the doors for a salesperson by giving advance notice of a company's existence. If brochures are used as a sales tool, they can inform and educate while leaving a favorable image of a company long after the salesperson has left.
Brochures are a type of advertising and, like a display ad in the yellow pages, there are three basic formats that an advertisement can take:
Image advertising or institutional marketing, keeps a company’s name in front of the client. It doesn't define what the company does. Everyone already knows that because this technique is used by companies whose names are household words, like IBM or General Motors. A small business using image advertising will not be likely to get flooded with calls because that is not the purpose of this type of marketing.
Promotional marketing is one that is used to actively seek new business, and this kind of brochure features specific items for sale, new services, new business hours to better serve the clientele, discount coupons, etc. For a new business, one that wants to open a new territory, or one that simply wants to boost sales, promotional marketing is best.
Combination advertising is both image and promotional in format. It combines the best of both worlds by providing a customized advertising format that is ideal for small businesses, companies on tight budgets, and new businesses that want to attract clients. With combination advertising, large quantities of brochures can be printed for use over a longer period of time than would be possible with promotionally-oriented brochures that become outdated once a particular sales promotion is over.
What a company sells is pretty much the same as every other company of its kind — in the eyes of the client or customer, that is. But every business is different, and a brochure must reflect that. This can be tricky. After all, if two companies are selling the same or similar product or service, something must be written to indicate that one company is unique or different in some way. It's not enough to say that one is better because that is just making a very biased value judgment. The competition thinks the same way.
When designing brochures things must be emphasized that will distinguish one company from its competition and attract new clients. For example, professionalism can be indicated by stating that a company is bonded, insured, licensed, belongs to a trade association, has been in business 28 years, etc. In addition, specialty markets and services can be highlighted.
DRAFTING THE TEXT
When writing the copy, the text, some forethought should be given to the design of the brochure and how much space will be allotted to certain topics. Keep in mind these basic components of effective advertising as the text is written according to a design:
Headlines are short lines of large, boldface, eye-catching text that grabs the client's attention. A company name, words like, "new," "sale," or "discount," can be effective headlines. So can a cute or catchy slogan.
Subheadings are short lines that break up the text and introduce information on a particular aspect of a business. Subheadings are usually uppercase and boldfaced, and consist of explanatory phrases that define the product or service.
Copy or Text is the explanation of the headings and subheadings. If you were to rely solely on a catchy slogan to generate interest you can be sure that all you would generate would be curiosity. A few lines of text, explaining what the slogan means and briefly describing it, clarifies the headline.
Logo and Name absolutely must appear in a brochure, no matter what. Name identification is critical in any form of advertising. The logo should be in at least two places on each side, and the company name or product name should appear at least three times per side.
Pictures or Graphics can be in the form of line drawings or photos, and while not absolutely necessary, are highly recommended. Images attract the client's attention. But don't include an image just to fill up space. Photos should be professionally done to reflect a company’s best work and for quality of reproduction in the brochure. The same goes for drawings. No picture is better than a bad one.
Aim for a clean looking brochure that isn't overpowered with ink. Be concise and economical in wording. Instead of saying "Hudson's Lawn Service has been in business since 1975 and serves a residential clientele in Lincoln Heights," try limiting it to one phrase such as: "Serving Lincoln Heights Residents Since 1975." This is shorter, to the point, more visible, and leaves more text space for things that cannot be as easily condensed.
If you need to say more because a company is highly diversified, consider a more severe text editing job, go to a larger size (8-1/2 x 14 instead of 8-1/2 x 11), or have more than one brochure for the different "divisions" of a company. It is better to have a brochure that is easy to read than to try to cram everything into a small space, with very small lettering, making it difficult to read and interpret.
If a company has corporate colors, they should be included in the design, but it is not mandatory. Color ink is always just an option. Colored stock and black ink should also be considered. Full color used to be much more expensive than black and white printing, but technology has changed this considerably. And, contrary to popular belief, full-color printing is not necessarily better or more effective. All depends on what you're selling.
WORKING WITH CLIENTS
Prepare to spend a significant amount of time working with the client, particularly in the planning stages. Make every effort to find out exactly who the client is and who their target market might be. Also try to understand as much as you can about their products and services. Talk costs right up front.
Provide a client with several options for text, color and weight of the paper stock, possible layouts, typefaces, and ink colors, among other things. Ask a lot of questions to be sure the client understands exactly what is being recommended. Explain to the client how expenses changes can be so that their budget is not exceeded. Brochures don't have to be expensive to be effective. Give your client what they need at a price they can afford. Try to give them an idea of what the printing costs will be too.
This article last updated: 04/16/2003.