Follow this simple process to transform your brochure into a powerful sales tool.

Go on: admit it…

Most brochures make you yawn so hard you fear your jaw’s about to snap!

You know, the ubiquitous picture of the board, standing rigidly to attention. The bland letter from the CEO, explaining his company’s revolutionary policy of putting its customers first. And the picture of corporate headquarters, complete with a fleet of trucks, apparently hijacked by the Olympic precision parking team!

Fortunately, there’s no law that says your brochure has to be a printed alternative to Rohypnol. If you follow the simple steps outlined in this article, you can deftly transform it into a super salesperson for your organisation.

Defining an objective

Think about the business challenge you want your brochure to solve. Do you want it to assist in the sale of your products or services? Or do you want to use it to introduce yourself to potential stakeholders (bankers, investors or alliance partners)?

Obviously, each scenario calls for quite a different document.

Once you’ve decided on an objective, the next step is to consider the role that your brochure will play in your sales process. Will you mail it direct to potential clients? Will interested parties respond to advertisements and request your brochure? Or will your salespeople use it as a sales aid?

Our first law of sales process design is that each component of a sales process should attempt to sell only what it has a reasonable likelihood of selling.

This means that if a brochure, or for that matter, an advertisement or a telephone call has little chance of consummating the sale of your product or service, it shouldn’t attempt to. Rather, it should ‘sell’ the next step in your sales process.

If you sell expensive or complex products or services (as most AdVerb subscribers do), your brochure is likely to fit somewhere in the middle of your sales process.

The first step in your sales process is likely to be an advertisement, or a direct mail piece, inviting interested parties to ‘put up their hands’ and request more information.

The information they request is likely to come packaged in a brochure (although it could also be packaged in a newsletter, an audiocassette or a Website).

Your brochure is then likely to sell the final step in your sales process – perhaps a face-to-face meeting with a sales consultant.

In this scenario, the primary objective of your brochure will obviously be to sell this appointment. Its secondary objective will be to provide a compelling offer for your lead-generation (or relationship-acquisition) activities.

The importance of desirability

Let’s consider this secondary objective first.

Because we’re expecting people to telephone and request your brochure, we need to be able to create the perception that it is eminently desirable.

And because we would like to maintain a relationship with respondents after their receipt of your brochure, this desirability needs to be more than just a perception – your brochure actually has to be desirable!

The best way to make your brochure desirable is to make it valuable to the recipient. You can do this either by packing it full of useful information – or by stuffing it with $50 notes.

The former is both more sustainable and more relevant!

There are two more reasons why you should fill your brochure with useful information. Useful information increases the likelihood of your brochure being read. It also positions your organisation as an expert in its field – which certainly makes your services more desirable.

Giving away the shop

Fortunately, this useful information isn’t hard to find. All you need to do is package some of that valuable knowledge you have hiding in your organisation.

Now if there’s one gem of advice that incites panic among our clients, this is it! I’m frequently asked, ‘Why on earth would we want to give away our intellectual capital?’

Let me answer this question with a question: What’s the number one reason your potential customers buy elsewhere?

Isn’t it because they don’t appreciate the additional value they will gain if they pay a premium to work with you?

Well, in sharing your knowledge with potential customers, you will actually educate them about your point of difference. The act of sharing your knowledge will empower potential customers to do business with you!

Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Your knowledge isn’t worth as much as you think it is. (If you don’t agree with me, put it in book form and see how much you can get for it. Even in hardcover, you’ll be hard pressed to sell it for more than $100!) The true value lies in your ability to implement this knowledge.

Which brings me to our second law of sales process design: Give away your knowledge and earn the right to charge a premium for implementation.

We recommend that you package your knowledge in a do-it-yourself format. This do-it-yourself treatment will make your knowledge practical and relevant, rather than academic and obtuse. The reality is that only potential customers who can’t (or won’t) afford your fees will actually attempt to do it themselves. And, by definition, they aren’t potential customers anyway.

Putting your brochure together

So far, we’ve defined a primary and secondary objective for your brochure, and discovered its most important content element.

Now the strategic issues are resolved, it’s time to plan the format of your document.

It all starts with the cover.

Please open me!

The cover of your brochure is nothing more than an advertisement for the brochure itself.

And like any good advertisement, your cover’s most important element is its headline. Of course, this headline should promote the valuable knowledge I’ve just convinced you to package and place in your brochure.

The name of your product, or of your organisation, should be placed underneath this headline (along with the appropriate logo and descriptor).

To write a compelling headline for the cover of your brochure, write the words ‘How to …’ on a sheet of paper. Then follow these words with the primary benefit the reader is likely to enjoy if they read – and act on – the content of your brochure.

The brochure we produced for Medical Spectrum, a company that sells practice management software, carries the headline: ‘How to dramatically improve patient care and increase the profitability of your practice.’ (Writing good headlines isn’t anywhere near as hard as you thought it might be!)

The photograph on the cover of your brochure should be chosen to complement the headline – rather than to compete with it for the reader’s attention.

