Tag : promotion

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.

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]

81: Your Brand Doing the Heavy Lifting

Global Force Auction Group

Full page trade publication ad

I recently had a conversation with a newspaper sales rep, who has been my contact at her newspaper for years.  She had called a couple weeks earlier to ask if my clients had any auctions in her region, and I had none to send her way.  That Thursday, she was calling to see if my client would be interested in any company promotion ads.  I told her that my client typically didn’t run lead-generation ads in newsprint—that they let the branding and content of their auction ads sell their services to prospective sellers.

That’s my recommendation to just about every auction marketer with whom I consult—and not just in newsprint.  If you’re going to spend company money on promotion, spend it making your auction promotion look better than what your seller is willing to pay to create.

If someone is looking through the classifieds for an auction vendor, they are going to be attracted by the professionalism communicated in a company’s ads.  They will also be looking to see the volume of auctions you have and if what’s being sold in the ads is similar to what they’d want to sell.  The same holds true in direct mail, signs, proposals, etc.

Counts Realty & Auction Group

Full page business journal ad

That said, there are situations and publications where accomplishing your goals will require a company promotion ad.  Before you craft your advertisement, take a stroll through your phone book, directory, trade publication, or ballpark outfield wall.  Take note of the advertisements you like and why and the ones you don’t and why.  Then use the following checklist to build your piece.

Keep your company name, logo, and contact information for last.
Phone book and trade publication ad designers know you take great pride in your business.  So, they will often build your ads so that you see first what’s most important to you: your business name or logo.  Unless your brand is ubiquitous (think: Walmart, McDonalds, Ford), assume that people are coming to the phone book, directory, or other print medium not knowing who you are or why they should care.  At the same time, don’t hide the logo, in case they’ve seen your brand somewhere else.  You want to build on any previous impressions.

Put information in order of the viewer’s wants or needs.
Unless you’re the only company under a publication category or in your market, you are competing for business.  And every company has a preeminent value proposition.  Maybe you’re the most convenient, the cheapest, the most thorough, the most established, the most innovative, the one with largest market share.  Whatever your competitive advantage is needs to be communicated first and foremost in your ad.  It needs to be framed by the prospect’s benefit.  And it needs to be simply stated and clearly illustrated.  If the shopper’s want or need is not met in your pitch, they don’t care what your name or phone number is.

Avoid mug shots or staff pictures.
The problem with using your face in your advertising is that your face isn’t for sale; your services or products are.  Unless you’re leveraging your own fame—which would require you to be famous (don’t kid yourself)—your portrait adds little, if any, value to the sales pitch.  Pictures also limit the shelf life of your ads more than stock images.  Unless you’re a model, assume that your face won’t sell your service or products.

Print Ad Redesign

One of these was scanned from a newspaper insert. One of these is my redesign.

Use only images that illustrate the benefit or process of what you’re selling.
It’s tempting to use some loud clip art or brash stock image to grab attention—and then try to stretch a pun or cliche to match it.  A good way to avoid this is to start with your core message first and then search for images that clearly illustrate this.  (Know that images aren’t always necessary.)  Before you purchase a stock image, grab a selection of potential images and show them to a handful of people (preferably of different genders and ages), asking them, “Do any of these images communicate [your message]?  If so, which one represents that best?”  It’s not uncommon for me to show clients 25-50 possible images for one ad.

Sheridan Realty & Auction Group

Black & white trade publication ad

Finish with one contact point emphasized over complimentary contact points.
Make it easy to get in touch with you.  If you use more than one phone number, emphasize one over the other(s) and annotate the differences between the numbers.  Never use more than one URL.  Your address only needs to be emphasized if you have more than one location or if you’re advertising a  change or addition in locations (example: “Now on Main Street, across from the courthouse!”).

Police your brand.
Make sure all fonts and colors that your designer uses exactly match your other marketing pieces.  I highly recommend keeping an email with your Pantone (also called “PMS”) color number(s) and font names.  That way, if someone other than your typical designer builds your piece, you can send them these specifications.  You will also want to save regular and reverse versions of your logo, and make sure you have .PSD and .EPS file formats of your logo available.  (JPEG logo files can create limitations or hassles on design work.)  Lastly, keep PDF copies of other advertising pieces available to send for reference.

Your company promotion can communicate something far different from what its words say.  Sadly, most small business advertising says, “I’m much better at what I do than telling you what I do,” or “You need to trust that we’re more professional than our advertising makes us look.”  Don’t be one of those companies.

If you’ve spent any length of time in organized religion, you’ve probably sat through a sermon or seminar on how to share your faith.  Many of these sessions are aimed at perfecting your presentation and knowledge of your faith.  I’ve found a number of these to be rigid in their approach.  Maybe it’s me; but I feel like some of these could substitute Amway or Mary Kay, Rainbow or Britannica—and fit in a hotel conference room or Zig Zigler video.

I prefer to advertise my faith the way I would market biplane‘s services—making the value and benefit inherently stated in my everyday work.  If the Holy Spirit’s influence on my personality, morality, and perspective isn’t creating new life in me, then why would anybody else want it?  And if nobody else would want it, why would I use practiced tactics to convince someone into drinking my ineffective medicine with me?  I’m not talking prosperity; I’m talking peace and grace and forgiveness—both absorbed and distributed.

All that said, the Source of our hope asks us to intentionally share it with others.  Through the apostle’s pen he asked us to be ready to give account of the hope that lives within us.  That means telling our respective stories—explaining what God has done and is doing in us and how that came to be from the Truth he left for us.  That means understanding life contexts and leveraging them for Truth.  That means listening before and after talking.  That means extending compassion, not just seeking conversion.

That means you.  And that means me.


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

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