Writing Powerful Tell-All Brochures

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A brochure should not be an illustrated version of your letter. Your letter is a sales pitch, meant to be read generally in sequence from beginning to end. It should make a personal, emotional connection. And it should make a promise and ask for the order.


Your brochure, on the other hand, is factual support for the letter, 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.


As the saying goes, "The letter sells. The brochure tells."


* Make a visual impact. If your letter has done 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. Use photos, illustrations, diagrams, charts, tables and other visual aids.


* Make the brochure readable. Use design to draw the reader into the copy, not to call attention to itself. Use a serif typeface. Indent paragraphs. Avoid large blocks of italic or reversed type. Divide your copy into short sections. Highlight important items with borders, boxes and color. Use bullet lists for miscellaneous or technical information.


* Use headlines to tell a complete story. Instead of empty headlines and subheads, 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 headers, so make sure they get the gist of your message at a glance.


* Start strong on the cover. A brochure isn't a stage show where you have to wait for the curtain to open before the drama begins. Put a big benefit in your main headline right on the front cover. Use secondary headlines for secondary benefits. Then use copy and graphics to lead your reader through the rest of the brochure.


* Develop your big benefit immediately. Use your first few sentences to summarize what the rest of the brochure will detail. This will help close readers understand what is to follow. And it will help scanners by putting most of the important ideas up front.


* Highlight the benefits and list the features. Benefits are what sell. And every important benefit should be highlighted, perhaps with subheads and detailed copy. But don't forget the features. Some people make final decisions based on what features are or are not included, so don't leave out anything.


* Restate the offer clearly. Have you presented a persuasive pitch for the offer in your letter? Good. But since the brochure's purpose is to support the letter, you must restate the offer. Illustrate it. Detail it. Dramatize it. Include premiums, deadlines, toll-free number and ordering instructions.


* Feature 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. Use it.


* Group your testimonials. Testimonials support your claims. But they also engage the bandwagon effect -- lots of people use your product or service, so it must be desirable. Sprinkling testimonials around your brochure diminishes this effect.


* Use the most effective selling format. If you want to make a big impression, use a broadside. If you have a long story to tell, use a booklet. If your offer is simple, use a flier. Select the format based on what is needed for a particular promotion, not on arbitrary design specs.


* Include all vital data. In addition to benefits, features, offer and everything else already mentioned, don't forget your company name, address, phone, fax, e-mail, Web site, regional offices, contacts and location maps.


* Test your package with no brochure. An envelope implicitly says, "There's a letter inside." So you must have a letter. However, you don't necessarily need a brochure. In fact, some promotions often do just as well (or better) without one, including lead generation and simple offers for well-known brands or easy-to-understand items, such as newsletters, magazines or informational products.


Dean Rieck is president of Direct Creative, Columbus, OH. His e-mail address is DeanRieck@compuserve.com.
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