by Justin Rolf-Marsh
Go on: admit it... Most brochures make you yawn so hard you fear your jaw's about to snap! You know, the ubiquitous picture of the team, standing rigidly with their president, who's explaining his company's revolutionary policy of putting its customers first. Then there are pictures of the company home office, complete with a fleet of trucks, parked with Olympic precision!
Your first step is to define your objective. What challenge do you want your brochure to solve? To assist in the sale of your products or services, or to introduce yourself to potential stakeholders in your business? Each scenario calls for a different document.
Once you know your objective, the next step is to consider the role your brochure will play in the sales process. Will you mail it directly to potential clients? Will it be sent to interested parties responding to advertising? Or will salespeople use it as a sales tool?
Remember that each component of the sales process should attempt to sell only what it has a reasonable likelihood of selling. In other words, your brochure shouldn't attempt to consummate the sale of your product or service, but rather 'sell' the next step in the sales process.
The first step in your sales process is likely an advertisement or a direct mail piece inviting interested parties to 'put up their hands' and request more information. This information will likely be your brochure-although it could also be a newsletter, audio cassette or website.
Let's consider this secondary objective first. Because we're expecting people to phone and request our brochure, we need to create the perception that it's desirable. This desirability needs to be more than just a perception-your brochure actually has to be desirable!
The best way to make your brochure desirable is to make it valuable to the recipient. You can do this either by packing it full of useful information or by stuffing it with $50 bills. The former is more sustainable!
Providing useful information increases the likelihood that your brochure will be read and also positions you as an expert in its field-which makes your services more desirable.
Useful information isn't hard to find; just package some of that valuable knowledge you have hiding in your organization. In sharing your knowledge with potential customers, you will educate them about your unique selling position. The act of sharing your knowledge will empower potential customers to do business with you! The true value lies in your ability to implement this knowledge.
Which brings me to our second law of sales process design: Give away your knowledge and earn the right to charge a premium for implementation. I recommend that you package your knowledge in a 'do-it-yourself' format. This will make your knowledge practical and relevant, rather than academic and obtuse. The reality is that only potential customers who can't (or won't) afford your fees will attempt to do it themselves. And, by definition, they aren't potential customers anyway.
Now that the strategic issues are resolved, it's time to plan the format of your document.
The cover of your brochure is nothing more than an advertisement for the brochure itself and like any good advertisement, your cover's most important element is the headline. The headline should promote the valuable knowledge you have packaged in your brochure.
To write a compelling headline for the cover of your brochure, write the words 'How to …' on a sheet of paper. Then follow these words with the primary benefit the reader is likely to enjoy if they read-and act on-the content of your brochure.
The cover photograph should complement the headline rather than compete for the reader's attention.
The name of your product, or of your organization, should be placed underneath this headline along with the company logo and description.
Your brochure, should have a brief introduction. This should expand on the promise contained in the headline and pre-empt the contents of the document. The next couple of pages should deliver the valuable knowledge discussed earlier.
Deliver this knowledge so that it has stand-alone value. For example, a brochure for an investment firm could spell out the five laws of value investing. A consultant might offer a few innovative marketing strategies. A cleaning company could provide tips on removing stains from carpets.
This approach will position you as a leader in your field and more importantly, it will create a need for your product or service. By the time you get around to presenting your product or service, the job of selling is more than half-done.
If you can create a need for your product or service by teaching the reader your unique selling position, all you have to do now is prove that your product or service is capable of servicing this need.
In order to sell something, it should be presented as a unit of conviction. A unit of conviction has three components: a product feature, an associated benefit and evidence. In tying each of your product or service's features to an associated benefit, you keep these features relevant to the reader.
If you're not sure what the benefit of one of your product or service's features is, ask yourself this simple question: "How does this feature assist in servicing my reader's need?" If a feature does not make a contribution to a reader's need, you would have to assume that the feature is irrelevant. Evidence can take the form of a photograph or diagram, technical data, a testimonial or the results from an independent test.
A case study is the story of a client of yours who has used and benefited from your product or service. It should be written in third person-unlike a testimonial, which is written in first person.
A case study consists of three parts: a description of the problem your client faced; an outline of the steps you took to solve the problem and a description of the end result. If possible, include direct quotes from your client.
Case studies enable prospective clients to experience your product or service through someone else's eyes. They are particularly important to service providers because they make an otherwise intangible service tangible.
We've left the information about your organization until last for one very good reason. Until your reader has discovered a need for your product or service and is convinced that your product or service has the potential to service their need-information about your business is not relevant.
When it comes to presenting your organization's credentials, make sure each inclusion is relevant to the reader! If you're in the logistics business, a picture of your fleet of trucks is probably relevant. If you're a computer consultant, it probably isn't.
While pictures of buildings and trucks may give the company a feeling of substance, you can achieve a better result by paying closer attention to the overall quality of your brochure and it's relevance to your reader.
The last component of your brochure is identical to the last component of each step in your sales process. You should ask for the sale, remembering that the 'sale' can either be the next step in your sales process, or an order for your product or service.
Now that you've created a need and demonstrated your ability and the credentials to fulfill that need, you should close by asking the reader to move to the next step in your sales process, which is, in this scenario, an appointment. The best way to compel your reader to pick up the phone and make an appointment is to explain how she will benefit from doing so.
Like your brochure, an appointment should be designed to impart some value to your prospect-regardless of whether or not they ultimately purchase from you.
Fortunately, if you sit in on one of your salesperson's appointments (or record one of your own) you are likely to discover that you are already doing this. My guess is that one of your appointments typically begins with a fact-finding exercise (an informal audit, if you like). It probably then proceeds to the presentation of a set of preliminary recommendations. And, concludes with an outline of how you can assist your prospect with the implementation of these recommendations.
The good news is that, if you formalize this process -and explain it to your reader in advance-you'll find they are more likely to go ahead and schedule that appointment.