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The around-the-clock salesman: advice on your company brochure.

The Around-the-Clock Salesman

Advice on your company brochure

A company's success depends, among other things, on the quality of its sales staff. That's why it's important not to slight that silent member of the staff that works around the clock seven days a week: the brochure.

"The brochure is the next step after the basic marketing materials, which are the business card, the letterhead and the envelope," says Debra Ann Boyer, owner and creative director of Brochures Unlimited, a design firm based in the Brown County seat of Nashville. The brochure can introduce a company to a prospective customer, then remain on a desk or in a file as a continuous sales presence.

Needless to say, whether a sale is made or not can depend on the first impression the brochure makes. So plan it carefully.

"There are three pieces of information that you need before you start on a brochure," Boyer explains. "You need to understand the purpose of the brochure, you need to know the audience and you need the information that you'll include in the brochure."

Boyer tells clients that they must understand how the brochure will fit into the sales process. Will it be used to generate leads, or will it be sent to nail down the sale among leads that were generated in some other way? "It helps a business understand itself because it crystallizes the business in the owner's mind."

Knowing the audience is crucial, and it may not be as difficult as it sounds, she says. "I have found that business owners know their business and audience better than they might think, even if they have not put it on paper before. Most know the demographics and psychographics of their buyers."

Gathering information is the next step. It is helpful to collect other brochures and advertisements, articles in trade publications, even competitors' brochures if they are appealing. "From this, you can organize your selling points," Boyer says.

"You get down to the decision of whether you will do it yourself or hire someone. That boils down to what is the best use of your time." She says owners of small, new businesses may have the time it takes to create their own brochures, while those at busier companies might prefer to have someone else do the work. Bigger companies may have their own art departments to handle the job.

One reason to consider hiring a professional is that printing can be a tricky business. Design firms know how to submit materials to printers so that the job can be done as well as possible, Boyer says. And, she adds, the print job may not cost any more through a design firm because the firms often get discounts from the printers with whom they work the most.

For those who choose to hire a professional, Boyer recommends making sure the designers will seek as much input as their clients want to provide. Most design firms, she says, work on retainer, but will include several approval steps within the design process and will work with the client until the job is done right.

Whether a business decides to hire help or tackle the job itself, the next step is the actual design and copy work. "It's important to have a good balance between copy and graphics, to use white space to break it up so there are not solid blocks of text," Boyer advises. Shorter sentences and paragraphs are more reader-friendly, and small headlines throughout the text will break up the copy.

Most brochures, she says, are printed on standard letter-size paper, which is folded twice to give a total of six panels, three on each side. "That is because it works really well from a design standpoint and writing copy." One panel is the cover, which opens to reveal the inside flap. Turning that flap aside reveals a three-panel spread. The sixth panel is the back, which can be used as a mailer.

"Personalize the copy by using pronouns rather than speaking from a distance down to the clients," she says. And be sure to include what's known as a "call to action" at the end, asking the reader to call for an estimate or appointment.

What companies probably shouldn't put in their brochures is any mention of price. Those who do will have to revise their brochures every time they revise their prices. "A well-designed brochure will stand up for years, and by using inserts you can change prices."

Good art is crucial to the success of a brochure, but it shouldn't be overdone, Boyer cautions. "I've seen brochures that from an artistic standpoint really stand out, but I wonder whether the client got the message. There is a tendency among some artists in the business to design things to win awards or please other artists. Simple designs are often the most effective."

As for the printing job, one- or two-color jobs are the least expensive. And it takes a press run of only 1,000 or so to wind up with a reasonable per-piece price. Full color is more costly, and companies may want to print at least 5,000 to keep the per-piece price down. "The advantage of using color is that it does sell," Boyer says.

One final thing to consider is how the brochure fits in with the rest of the marketing materials. Designers such as Boyer find it painful to see a company's sales brochure sitting on a table next to letterhead or other company literature if the color schemes and paper stock don't match. She suspects customers may be equally put off by such inconsistencies.

Are brochures really worth all the trouble? There's no question in Boyer's mind. "It's a very hard-working sales tool because it summarizes what your business is about. It's something that people keep, something you can leave behind and it does its job when you're not there."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Curtis Magazine Group, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Interview
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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