The dos & don’ts of creating a winning corporate brochure
I established Refresh Marketing 12 years ago. That’s 12 years of presenting to prospects, meeting clients and attending industry and networking events.
Without a corporate brochure.
Now, not all businesses need a corporate brochure. But for a communications consultancy that writes and designs brochures for other businesses day in, day out?
Not a great look.
I guess you could say this plumber’s pipes needed a shape up.
But worry no more. Because this morning I picked up 500 copies of the very first Refresh Marketing brochure. And I love every square inch of it.
Copywriting. Design. Photography. Stock quality. You name it, I love it.
But as a marketing specialist with oodles of experience creating brochures for my clients, I admit, I had an unfair advantage. I was aiming for excellence – because I knew how to achieve it.
So if you’re considering a corporate brochure for your business or it’s time to update your existing one, I hope these dos and don’t will set you in the right direction too.
DON’T be afraid to spend on quality copywriting, graphic design, photography and printing. The total outlay may seem scary at first, but taking shortcuts will cost you more in the long run. When it comes to corporate brochures, your ROI will rarely be clear cut. However, in this day and age, consistent, professional branding is a necessity. Not a luxury.
DO remember that your salespeople want to hand over something they are genuinely proud of. They deserve the opportunity to present your business in the best possible light – and to leave a lasting impression once they’ve walked out the prospect’s door.
DON’T rehash or cut and paste legacy content from 1996 just because it’s easy. Relying on existing copy is a wasted opportunity to improve and evolve your brand.
DO write with a clean slate. And take the time to think about what your clients really want to hear. Even better if you can afford to hire a professional copywriter who can give you a truly fresh perspective.
DON’T assume that corporate waffle, clichés and puff-speak will impress your readers. Sorry to burst your bubble but phrases like value-add, best practice, scalable, robust, cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, industry-leading, user-friendly, passionate, flexible, intuitive, best-of-breed, next-generation and customer-focused will not set you apart. Period.
DO inject humanity into your writing as much as possible. Keep it simple, jargon-free and conversational. That doesn’t mean you’re ‘dumbing it down’. You’re actually making it easier for busy people to understand your message.
DON’T aim to create a brochure that’s just like your competitor’s brochure. And don’t assume theirs is the be all and end all.
DO clarify your own point of difference so that you can articulate it convincingly and memorably. Then create a brochure that’s even better than your competitor’s.
DON’T expect that writing about yourself or your own business will be easy.
DO consider asking someone else to write it – even if you can’t afford a professional. (Although I write for a living, I realised very quickly that I was not the best person to write my own bio. So I turned to my assistant copywriter who wrote something I never could have.)
DON’T start the design process until your content is written and approved.
DO understand that content should always feed design – not the other way around. There’s nothing more stifling than trying to write creatively when faced with predetermined word limits, heading structures and formats.
DON’T purchase corny and generic corporate stock photography that shows you’re just another forgettable, ‘me too’ brand.
DO factor in the (relatively small) expense of a professional photo shoot. Investing in images of your own team, office space, products or projects will humanise your brand, personalise your message and connect with your readers.
DON’T naively assume customers and prospects care enough to read every last word.
DO remember that even with printed materials, most of us prefer to flick back and forth, and dip in and out. So make your content scannable with plenty of headings, subheadings, short paragraphs, bulleted lists and breakout boxes. And because people don’t read from beginning to end, ensure each page or section is engaging in its own right.
DON’T think about graphic design and content writing as separate, independent activities.
DO ensure your graphic designer and copywriter are keen to collaborate. Even better if you can find a duo that works together regularly. But at the very least be sure they are each willing to take responsibility for the end result – not just for their piece of the creative puzzle.
DON’T neglect format and size. And don’t get carried away with an elaborate 26-panel pop-out brochure that will cost a fortune to print and post.
DO choose a practical format that fits with your distribution strategy and budget. For example, if you’re planning to regularly send your brochures out by mail, DL is the most logical choice.
DON’T write about your customers – talk to them! We all tend to dismiss marketing messages that don’t appear to directly relate to us.
DO use the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ wherever possible. It helps your readers see themselves in your content and automatically gets them involved. For example, instead of writing ‘We help customers from all corners of the globe,’ write ‘We’re here to help you no matter where you are in the world.’
DON’T boast about your company’s achievements and ignore what really matters to your customers.
DO write with your audience top of mind. Remember it’s not about you, it’s about them. Always show that you understand your prospects’ problems and pains. And remember to communicate benefits not features. (In other words, sell the good night’s sleep, not the mattress.) And when it comes to credibility? Show, don’t tell. Use social proof such as customer testimonials, client logos and project overviews for authenticity and conviction.
DON’T write a brochure that will date the moment you print it.
DO write content that’s evergreen (as much as possible). For example, instead of writing ‘Established for over 10 years…’ write ‘Established in 2005…’ You may also want to think carefully before you include a photo of every last employee – particularly if staff retention is not your strong suit.
DON’T omit a compelling call-to-action.
DO conclude your brochure with clear contact details along with a specific instruction on what you want your readers to do next.
DON’T rely on yourself alone to proof and finalise. But never wash your hands of it either.
DO ask others to proofread your brochure (as you’ll be too close to it to spot the errors). Also ask your graphic designer to review a proof prepared by the printer before you go to print.
And always, always proof the brochure with a fine tooth-comb yourself ONE FINAL TIME.
It’s your baby after all.