Prove the pitch with a tell-all brochure

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Last time, we talked about sales letters and how you should sell, not tell. Now we'll discuss brochures and how you should tell, not sell. Here's the distinction: Your letter is meant to be read in sequence, from beginning to end. It should make a personal, emotional connection. And it should make a promise and ask for the order.

But your brochure is factual support for the letter and meant to be scanned or read in any order. It is less personal. It should illustrate features, list benefits, provide proofs, make comparisons and list technical details to lend credibility to what your letter claims.

We've covered 71 direct mail tools in this series. Now I give you six more and, because I'm such a generous guy, a few bonus tools.

72. Use your brochure to tell. I can't emphasize this enough. While your letter makes a personal connection and hits the gut or heart, your brochure should load up on the facts. A brochure supports the letter. It should educate and inform. It should fill in the details, not just repeat the letter with graphics. Any direct mail package can be made better if you separate the sales pitch in the letter from the factual support in the brochure.

73. Create a "Missouri Brochure." If your letter did its job, your prospect should be saying, "Sounds good. Show me." Illustrate the use of your product, its benefits and results. Show how your promise will be fulfilled. Your letter is the pitch; your brochure is the demonstration.

74. Make the brochure readable. Use a legible typeface. Group similar elements such as testimonials in one place. Divide copy into short sections. Highlight important information with borders, boxes and color. Use bullet lists for miscellaneous or technical information.

75. Use headlines and subheads that tell a complete story. Instead of empty headlines, such as "Why customers love Yahoo Widgets," use specific and complete sentences such as "You'll love Yahoo Widgets because they last longer and cost less." Some people will only scan the headlines, so ensure they get the gist of your message.

76. Include complete contact information. This includes company name, address, phone, fax, e-mail and Web site. Brochures are keepers, so they should give complete offer and ordering information for delayed orders or pass-along orders. Plus, repeating this information sends a clear message that you want a response.

77. Test your package with no brochure. Some direct mail packages do just as well or better with no brochure. You must have a letter. You might not need a brochure. If your product is easy to understand and needs no demonstration or illustration, you might be able to eliminate it. It's worth a test.

Bonus brochure tools:

• Restate the offer clearly. Have you presented a persuasive pitch for the offer in your letter? Good. But since the brochure is to support the letter, you may want to restate the offer. Illustrate it. Detail it. Dramatize it. Include premiums, deadlines, toll-free number and ordering instructions. Always include a clear, bold call to action. Of course, you may not want to include the offer if the brochure is to be used in various packages or if the letter offer is meant to appear last minute and urgent.

• Develop your big benefit immediately. If your main headline gives a big benefit, your first few sentences should expand on that idea and summarize what the rest of the brochure will detail. This helps readers understand what will follow. And it helps scanners by putting most of the important ideas up front.

• Highlight the benefits and list the features. Benefits are what sell. Every important benefit should be highlighted, with headlines, subheads and detailed copy. You also can summarize benefits in a bullet list or box or as call-outs in an illustration or photo. But don't forget the features. Some people decide based on what features are or are not included, so don't leave out anything. Features also can be grouped in a bullet list or highlighted as call-outs.

• Include a strong guarantee. A guarantee reduces the fear of getting stuck with a lemon and increases confidence in your company. It's one of the few techniques that almost universally boosts response. Don't hide your guarantee or relegate it to the back panel. Highlight it. Place it inside a box or certificate border. Put it near your main call to action. You may also want to use an insert for the guarantee.

We're near the end. But we still have a big topic to cover: the order form. There are also a few tools for the reply envelope. Everything leads up to these pieces, but often they are neglected. However, we're going to take a break for the holidays and look at the secrets of the greatest marketer of all time.

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