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Brochures! Does Anyone Actually Read Them?

Brochures! Does Anyone Actually Read Them?

Have you ever been to a trade exhibition or a business fair and come back with a number of brochures?

Did you read many of them?

I have this theory that most of them don’t get read. At best, they might be opened and flicked through. But actually read by someone, all the way through? How often does that happen?

I know of brochures, which have been read all the way through, with the result that those readers expressed interest in the products and services on offer. It wasn’t an accident. Those brochures were thought about and written with that objective in mind.

I reckon most brochures out there would achieve more for their respective businesses if a little more thought were put into the message they are trying to convey.

Do you have a brochure for your business? What’s it for? Does anyone read it?

It strikes me that many businesses have a brochure because they feel they have to have one. It’s like having a name and a logo and a set of business cards and a website: it’s part of looking like a proper business.

I mean, you’ve got to have something to give to people when you have a meeting with them, or to dish out at events, right?

Well, to be honest, there are all sorts of theories out there about whether brochures are always the best way to spend a marketing budget. Some of these theories may well be correct. I remember reading something about a well-known business guru and speaker who was saying that brochures are a waste of time, and all you need is a decent sales letter. In many cases, he may well be right.

Nevertheless, some businesses are expected to have one.

Why not make sure your brochures have a chance of making a difference?

I’m not here to do your marketing strategy. I’m a copywriter – words and messages are my thing, so I’m sticking to that. Let’s assume you’re going to create a brochure because you definitely need one.

Now, we’ve all seen lots of different business brochures, and I’m sure you’ll agree, some look great whereas others don’t. I think you’ll also agree that some of them, just by the way they look, can help to enhance the image of a business.

The visual design is very, very important. I have the greatest of respect for the designers I collaborate with because I know their work can make the difference between words getting read or not. When designers do their job well, not only do they help grab attention, they also enable the reader to build a mental image of what the business represents. They help tell the story.

Great design and images will make your message more powerful. Bad design can reduce its effectiveness and even cause it to fall flat.

Having said all that, have you noticed that when people talk about putting brochures together, the emphasis tends to be on the visual side? If you go online and look up the subject, you’ll find most of the businesses who offer brochure-related services are talking about design, photography and print far more than they are about words.

I know – I would say that wouldn’t I? But it’s true. When you pay attention to the language and the message, making it the words work along with the images, brochures can be made much more effective.

I’ve had business owners tell me they’ve had really good feedback on their brochures. “The first person I gave it to said they read it all the way through,” one told me.

I heard of one prospect who had taken a brochure and kept it on their desk for six months. Then, one day – probably when having a clear out – they picked it up, read it and then phoned the owner of the business to tell them it was the best piece of marketing they’d read in their sector for ages.

There is essentially one reason why these brochures were successful: each was approached and written as a piece of marketing communication rather than a bragging exercise.

That’s the problem with most brochures: they are bragging exercises, put together from the point of view of, “We need a brochure to portray us and make us look credible.”

You can usually spot them because they either only have the company name on the cover, or if they do have any kind of headline it’s something about the company: “Financial Solutions By…”, “Excellence in technical services from” or some other important-sounding guff.

The content is usually heavy on things like background story, premises, services, maybe pictures of team members – but very little in the way of conversation with the reader.

These types of brochures basically say, “Look at us. Read all about us”. They expect interest, but do nothing to actually cultivate it.

The brochures I know to have been well received and successful all started off with the same simple questions: Who do you want to be reading it, and why?

It’s the same with any marketing – if you don’t know who you’re aiming at, you’re not going to get very far. The brochure might be for all your potential clients or a certain segment of them. Either way, if it doesn’t have a specific and relevant message, how likely are they to read it?

How do you make people open it?

I’d imagine that most businesses who publish brochures hope that someone will open them. But when you look at an average brochure, the front cover does nothing to try and prompt someone to turn the page.

That, I think, is one of the most important things you’ve got to do: make them open it. Maybe, just maybe, the imagery will be enough. But in my experience, saying something that makes people want to read further is the most powerful way to do it.

Essentially, you’re looking for a headline. It might be a statement, or it might be a question. I’ve done a few recently where the front cover asks a relevant question – the sort the ideal prospect for the business will want to answer.

Once you’ve got them to open it, you’d better not disappoint them. The purpose of each paragraph is to get your reader to read the next paragraph – until you’ve told them everything they need to know.

Of course, a brochure has pages – and getting people to turn pages takes extra persuasion. Ideally, the end of each page should present some kind of reason to turn over and find out more.

What’s going to happen at the end of the brochure? Are you just going to present some contact details – an address and phone number in small print on the back cover is a classic one – or are you going to say something that might prompt them to do something? Yes, I’m talking about a “call to action”. It’s standard stuff, but you’d be amazed at how many brochures don’t have one.

A lot of business owners know that websites, sales letters, etc. are marketing messages that need to have things like headlines, compelling copy and calls to action. But they sometimes forget that brochures are marketing messages too. That’s how so many of them end up being boring showcase type affairs, rather than anything interesting.

Your brochure doesn’t have to be like that.

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