The “1st 7 Seconds Rule” for Brochures – Part 1

by TedV

If all of your prospects are identical, then all of your brochures can be designed as one size fits all – that is, one brochure for everyone. (Even at that Relevance Marketing states that you need to make the brochure about the prospect, not your product/service.)

But it’s highly unlikely that all your prospects are identical. Therefore we need to understand who we are creating our brochure for and why, before we decide how to design this relevant brochure for them.

The Printing Process Complicates Matters

Printing brochures (or anything else) is a manufacturing process, and the rules of production hold true in the pricing of the output, which is your brochure. I discussed the problem that this manufacturing process creates for your marketing in a previous article, One Size Fits All – Poorly.

The print manufacturing problem in a nutshell: the longer the press runs once it’s set up for your brochure, the less it cost per piece to make. Therefore, quantity discounts for larger individual orders can be steep. The theory is that you’d rather pay 14 cents per brochure for 10,000 brochures than pay $1.00 per brochure for 1,000 brochures. You pay a little more but get a LOT more.

Simple math for a simply incorrect assumption.

Assumption 1 – Everyone will relate to the 10,000 generic lowest common denominator design. They WON’T.

Assumption 2 – You have 10,000 prospects. If you only have 700 prospects in 4 different categories where you can write something unique and meaningful to each category, then pay the extra 5-6 times as much per piece more to increase your effectiveness.

Prove this to yourself right now. Look in your trashcan and count how many generic brochures you threw away without reading. Or, if you put brochures in a stack to read later, go down to the bottom inch of that 15-inch leaning tower and count how many of the brochures there you’ve consulted since they arrived.

In big companies print buyers want to buy in quantity, therefore marketing doesn’t create a brochure about different prospect segments – it makes the brochure about the product. However, remember:

The Primary Rule of Relevance Marketing
––> the Message has to be about the Prospect

So standard practices of printing companies and standard operating practices of print buyers go against the principles of Relevance Marketing.

You as a small business owner can be different; you can choose to relate to your prospects.

Segmentation Rather Than Personalization

Personalization – To cope with this known issue, printers have purchased digital printing presses that print at a quality level as good or better than 95% of the printing done today. One of the cool things about digital printing is that each brochure can be totally different from the previous one printed and the next one as well. Of course, you cannot really make them totally different because of design constraints, and you don’t want them to be – you are making a brochure in this case for one products or service.

The easy thing to do (I repeat easy not effective) is to personalize the brochure. Instead of titling your brochure, “Our Capabilities,” it can say:

Bob, here are:
Our Capabilities

So, it’s personalized, but it’s still a brochure about your capabilities, NOT about the prospect.

Segmentation – Divide your prospect list into logical groups of likeminded and/or similarly occupied individuals. Notice I said, “similarly occupied” as opposed to occupation titles. Occupations are a good segmentation point sometimes, but it would be better, for example, to segment out those in charge of corporate wellness initiatives rather than sending something generic to all company nurses and all human resources managers.

I sell marketing and sales consulting services to small business owners. If I make my brochure about the concerns of increasing sales and profitability of all small business owners, I am WAY ahead of most brochures small business owners receive in a week.

However, the sales and marketing concerns for a commercial HVAC company are substantially different from those of an industrial supplies distributor.

We can segment all the way down to left-handed CEOs of electrical contracting companies who play the flute and drive 4 year old Chevrolets, but that’s ridiculous. So how far do you segment?

Segmentation Chart

Looking at the chart we see some obvious factors to consider – that’s why pictures are worth a thousand words sometimes. You have to play off the following factors:

• How much data do we have?
• How does each segment differ?
• How do we write to each segment?
• What’s our budget?

How far can you go with this? Nine years ago I designed a brochure to send to 5 people – the president and 4 key VPs of one crucial prospect of a client of mine. Each brochure cover had a personal address to that individual and quoted the book written by one of them. The message inside addressed each one of their individual areas of concern.

Each brochure cost $50.00 plus design time and shipping. (The printer had a $250.00 minimum.)

We got through to them. Therefore, the brochure was cheap.

Follow the 80/20 Rule but don’t forget the 80/20 Rule. Confusing? Segment for 80% of the population of your prospects. If only 5% of your prospects are undertakers then forget them as far as a segment for your brochure. HOWEVER if two-thirds of the 20% who give you most of your business are undertakers, create your best brochure for them.

Possible Segmentation Scenarios

Can I ever say it enough, “Relevance Marketing helps prospects identify with your message.” Therefore, segment according to what is meaningful to your prospects. To find out what that is, and don’t assume you know, ask your existing happy and not-so-happy customers.

Possible Segmentation Scenarios
• Types of businesses
• Types of job responsibilities
• Types of job functions
• Types of problems
• Types of corporate goals

So, if you can segment your prospect list into three business types, I’d suggest writing a brochure to those three types and then print three different brochures. That is the best way.

However, if that’s cost prohibitive, there is another way.

Next post I’ll show you how to use technology to make that one brochure even more relevant to your segments. I’ll create a non-capabilities capabilities brochure. See it here, The 1st 7 Seconds Rule for a Brochure – Part 2.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Harai January 26, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Interesting overview Ted – as a start-up specialist and SMB owner, sometimes we can pay more attention to price and quantity vs spending more on creating targeted messages that resonates more effectively with a diverse market. Looking at it from this prospective, you’re really not saving money or stretching your marketing dollars.

Thanks for the insight.

David Dodd January 27, 2010 at 12:12 pm


Great post! I completely agree that personalization does not necessarily equal relevance. Inserting a prospect’s name or job title or company affiliation into a marketing message that’s not relevant to that prospect won’t make the message relevant. It all depends on what a company is selling, of course, but I don’t think that a “brochure” is necessarily the best tool to create engagement with a prospective buyer. In the business-to-business arena, educational content that speaks directly to the major issues and needs of the prospective buyer works well. You may be planning to address this in your next post. This type of content often takes the form of a white paper that is informative, and not overly self-promotional.

Ted Vinzani January 28, 2010 at 1:00 pm

You bring up good points, David, and thanks for commenting.

Many types of businesses just need a brochure of some kind, and quite often the capabilities brochure is the best choice. If you don’t have it people are put off, but then don’t really read it if you give it to them. That being said, such a brochure is quite often be dropped in the trash if mailed. Part 2 of this tells how to make such a brochure memorable and more effective, but it will still be rubbish fodder in many cases.

I usually suggest using the brochure I’ll describe as a hand out where you can go over your capabilities right there with the prospect – where it just might stimulate a conversation on a pressing or near future need.

Many say now that it takes seven contacts or more before a prospect actually will listen to what you say. if that’s so, and my experience confirms this, then a Non-Capabilities Capabilities Brochure I’ll discuss makes a good third or fourth contact point.

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