The “1st 7 Seconds Rule” for Brochures – Part 2

by TedV

(I discussed the concepts and pitfalls of designing any brochure in the previous post, The 1st 7 Seconds Rule for Brochures – Part 1.)

The Capabilities Brochure is a big offender of the principles of Relevance Marketing because this brochure is all about the salesperson’s/marketer’s company, not about their prospects. Here are a few factoids:

• Capabilities brochures are most common among small businesses
• It is almost always the most ignored brochure in use
• Yet, this collateral piece is very often asked for by business people
• Most who request a capabilities brochure ignore it once it arrives

That said, you can create a capabilities brochure about your prospects. It can ask them to think about problems you can solve, and in a subtle way encourage current and potential clients to contact you.

Before we look at an effective brochure, let’s explore current practices regarding this standard marketing collateral.

Sales people want a capabilities brochure so they have one piece of paper telling prospects everything their company can offer. Quite often prospects ask for such a brochure for the same reason.

But ask yourself honestly, how many people are handed a capabilities brochure and give it more than a casual glance – usually for only about 7 seconds – before putting it on a stack with other brochures? How many business people keep such capabilities brochures filed for ready access? A tiny fraction do, if any.

Today’s overwhelmed business people are involved in their work and their problems, not how they can make a sales person’s day.

The Typical – Read Ineffective – Capabilities Brochure

Years ago I had a client that was a marketing communications firm – different from a marketing firm. They provided support services to marketing departments in major corporations. Shortly you will see their six main service offerings. We did NOT send out this of capabilities list to prospects. We did something different with the list, which you will see soon, but imagine for a minute we printed this in our marketing piece. I’ve seen marketing firms send out such information.

Let’s listen to an overworked, not looking to change things unless necessary business person’s internal conversation about each bullet point.

• Relevance Based Marketing
“Yeah, yeah. So much cliché marketing drivel.”

• Customer Data Management
“We already have a database programmer in our IT department.”

• Direct Contact with Customers/Prospects
“We tried direct mail.” or “We already have a direct mail service.”

• Web Based Marketing Portal
“We have a web company.” or “We do our own web sites.”

• Collaterals Management
“We have a design firm and a printer.”

• Marketing Outsourcing Management
“I don’t want to reduce the headcount in my marketing department.”

And then here’s what’s said:

“Well, Mr. SalesRep, we don’t need any of these services right not, but I’ll file this away so I can consult this list when any need arises in the future.”

I’m not sure which is more disconcerting, that buyers say this over and over again, or the number of sales reps that believe it when they hear it.

The Non-Capabilities Capabilities Brochure

This is how we positioned those six capabilities on a brochure. We had each of these lines as major bullet points with an accompanying smaller font size paragraph under it and to the side.

Your marketing message: Who’s it all about?
Is your customer data locked up in the closet?
Are you having a conversation, or making a sales pitch?
Have you heard from your website lately?
If a website is not a brochure, what is a brochure supposed to be?
Do what you do best: outsource the rest?

All six on this list are questions, not statements of capabilities. The questions were curious and unusual enough that prospects would stop and think, and then read the paragraph following, written to arouse curiosity even further.

• The first question’s following paragraph contained a provocative definition of Relevance Marketing.
• The short paragraph for the second question pointed out that most companies have more data on their current customers than they think, but only about half of it is useful.
• The third point followed with statistics on the average failure rate of direct marketing using traditional methods and techniques.
• The fourth question’s addendum talked about how most websites were basically digital brochures, and that they shouldn’t be.
•We turned the tables after the fifth question because if a website shouldn’t be a brochure, then what should a brochure be?
• And info for the final question was personalized based on industry types, quoting current trends in outsourcing services in each particular field.

If a person looked at this brochure, they might find themselves thinking about a problem or two they had with one of these areas. For the most part they’d probably read only the paragraph for the areas of concern, but that problem was what we wanted them to talk to us about – not the services they didn’t need at the moment.

On another side of this folded brochure, we restated these six capabilities in contrasting language that repositioned these possible problem areas from a different perspective – still written about the prospect, not our capabilities. This may have called attention to a factor the reader hadn’t considered, but most likely it just reinforced the desire to talk to us about the one or two situations they’d like to improve.

Even at this, our Non-Capabilities Capabilities Brochure didn’t cause the phones to ring off of the hook. Sales today for B-2-B services are not made in a one-phone call scenario. This brochure did move along the prospects’ pondering about a problem we could help them with, and helped them be a little more open for the phone call from our rep when it came.

This is Relevance Marketing – getting prospects to think about themselves solving problems and succeeding when they think about using your products and services.

However, never forget that all of marketing ultimately leads to selling those products and services, or it’s a wasted effort.

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