By Dean Rieck
A direct mail brochure should not be an illustrated version of your letter. Your letter is a sales pitch, meant to be read generally in sequence from beginning to end. It should make a personal, emotional connection. And it should make a promise and ask for the order.
Your brochure, on the other hand, is factual support for the letter and meant to be scanned or read in any order. It is less personal. It should illustrate features, list benefits, provide proofs, make comparisons, and list technical details that lend credibility to what your letter claims.
• Make a visual impact. If your letter has done its job, your prospect should be saying, “Sounds good. Show me.” Illustrate the use of your product, its benefits, and results. Show how your promise will be fulfilled. Use photos, illustrations, diagrams, charts, tables, and other visual aids.
• Make the brochure readable. Use design to draw the reader into the copy, not to call attention to itself. Use a readable typeface. Avoid large blocks of italic or reversed type. Divide your copy into short sections. Highlight important items with borders, boxes, and color. Use bullet lists for miscellaneous or technical information.
• Use headlines to tell a complete story. Avoid empty statements, such as “Why customers love Yahoo Widgets.” Use specific and complete sentences, such as “You’ll love Yahoo Widgets because they last longer and cost less.” Some people will only scan the headers, so make sure they get the gist of your message at a glance.
• Start strong on the cover. A brochure isn’t a stage show where you have to wait for the curtain to open before the drama begins. Right on the front cover, put a big benefit in your main headline. Use secondary headlines for secondary benefits. Then use copy and graphics to lead your reader through the rest of the brochure.
• Develop your big benefit immediately. Use your first few sentences to summarize what the rest of the brochure will detail. This will help careful readers understand what is to follow. And it will help scanners by putting most of the important ideas up front.
• Highlight the benefits and list the features. Benefits are what sell. And every important benefit should be highlighted, perhaps with subheads and detailed copy. But don’t forget the features. Some people make final decisions based on what features are or are not included, so don’t leave anything out.
• Restate the offer clearly. Have you presented a persuasive pitch for the offer in your letter? Good. But since the brochure’s purpose is to support the letter, you must restate the offer. Illustrate it. Detail it. Dramatize it. Include premiums, deadlines, a toll-free number, and ordering instructions.
• Feature a strong guarantee. A guarantee reduces the fear of getting stuck with a lemon and increases confidence in your company. It’s one of the few techniques that almost universally boosts response.
• Group your testimonials. Testimonials support your claims. But they also engage the “bandwagon” effect: lots of people use your product or service, so it must be desirable. Sprinkling testimonials throughout your brochure diminishes this effect.
• Use the most effective selling format. If you want to make a big impression, use a broadside. If you have a long story to tell, use a booklet. If your offer is simple, use a flier. Select the format based on what is needed for a particular promotion, not on arbitrary design specs.