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Home > Writing Advice & Resources > Writing Effective Brochures (Pt. 1)
Writing Effective Brochures: What Goes Where? (Pt. 1)Updated Feb 2006
If a brochure is ineffective, the fault rarely lies with an awkward phrase or unexciting adjective. Most paper-based brochures that fail, fail in the planning stages, long before the copy is edited. This article presents one method of organizing information for a three-panel (2-fold) 8 ½ by 11 brochure. The principles are broad guidelines, not an iron-clad formula, but following them will help you to create more powerful brochures.
Unlike some brochure styles, an 8 ½ X 11 3-panel brochure clearly has one panel that's meant to be the front. So what belongs on this front panel?
The sole function of the front panel is to capture the reader's interest in your product/service. To do this, the front panel must briefly state the reader's need and state (or imply) your company's solution to that need and willingness to solve it. In other words, the front panel should present the main benefit or "value proposition" to the reader of buying your product/service.
This information is best presented as a simple headline or, occasionally, in a very brief paragraph. Here are some examples:
The best accompaniment to this encapsulated message is a well-chosen graphic that illustrates the benefit.
Avoid Front Page Clutter
The front panel isn't the place to wow them with details, or flood them with company contact informationit's the time to catch their eye with what you've got to offer. In most cases, your front panel should only contain:
Your value proposition should be in much larger type than your contact information (name, logo, phone, web address). Why? Because very few people pick up a brochure and think, "Wowa brochure by Widget Inc. Gotta read it!" Instead, they think, "Wowyellow widgets! Been looking all over for those!"
It's the value proposition, not your company name, that makes people want to read your brochure. So it makes sense that you should provide an eye-catching value proposition set in type that's larger than the other page elements. However, for brochures that feature impulse purchases like telephone-order food, the phone number should also be in large type, to help create an urge in the reader to pick up the phone and "get fed now!"
Putting very detailed company contact information (address, fax, etc.) on the front of the brochure is generally a mistake. At this point, people aren't interested in who you are, but in what you have to offer. Adding detailed contact information to the front panel only dilutes the impact of your value proposition. Putting address information up front can also discourage a potential customer who might have been willing, after reading your brochure, to overlook a distance factor.
To recap, the purpose of the front panel is to pique the reader's interest with a specific value proposition. After reading the front panel, the reader should be able to answer two questions:
Inside Facing Panel
When you open the brochure, the panel most people will read next is the panel lying immediately under the front page leaf (if you unfold the brochure, this will be the leftmost column of the back page). On this page, you should elaborate on the value proposition. Give details about the need and how you propose to fill it. Get people thinking "Yeah, this is talking to me. "
Once people have decided they might need you, they'll be more likely to fully open up the brochure. On the three inside panels, set out the details of your products/services and how they will meet the reader's needs. Use whatever mixture of text and graphics will get the job done, but remember: it's not about you, it's about them. Concentrate on what they will get out of it.
The last panel you need to fill is the center back panel. On it, put your detailed company contact information (address, phone, fax, e-mail, pager numbers, etc.). Because your contact data is the element of the brochure that's least likely to prompt a sale, it makes sense to put in on the least valuable real estatethe back page. If your brochure has caught the reader's interest, they'll turn it over to find out how to contact your company.
If you plan to put a mission statement on your brochure, it belongs on the back panel as well. Your mission statement may clinch the sale, but only after your products/services and their benefits have interested the reader.
The basic principles above will help you get your brochure organized. In the second half of this article, we'll look at specific layout problems and how to overcome them.
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