We've all seen thousands of brochures in our life. Indeed, one of the easiest ways to get a pesky sales person off the phone is to say "Sounds interesting. Do you have a brochure you can send me?" And so, a week later, the brochure arrives. Often, a busy marketer will give a brochure about as much time as an overworked HR manager gives a resume - around 30 seconds. Sadly, this is often the life of a brochure. After weeks of content development, design, and production, if your brochure doesn't tell a potential client exactly what he wants to hear in under a few seconds, your piece-de-resistance meets an untimely demise in a recycling bin or - worse still - the regular garbage.
The key to effective collateral is to find the happy medium between a gold-plated novel about your firm and a one-page photocopy. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:
1. Include Benefits and Features
I often read the electronics circulars in the Sunday newspaper. I'll see ads for computers with long bullet-pointed lists with claims like "256KB L2 Pipeline Cache Memory!" and "10Base-T/100 Base-TX Ethernet Card!" While I'm sure that these features make this a really good computer, will it sway me to buy? Of course not - I have no idea what these features do. For that reason, always make sure you combine features with benefits. When people read your brochure, they not only want to know what your firm offers, but how your firm can help them. Here's another ad for a computer: "256MB PC133 SDRAM for multitasking power!" OK, multitasking, I understand that. My computer won't implode every time I try to run Word and Excel at the same time. Here's a (made-up) law firm example: instead of "admiralty law practice group established in 1928" try "admiralty law practice group established in 1928 - our experience and expertise is unrivaled."
2. Keep it Short and Sweet
You don't need a 28-page brochure to prove that you are a big-time firm. If anything, a long and wordy brochure simply waters down the key messages you are trying to convey. Get your point across as succinctly and in as few pages as possible. And don't cram as many words as you can on a page; remember, a picture is worth a thousand words!
3. Have a Call to Action but Remember the Big Picture
As with advertising, make sure your brochures have a call to action. This can be as simple as a phone number on the back cover or an invitation to a seminar. Remember, however, that your sales collateral isn't going to close a new client relationship by itself; if a potential client has your brochure, she's already talked to an attorney at your firm. As such, your call to action doesn't have to be as forceful as your call to action in your advertising, where most of the people reading the ad have had no interaction with your firm.
4. Don't Date Yourself (or do a Small Print Run)
If you want to have front spread introduction from the Managing Partner talking about how excited you are about 2003, you'd better make sure you do a small print run. Otherwise, by Q2 2003 you'll have 10,000 brochures that are outdated.
5. Check the Rules of Professional Responsibility
As with any marketing, make sure your sales material complies with your state rules of professional responsibilities.
6. A Paper is not a Paper is not a Paper
Be very careful when choosing the paper size and quality for your collateral. Will the brochure easily fit in a manila folder? Does the paper smudge or crease easily? Is the paper too light (feels cheap)? Think about all of the brochures you've received over the years. Which ones annoyed you and which ones helped close a sale?
7. Don't Do it Yourself
It's easy to try to develop a brochure yourself, especially when you can save several hundred and often several thousands dollars. But caveat emptor: like a lot of things in life, you get what you pay for. Remember, after you leave an initial client meeting, your brochure will remain behind. When it comes time for the client to decide between you and another firm, you want to make sure your brochure is as smart and sophisticated as your competitor's.
8. Factor in Production Time
While it may only take you a few days to design your brochure, getting a production time at the print shop may take a few days or more. Plus, you may have to add in additional time for the ink to dry, for the paper to be cut or folded, and for delivery. At a minimum, have your collateral at the printer no less than two weeks prior to when you need it.
9. You Can Never Have Too Many Cooks
My printing account representative told me a story about a client that created a super-slick, super-expensive brochure. The account rep delivered the finished product to the company's marketing manager, who was overjoyed with the quality. Overjoyed, that is, until the CEO saw the brochure and noticed that the company name was misspelled on the cover! So go over your brochure with a fine-toothed comb. And when you're finished, give the comb to a colleague who had no involvement in the brochure production. You'll be surprised at how many little errors you might find.
10. Go to the Print Check
Along the same lines as suggestion #9 above, make sure you go to the print check for your collateral. During a print check, the printing press will run five or ten proofs of your collateral. This is your last chance to check for errors, ensure that the colors are correct, and in general make sure that the brochure looks the way you envisioned it.