How to Create Brochures that are Brilliant for Business

how to design a great brochure

Many businesses now allocate much of their marketing budget to raising their online profile. However, this does mean that some of the more traditional methods of marketing risk being side-lined.

The printed brochure is one of those valuable sales tools that can sometimes be overlooked. Yet one of the reasons that brochures have been such an integral part of marketing for so long is that they do work – as long as you get them right.

Why bother with a brochure?

A printed brochure does require an investment of time and money, but it is also a highly persuasive sales tool. In the transient digital world where people are subjected to a multitude of messages in a short space of time, brochures are a tangible and accessible reminder of the services or products that you offer.

Emails are easily deleted, and online messages may be momentary, but brochures can be kept at hand by customers and prospects as a constant reminder of your organisation.

A brochure enables you to show your product or service to its best advantage and include as much or as little information as required. Ultimately, it offers another, more permanent way to interact with clients and potential clients.

But, like any marketing strategy, a brochure will only be successful in generating enquiries and converting sales if it communicates effectively with its target audience. Based on over 20 years’ experience working in marketing communications, these are my top tips for getting that right.

Identify your audience

You need to be sure about who you are trying to communicate with. This will influence every aspect of a brochure, from messaging to imagery to paper thickness, so deciding this needs to be the very first step.

Some brochures are more like vanity projects, created with the managing director or CEO in mind – but it’s customers and prospects that you need to reach and convince. And the whole point of the brochure is to encourage them to buy from you – or at least start the process with an enquiry.

Many companies produce a ‘one size fits all’ brochure and sometimes this is appropriate, but if you work across different sectors or have groups of clients with widely differing needs, it will be more effective to produce several different brochures to target a particular market and the specific needs of those operating within it. To help determine this, ask yourself:

  • Do all your customers buy for the same reasons?
  • Do they all have the same needs/challenges?
  • Do you appeal to different markets for different reasons?

If your customer base and their needs are very diverse, it might be advisable to produce brochures bespoke to each sector or customer demographic.

Personalisation of brochures is also an effective strategy and relatively simple to do. For example, if you’re targeting lapsed customers or have a reliable data source available, using names to personalise a brochure through digital printing can open up a whole new world of possibilities.

What’s your message?

Once you have decided who your brochure is aimed at, you can focus on what message you are trying to convey. To help determine this, identify the main concerns and problems that you can help solve for your prospects – and ensure the key message addresses those issues.

Your text should also be benefit-led; i.e. what will the customer gain if they buy from you? They may not care how long you have been trading or how many staff you employ – but they do want to know how your product or service will benefit them.

Content is king

Brochures come in many different sizes, styles and formats but when planning the content, it is helpful to follow the AIDA formula:

  • Attention,
  • Interest,
  • Desire and
  • Action.

Your brochure is the chance to sell your company so make the content interesting, relevant and informative. Remember to explain in simple terms what your company actually does, relating it back to your key message and your customers’ problems.

Following a clear structure in the text can help, relating directly to your audience. For example: do you have this problem? Have you tried this strategy or product, but found that it didn’t work? You may have had this experience – here’s what you can do about it.

It’s important to use the right writing style to ensure that the text is engaging, interesting and accessible:

  • Don’t use excessive industry or technical jargon – it won’t help sell your product.
  • Address your audience using ‘you’ not ‘I’ or ‘we’. Your readers don’t really care about your company – they only care about what you can do to help them.
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short so they are easier to read. Blocks of too much text can deter the reader so use sub headings to signpost content and break up text on the page.

Something for nothing

Offers, incentives and giveaways often work well when used in conjunction with brochures, For example you could include:

  • A free sample of your product with the brochure
  • A money-off coupon – this also helps measure response rates
  • A time-limited offer or giveaway, ideally of something that is easy for you to produce but helpful for your customer, such as a report or whitepaper
  • The offer of a free consultation
  • A ‘two for the price of one’ offer – this may encourage a prospect to try your product or service for the first time

Risk reversal can also help convert new customers so try offering a money back guarantee or a trial membership. You do need to ensure that rigorous terms and conditions are in place, but this can be a powerful persuader as the customer feels they have nothing to lose.

Supportive design

Of course, visual appeal is very important and should enhance and reinforce your messaging and content. The first page a prospect will see is the front cover so it should include a powerful headline and strong visual image. It’s worth spending time on this to ensure you strike the right tone in order to make the reader want to see what’s inside.

You might opt for pictures of your product or abstract imagery, but it’s crucial that the imagery matches the message. It’s also worth remembering that people like looking at faces. This is one of the reasons why magazine front covers often have cropped photographs of faces – research has shown that these kind of images are looked at more frequently and remembered better than other types of images.

Use of colour is also important. Certain colour combinations work well together and attract attention. For example, red and yellow draw the eye and when orange and purple are used together, the orange is enhanced. If using colour, the front page is where you should concentrate it, even if the rest of the brochure is monochrome.

Don’t forget the call to action

Having read your brochure, you want people to actually do something: to pick up the phone, pop into your shop or office, email you or fill in an order form, so make sure you include a strong call to action.

Always include, either an order form or, a choice of ways that your prospect can get in touch – you are aiming to make it as easy as possible for a prospect to contact you.

Is it worth the paper it’s printed on?

Brochures can range from high quality 50+ page tomes to simple tri-fold documents. They can be printed on a wide range of paper or card stock. The latter is thicker, more expensive – and looks it. It is also more durable and can be mailed in a polythene cover rather than an envelope.

Lower cost lighter paper is easier to fold and cheaper to post but may not support the image you are trying to portray.

The texture of the paper and the finishing effects (glossy or matte) make a marked difference on how well the brochure is received. Generally, a glossy finish is more robust and well suited to a brochure that is image-driven as it enhances colour vibrancy. A matte finish is a better choice for a brochure with a lot of text.

These types of decisions should be influenced by your target audience and your key messaging. Obviously, if selling high end products, it’s important to invest in better quality paper. However, if cost is an issue for customers, something less expensive-looking is more likely to interest prospects.

Brochures that are intended for mail campaigns also need to be sturdy enough to survive the postal journey. A reputable printer should be able to advise on areas such page size and types of paper. It’s also worth remembering that bulk printing is usually more cost-effective.

There’s no doubt that producing a carefully targeted brochure takes time and money, but it can also be one of the most successful sales tools that you have at your disposal. If your company doesn’t have a brochure, or your current brochure hasn’t been updated for many years, you could be missing an important part of your marketing mix.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Robert Lockwood, CEO of the Taylor Bloxham Group Ltd. The Taylor Bloxham Group is made up of four brands: Taylor Bloxham printing, FastAnt fulfilment and e-commerce division, Instore design and point of purchase operation and direct mail brand Mailbox.

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