107: Rethinking the Company Brochure

Image purchased from iStockPhoto.comWhen I started my company ten years ago, my print shop comped me some free company brochures. So, I took full advantage of that and built an eight-page catalog that sold my services. Cumulatively, that was 748 square inches—roughly five square feet of text and pictures—that I put in someone’s hands, trying to convince them. “Overkill” is an understatement.

About five years into the business, I realized that was too much sale content and condensed my message down to the text that could fit on three “plane tickets” that inserted into what looks like the envelope that airlines give you at the check-in counter.

The other day, I was pulling one of those out of my cabinet to insert into a package of brochure samples. (It’s now down to just two “tickets” of text.)  I thought to myself, “That’s a lot of text! They’re not going to read all of this. I wouldn’t.”  To be candid, part of me actually hoped the person on the other end wouldn’t read it—that they’d (1) just be impressed by the atypical brochure format that won two national awards and (2) take a pass on the dated statistics and testimonials.

With the Internet literally in our hands, none of us have time or space for company brochures any more. Once they’re printed, company brochures hold content that can’t be changed or updated.  In contrast, clients and prospects can see real time content on our website and should see our most current promotional messages on our social media streams.

I’m not ready to sign a death certificate for the company brochure as a media; but we have to look at them differently, if they are to successfully attract and educate your prospects.

Value the reader’s time.
Often, the quantity of content can discourage readers from even starting to read your pitch.  Break your text into small chunks—quick paragraphs, short bulleted lists, or captions for photographs.  Boil your text down to a few paragraphs at the most.  If you have to say more, divide the content between different (most likely, smaller) topical pieces.

Drip your brand instead of lobbing a massive water balloon.
Don’t make one piece, send it once, and then consider it a failure if only a few people respond.  Create a series of succinct pieces that each respectively center around a specific topic or solution.  Design these pieces to look like each other—so much so that you could remove the logo and the pieces would still work together.  Let the compilation of impressions build on each other to equal more than the sum of the parts. With digital printing, short runs are more affordable than ever. If you have to cut anything, narrow the number of recipients to more qualified prospects.

Remove some of the piece’s responsibility.
Your company brochure might be a first or second impression, but it probably won’t be your only impression.  If the brochure doesn’t tightly match your auction advertising, your website, your business card, your vehicle graphics, your stationary, or your signage, it has either to compensate for those media or be carried by those media.  When all your media is lifting in unison, each piece has less of the weight of your brand to carry.  So, don’t order an expensive brochure, if your other media is printed at OfficeMax or designed by the sophomore computer science class.

Replace the brochure with a dimensional product.
Send your prospects something that literally looks and feels different from other advertising.  One of my clients sent a package of Oreo cookies to bank asset managers with a message along the lines, “These should be the only OREO’s on your desk,” along with specific, topical appeals that included a promise to bring milk to sales presentations.  My print shop gained over a hundred thousand dollars of business (and national attention in two magazines) by mailing tubes that contained shoe strings, a lottery ticket, and a dollar bill.

Change the text to be prospect-centric.
Most company brochures (like most proposals) say, “Here’s a company resume. Please hire us.” Speaking from my experience with Biplane’s promotion, the more I have to say, the more insecurity is driving the piece. Make the text address your prospects’ potential issues. When you use pictures, choose images that draw the topic into the reader’s context and make the scene more relatable.

Business owners often understand the golden rule when it comes to customer service.  It’s interesting to me, though, how often we overlook that guiding principle in marketing and don’t design advertising that we’d want to read, if the roles were reversed.  Give advertising unto others that you’d want given unto you; and see what happens to your company brochure—and your bottom line.
[tip]

The day after President Obama was reelected, the Internet made us laugh with memes celebrating the end of the political advertising season.  Even hard core politicos found relief in ads for erectile dysfunction medications and Veterans Day mattress sales.

The marketing of political platforms and the marketing of faith systems both tend to forget the golden rule when it comes to promotion.  Snarky bumper stickers, defiant Facebook banners, heavy-handed billboards—okay, so maybe only election ads have smoker’s voice TV ads. But you get the idea.

Scare tactics make for great propaganda, and even Jesus peppered his talks with stern warnings for the unrepentant. But it was his compassion, his intimacy, his healing, and his authenticity that drew his closest followers.  Why? Because people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

That’s true for evangelism of any kind, be it for brand or belief, agenda or affiliation.  Before we deploy our latest campaign or killer app, we should deploy the evaluative question, “Would this draw me to my audience’s perspective as much as I’m trying to move toward mine?”

If not, then what would?

[footer]Stock photo used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

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