Q: Our company brochure is outdated and needs to be replaced. Besides, it never produced the results we'd hoped for. How can we make our new brochure as effective as possible?

A: A top-quality company brochure should be the centerpiece of your family of marketing materials. It's a workhorse that can accomplish several vital goals:

  • Motivate your prospects to buy
  • Position your company against the competition
  • Create a strong visual identity
  • Direct prospects toward a specific action

Whether you produce your brochure in-house or work with a design firm or an ad agency, you must follow several important rules when creating this crucial piece of literature. First, your brochure copy must be "outer-directed." It should focus on benefits, not features, that answer the readers' question, "What's in it for me?" Rather than simply enumerating the features your company offers, the brochure must relate all the benefits prospects will experience when they choose to hire your firm or buy from you and not your competitors. An effective brochure is never about "what we offer"; it's about "what you'll get."

Don't make the mistake of putting a lifeless title on the cover of your company brochure. Use a great headline to tease the content and motivate prospects to open the brochure and read on. Benefit-oriented headlines and subheads motivate readers to continue through the body copy. You see, we read brochures in the following way: headlines first, then subheads or photos, photo captions, and then the body copy (text) last. Once your headlines, subheads and much of your copy have established the benefits, specific features may be addressed, but they shouldn't make up the bulk of your text.

At the close of your brochure copy, a strong "call to action" gives your prospects a reason to respond. While the call to action you choose will vary depending on your type of business and what you offer, it's imperative to find a way to move your prospects to the next level. And be sure to include a toll-free number to remove any sales barriers and encourage greater responses. Nowadays, any company, regardless of size, can afford to take advantage of toll-free numbers in its marketing materials, as the major phone carriers offer them at little or no cost. You may even consider varying your toll-free number per marketing tool (using a different one for each type of brochure, particularly if you sell groups of products) to help you gauge responses to individual offers.

Your company brochure will establish the visual identity for your business. So it's crucial that decisions on use of your logo, typefaces, colors, layout and even paper stock be made carefully, preferably with the help of qualified professionals. If you decide to create your brochure in-house, use a software program that's been developed for entrepreneurs, not designers. Then, avoid the most obvious design mistake: using too many different typefaces. This can make your brochure look amateurish. Pick just one typeface for text and another for headlines, forgo exclamation points and underlining, and make your emphasis with type weight (boldface, for example) and size.

This is also a great time to think outside the box. For example, if your company prints, hands out or mails a low quantity of brochures (a few thousand a year vs. 5,000 a month), for a few cents more per piece, you can afford to produce an oversized brochure that will really get noticed. So instead of the typical brochure that folds to fit in a standard envelope, you might design one that folds to 6 inches by 9 inches. This would help it in stand out in the mail and make a strong impression when presented to prospects.

Overall, a clean, readable design is essential to your brochure's success. Add just the right mix of benefit-oriented headlines, subheads and copy, plus a strong call to action, and you have a winning formula.