Introducing …

When your reader opens your brochure, she should find a brief introduction.

This introduction should expand on the promise contained in the headline and pre-empt the contents of the document. This is particularly important if your brochure is more than eight pages long.

Educate the reader

The next couple of pages of your brochure should deliver the valuable knowledge we discussed earlier.

Please try and deliver this knowledge so that it has stand-alone value. For example our brochure for Gavin Ross Portfolio Management Services spells out Gavin’s five laws of value investing. Some of Gavin’s other communications even go to the trouble of explaining his stock valuation methodology.

Our brochure for Aleis International’s livestock management system provides the reader with a brief introduction to the optimum stock management methodology. And the substantial document we produced to enable fullife pharmacies to recruit new member pharmacies provides prospective group members with a detailed introduction to leading edge pharmacy marketing practices.

In each of these cases, we have tried to impart this information in such a way that it has stand-alone value. In other words, so that the reader can benefit from reading it whether or not she actually purchases the product or service on offer.

As mentioned previously, this approach will position you as a leader in your field (thereby making future information more valuable). More importantly, it will create a need for your product or service.

Profile your product or service

In other words, by the time you get around to presenting your product or service, the job of selling is more than half-done.

Consider Aleis International’s brochure. This document explains that, rather than managing livestock using aggregate data (as producers typically do), the optimal stock management methodology enables a producer to manage 10,000 animals on an animal-by-animal basis.

If a producer wishes to implement this management methodology, he has two choices. He can manage his animals manually, which is indeed possible. Or he can manage them using Aleis International’s electronic stock management system.

The reality is that, a producer with 1,000 or more animals will reap enormous economies from using Aleis International’s electronic stock management system.

You see, if you can create a need for your product or service by teaching the reader your methodology, all you have to do now is prove beyond reasonable doubt that your product or service is capable of servicing this need.

A unit of conviction

Years ago, in the insurance industry, a sales trainer taught me that, in order to convince a prospect of something, I should present my information in the form of a unit of conviction.

“A unit of conviction,” he explained, “has three components: a product feature, an associated benefit and evidence.

As is the case with many direct sales techniques, units of conviction work just as well in print as they do face-to-face.

The significance of this technique is that, in tying each of your product or service’s features to an associated benefit, you keep these features relevant to the reader.

If you’re not sure what the benefit of one of the your product or service’s features is, ask yourself this simple question. ‘How does this feature assist in servicing my reader’s need?’ (If a feature does not make a contribution to a reader’s need, you would have to assume that the feature is irrelevant.)

If an associated benefit makes your feature relevant, evidence makes it believable.

Evidence can take the form of a photograph or diagram, technical data, a testimonial or the results from an independent test.

Case studies

I don’t think we’ve ever created a brochure without case studies – and I certainly hope we never do!

A case study is the story of a client of yours who has used and benefited from your product or service. It should be written in third person – unlike a testimonial, which is written in first person.

A case study should consist of three components: a description of the problem your client faced; an outline of the steps you took to solve this problem; and a description of the end result. Where possible, a case study should contain direct quotes from your client.

Case studies are important because they enable prospective clients to experience your product or service through someone else’s eyes. Case studies are particularly important to service providers because they make an otherwise intangible service tangible.

Your organisation’s credentials

We’ve left the information about your organisation until last for one very good reason. The fact is, until your reader has discovered that she has a need for your product or service – and then been convinced that your product or service has the potential to service her need – information about your organisation is of absolutely no relevance.

When it comes to presenting your organisation’s credentials, I have only one piece of advice for you. Make sure each inclusion is relevant to the reader!

If you’re in the logistics business, a picture of your fleet of trucks is probably relevant. If you’re a computer reseller, it probably isn’t.

Now, I understand that some business people feel that pictures of buildings and trucks give their organisation a feeling of substance. My guess is that you can achieve a better result by paying close attention to the overall quality of your brochure – and it’s relevance to your reader.

Ask for the ‘sale’

The last component of your brochure is identical to the last component of each step in your sales process. You should ask for the ‘sale’ – remembering that the ‘sale’ can either be the next step in your sales process, or an order for your product or service.

Now that you’ve created a need and demonstrated that you have both the ability and the credentials to fulfil that need, you should close by asking the reader to move to the next step in your sales process, which is, in this scenario, an appointment.

The best way to compel your reader to pick up her telephone and book an appointment is to explain how she will benefit from doing so.

Like your brochure, an appointment should be designed to impart some value to your prospect – regardless of whether or not she ultimately purchases from you.

Fortunately, if you sit in on one of your salesperson’s appointments (or record one of your own) you are likely to discover that you are already doing this. My guess is that one of your appointments typically begins with a fact-finding exercise (an informal audit, if you like). It probably then proceeds to the presentation of a set of preliminary recommendations. And concludes with an outline of how, if appropriate, you can assist your prospect with the implementation of these recommendations.

The good news is that, if you formalise this process – and explain it to your reader in advance – you’ll find she’s more likely to go ahead and schedule that appointment.