Creating A Brochure
Author: Vann Baker
Why does your business need a brochure?
A cover letter to a potential client can present only a small fraction of information about your business. Potential clients are often swamped with business mail and a letter may be scanned for a couple of seconds then trashed. A face-to-face meeting is a great way to tell a potential client about your business or expertise, but sometimes it's not possible to get a meeting with just a phone call or introductory letter. Or, what if someone you've met weeks ago suddenly becomes interested in your service but can't match your name with your business card in their Rolodex?
A brochure will fulfill all of these business needs. Brochures are a great way to package a lot of information about yourself, your business and expertise into a format that is easily mailed or handed out at a business meeting or given to current clients to pass on to possible referrals.
Brochures range from a simple two-fold design using one sheet of 8-1/2 inch x 11 inch paper to an elaborate 9 x 12 inch pocket folder with 8 pages stitched in and insert sheets. Good brochure design involves not simply producing a flashy design, but a careful analysis of your target market, what level of sophistication is needed and consideration of your market niche in order to make a great first impression. And, last but certainly not least, your brochure should leave a potential client with something he or she is hesitant to throw away.
Today, in the age of E-Mail, multi-media presentations and the Internet, it's easy to assume that a web site can take the place of a printed brochure. Having a web site really can't replace the immediate visual impact of placing a brochure into a prospective client's hands.
If you've never created a brochure, start by collecting a number of brochures (including competitors') that represent a wide range of quality--from simple one and two-color on textured stock to slick 4-color glossy brochures.
By asking yourself what it is that makes a brochure attractive and effective to you, it will be easier to make a brochure for your own business which will convey the message and level of sophistication you require.
Next, you will need to create some basic brochure copy about your business. Even if you're not a professional writer, putting some thoughts and facts about what your business does on paper will help make more concrete what information your brochure needs to convey. When writing copy ask yourself:
- Is my company an industry leader?
- Does my company have a market niche?
- What distinguishes my company from my competitor?
- Do we offer better value, service or selection of products?
- Do we have anything new or different to promote?
Questions to ask yourself:
- Who is your target audience?
- What message will get a potential client's attention?
- What kinds of brochures and what level of sophistication are typically crossing your client's desk?
- Does your product or service require photographs or illustrations to help convey your message?
- Will the brochure need to be a self-mailer?
Key information to include in your brochure:
- Mailing address.
- Phone number (and 800 number if you have one).
- Fax number.
- E-Mail address.
- Web Site address.
Be sure not to include in your brochure any information which is subject to changing in the next 12 months or so. Also, be wary of using a specific person's name as a contact person unless he or she is someone you know isn't going to leave in the next year. The same goes for printing photographs of people. There's no sense in spending several thousand dollars to create a brochure only to have it become out of date because someone leaves the company.
What does a brochure cost to produce?
Brochures can vary from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Because there are so many variables involved in producing a brochure such as quality of paper, number of ink colors, use of photographs, number of brochures printed, etc., it is difficult to estimate the final costs until all the specifications are determined.
Four color process printing, varnishing and special treatments such die-cutting, foil stamping can add additional costs to producing a brochure, and may well be worth it if they enhance your brochure and the image you wish to project. Other cost considerations are whether you need professional photography, help with writing or editing copy for your brochure.
Even if you don't know all the details of your brochure when getting started, it's a good idea to create a budget. Start with determining how many brochures you will need to use during the next twelve months including mailings and sales meetings. If you have seen a brochure with a similar amount of information and photographs as you need for your brochure, a designer can use it as a model for determining printing and production costs.
Another consideration when designing a brochure is postage. Larger brochures will be more expensive to mail and if you are planning on doing a large mailing as part of your marketing, an oversized brochure may be expensive to mail. Larger brochures don't fare well through the postal system and often end up wrapped around other mail. Brochures which fit in a standard #10 business envelope give you the best buy in terms of postage and protection while mailing. Using a business envelope also allows you to mail a cover letter and business card as well.
Updating an existing brochure
I worked with a client once who had sales of over a million dollars a year, but was still using a dated, unsophisticated brochure produced by a printer nearly ten years earlier. While reputation alone helped the company's sales, their brochure was doing very little to promote them as a cutting-edge company to potential customers who had never heard of them.
If you have a brochure you produced a few years ago, it might be a good idea to have your brochure evaluated by a someone outside your company to make sure it projects the image of your company today and sets you apart from your competition. Often, a small company will produce an inexpensive brochure just to have something for a trade show or for telephone inquiries. While short-term needs are fulfilled, not having any kind of long-term plan for a package of coordinated materials will lead to a "hodge-podge."
As a business grows, the image of the business can outgrow the first brochure's image. Often other collateral such as pocket folders, product inserts, etc. are produced at different times by different printers and the result is a corporate image that is not coordinated, with different kinds of paper used and ink colors that don't match--not professional at all.
It is tempting to take the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach and leave an existing brochure alone--for years. However, now could also be the ideal time to produce a truly professional brochure which will set you apart from your competition and give your potential clients something they will keep on their desk to serve as a memory jogger when you do a follow-up call.
Why have a graphic designer involved in creating your brochure?
Many businesses are producing promotional and sales materials internally or are relying on a printer to put a brochure together for them. There's nothing wrong with either of these approaches, provided you have the time and expertise to make all graphic design decisions that will produce a sophisticated brochure that's right on target. It's rare to find a printer who has a graphic designer on staff who will put a creative spark in your brochure, and relying on in-house talent doesn't save you money when it actually costs you lost sales.
Using a graphic designer can free you from having to make all decisions about your brochure by yourself and will provide you with an outside perspective on how to communicate to your audience. A designer can provide you not only expertise on typography but can help you with selecting ink and paper and some direction with your brochure and help guide you through the process from start to finish.
In addition to making design decisions, a graphic designer can serve as your project manager and will see the brochure from concept through successful completion. Most designers work with several different printers and can provide you with a printer that has the capabilities to print your brochure. If you need help with writing your brochure copy, many designers work with freelance writers and photographers.
Some Parting Advice . . .
Carpenters have a saying, "Measure twice, cut once," which applies to creating your brochure. By defining what your brochure should do and doing some research first, your brochure can be effective, informative and get prospective clients' attention. By utilizing design and printing professionals and by paying close attention to details, you can have a brochure that truly represents your business and is something you can be proud to hand out and mail.
About the author
Vann Baker is the president of Design-First, a marketing company specializing in corporate identity and collateral development. Vann has been helping small businesses and Fortune 500 companies to create brochures, newsletters, catalogs, websites and more for over 20 years. www.design-first.com.
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