The biggest and most-common mistake made when writing a brochure, is
focusing on information instead of persuasion. The job of persuasion doesn’t end with your advertising. In fact, brochures typically offer a larger canvas on which to make your case persuasively and support it credibly. Use it!
Depending on your sales cycle, the marketing message you deliver in your
brochure may outlive your current advertising campaign. That long shelf life
means even your smallest product or service brochures can have a powerful
cumulative effect on your corporate branding.
Yet, brochures are fundamentally sales pieces
. Whether aimed at a trade
or consumer audience, whether intended as a lead-generator or leave-behind, your
brochure copy must help sweep your prospect toward a profitable sale. It must
present information both clearly and convincingly, following a strategically
sound persuasive structure.
This persuasive structure often reinforces or connects steps within the sales
process itself. So, before starting to write, it’s important to understand how
the brochure will be used, including where the brochure fits in your sales
process, how it will be distributed, who will read it, and what action you want
the reader to take next.
Knowing the desired outcome helps define the content and structure for your
brochure. The copy written for an effective lead-generating piece, for instance,
is different from the copy written for an effective sales-closing piece.
(Indeed, even the art direction, design, and production will likely differ
because of differences in run quantities and distribution methods.)
Persuasive brochure copy starts on the cover. Many brochure writers
miss a big opportunity here, by featuring most-prominently the company or
product name instead of an intriguing idea that positions the company or
That positioning, by the way, could be internal or external. For instance,
with a series of individual product brochures, it may be just as important to
position each product within your own product line as to position it against
Brochure copy should begin with your customer, not your
product. That is, it should make the person reading your brochure feel that his
or her key problems are understood before moving on to discuss the solution.
Build rapport first, then sell. That’s true on a sales call, and it’s probably
doubly true in print, where you don’t have the advantage of meeting
There are pain points that your products or services relieve, if they are
worthwhile products or services. These pain points need to be touched upon
before they can be addressed persuasively.
Keep earning readership. Every page of your brochure presents the
reader with an opportunity to stop going on to the next page. That’s why each
spread should contain elements that attract, intrigue, persuade … then intrigue
further. Make your brochure a real page-turner. Entice the reader. Enchant the
reader. Occasionally, surprise the reader. That’s the only way you earn the
chance to sell the reader.
Sell benefits, not features. Although brochures often exist to explain
features, in copy it’s best to sell those features through the benefits, citing
real-world examples, cases, and applications.
Remember your customer. To potential buyers, the most-important thing
about your product or service, is how it relates to themselves. So, your
brochure copy must answer their questions and overcome their objections. You can
integrate these in copy or pull them out as separate sections, but, either way,
face up to common questions and objections in your brochure copy. This can
dramatically shorten your sales cycle, especially with complex products and
services or highly competitive marketplaces.
Don’t lose readers on technical points. Many brochures overwhelm their
readers with technical weight. Yes, the complete story must be told. But,
technical information is often better presented in technical form, as a table,
chart, or diagram, than injected ham-handedly into otherwise flowing brochure
If technical information can be gracefully woven into a compelling story –
and it can, just read the classic Rolls-Royce ads written by David Ogilvy as
examples – that’s one thing. Otherwise, technical information may be most
effective (and persuasive) placed in its own section, where it can be
appreciated in depth by technically oriented customers and referred to as-needed
by the rest.
Maintain a consistent voice. Companies often adopt a dry-as-dust
corporate voice in their brochures. Why? The same person who responded to the
ads is reading the brochure. The audience hasn’t changed. The purpose hasn’t
changed. Why write a product brochure like it’s an internal report?
Okay, one reason so much brochure copy is dull, is that brochures are often
viewed as poor relations of advertising. So, the job of writing them gets
foisted off on administrative assistants, junior writers, or, worse, committees.
That’s like using your best salesperson to generate leads, and an intern to
close the deal.
Your brochure is a key marketing piece, and it must be written to take full
advantage of that hard-won one-on-one time with your potential customer.
This can be done through tone and content,
providing expert answers in engaging language. Or, though visual proof, such as
photographs or charts. Action item: research shows that captions are some
of the most-read and remembered bits of copy, so use them and use them well.
Drive home in words the competitive points illustrated by the pictures.
Credibility can also be established through third-party verification, whether
it’s customer testimonials, case studies, excerpts, or independent test
The key with this piece of the process, is to substantiate the idea that your
brochure copy is not mere advertising puffery; it’s truthful, useful
Should pricing information be included in your brochure? The answer
depends on many factors, the first of which is your brochure’s purpose.
If it’s to generate leads, then it probably would be premature to include
prices, rates, or fees. If it’s to close sales, then providing prices may
be essential to moving your sales process forward.
If your prices are substantially lower than your competition, they may belong
in your brochure, especially if your brochure’s concept highlights value or
savings. But, your brochure copy should strongly establish the value of your
product or service beyond the cheaper price.
An important strategic factor is the length and complexity of your
average sales cycle. If it tends to be shorter and simpler, that points to
providing more-complete information including pricing. If it tends to be longer
and more consultative, that points to pricing being put off until you’ve
gathered enough information about the potential customer and customer needs to
provide a realistic estimate at the appropriate time.
Finally, if you include prices in your brochures, they may have a shorter
shelf life than you’d like.
If you decide to include a price list in your brochure, I recommend
that you have it quick-printed or laser-printed on a separate insert sheet. That
way, it’s easier to update, customize, and even test. Price lists often get
separated from brochures, so make sure the copy on your pricing insert contains
a summary of your competitive differentiators, the date and any expiration date,
and all your company contact information.
Brochure copy should end by directing the customer’s next step. Too
many brochures end with a table of specifications, options, or a corporate
overview. Talk about ending on a whimper!
This goes back to understanding where the brochure fits in your sales
process, and knowing the next step in that process. The desired outcome must be
clearly asked-for. It sounds obvious, but if the next step is to order, then
your brochure should end by asking for the order.