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Reading duration: 16 min

How to Design an Effective Business Brochure

Agnes

at Design tips, User experience

Brochure layout design example

Has your organization created a killer brochure design that squashes objections and creates concrete leads? If not, you’re passing up a branding and marketing tool that your competitors may already be using while you gain traction. This post explains why your organization probably needs a business brochure design that can not only attract the eye and engage the mind but answer all those nagging questions that are preventing a conversion.

 

According to recent statistic — as of 2016 — 79% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were reportedly already using one or more forms of informative marketing collateral. From the same study, another 8% were still stalled in the planning phase. 13% had not even yet considered creating collateral, let alone a brochure specifically. 

 

Is your company struggling to get effective collateral in the hands of your prospects? Then you probably have considered the brochure layout design factor at least once. So what’s stopping you? If yours is like most SMEs, probably a lack of time and ideas is bottlenecking your progress.  

 

Many SMEs just create a website, thinking this is their “brochure”, and move on to creating advertisements. Many believe that the brochure should always read like a TV advertisement. For B2C, that can work in some cases, but not in all, and it never works for B2B gatekeepers — those topic experts in the department who watchfully guard against spending time or resources on things that are not worthwhile.

 

And while many sites really are modelled after a brochure, most are brochure in name only, while failing to effectively answer all questions of the prospect and worse, failing to brand the prospect whatsoever on the product or service.

 

So, assuming you know you need to create a marketing brochure of some kind to promote your products or services, how do you stand out?

10 ways to rock a brochure layout design:

 
  1. Compel your audience with a novel brochure design

Girl holding an innovative novelty toy (a spinner)

 

If your brochure is novel, it gets instantly passed around the department. This means it also gets shown to management, regardless of the initial impression of the value proposition inside. This may sound like a design thing, but it’s really about basic human nature. If the gatekeeper can’t help but share your brochure with the office, how are they minding the gate? Moreover, novelty brands the prospect, even from the next cubicle over. 

 

All that said, novelty is not for its own sake. It should be compelling. What does that mean? Well, the end result should not be a patiently-disappointed look of “Oh how…thematic…”, but rather one of “This outfit is not your typical [product/service] company! Show that to the boss!”.

  1. Innovate on the brochure cut

illustration of scissors cutting the

 

How does one innovate on the cut? By this, I mean the way the cut and/or fold of the paper of the brochure. With just a little ingenuity, your innovatively-envisioned is more likely to get passed around to the department and management.  

Brochure design cut ideas:

  • Consider cutting holes in the paper to create a theme around a central, always-visible element.

  • Imagine a sturdy brochure that stands up.

  • Shape it with a service or product theme (such as a boat, car, key, cake or animal, etc.).

  • Consider a brochure pocket that creatively houses your business card and/or other key collateral assets — all in one package.

  • There’s no rule saying part of your brochure can’t be in another material, like silk, faux leather, or translucent recycled plastic!

 

Whatever ways you choose to innovate on the cut, however, always keep the brand firmly in mind. Novelty shouldn’t trump branding, function or practicality.

  1. Influence psychology with color, theme and resolution

Pantone color swatches

 

Selected brochure design colors impact the prospect’s psychology. Colors used impact how the viewer consumes the content section or panel of the collateral. Do the colors work together, against one another, to create a symphony of mood impressions that can work the reader up into just the right mindset? They should. 

 

For instance, red and black are popular colors for gaming, but black is often also used with violet, electric blue or bright purple. Black represents power or mastery, while the highlight color represents energy expressed by that power.

 

Use only high-resolution graphics for any printed brochure design. The standard is 300 DPI or higher. Never use less, and never, ever assume a web graphic is high enough in resolution already to look good in print. If your graphics are blurry or dotty, the experience will be diminished in turn. Make the resolution and color pop for best effects. 

 

Stay away from “metaphorical” images in your brochure design. Such devices are usually subjectively framed. That means they’re also too cryptically encoded to be obvious in their meanings to the viewer — far more than you may subjectively realize. Creating metaphorical or “symbolic” backgrounds is a rookie mistake that typically gets out of hand quickly and can communicate the wrong message.

 

Stay conscious of how the theme is represented in any thematic images used. Your graphics should communicate a feeling in the foreground, and a simple theme in the background, or vice-versa. Sometimes, the theme is covered if the subject looks like your ideal prospect, or if the background of the subject is an office. But what expression is on the face of that subject? And what tone of atmosphere surrounds the subject in that moment? There’s your feeling. 

 

Keep it simple. People can’t help being sleuths. If the subject is not a person, that’s fine, but make sure it’s something key to the theme of your offering. Don’t make readers stop to ponder why you chose that particular image.Every visual cue should spark an “aha!” moment, not a “what the…”.

  1. Brainstorm on theme-suggestive brochure layout design ideas

Colored eggs in nests (symbolizing figurative shapes in relation to brochure design)

 

Few designers truly understand the import of layout design upon the prospect. This is a skillset that involves some understanding of psychology and of basic marketing.

 

Shapes help to influence the psychology of the audience. They are also able to condition the reader by telegraphing an appropriately receptive mood without interrupting the message. You may still want to keep the shapes abstract enough to avoid symbolism that would directly compete with your messaging.

 

Is your company about fun? Leave out the hard angles! Is your company about sorting through data to get the brass tax? Better represent a simplified vision of complexity! In short, the way the layout is envisioned should match the mindset your want your prospect to experience in connection with your brand.

 

Format the information with appropriate visual variety. Should you be using bullets here and there? How about other formatting choices like headings? Could thematic shaped layout sections or cue images do a better job? And most importantly, can such existing elements allow the reader to effectively skim the brochure before handing it off to someone else? They should be able to. If not, you’ve failed.

 

Eggs can denote potentialities, including human beings, financial nest eggs, as well as symbolize the human mind. Likewise, we could use a spaceship to symbolize exploration, a chair to hint at rest, or a train to refer to self-empowerment.

 

The cultural associations are already there from a very young age. You have only to recognize and tap into the most fundamental of these.

  1. Decide on the best content & copywriting approach

Paper, pencils, and a pair of glasses (symbolizing content writing)

 

Content design is the art of designing the idea of what the content should do before writing it. This takes place largely in an outline, especially when the end goal is not yet fully clear. 

 

It can mean the difference between a complex lecture and a breezy, abbreviated conversation. Point and counterpoint are essential to getting the wheels to turn. Don’t risk putting the reader to sleep. Say on point. Decide how you should talk to your prospect before you begin to write the text. And then police the tone, style and diction to make sure it doesn’t wander or change over the course of the writing. Re-read your content many times until each time you read it, you have no quips about the text, no edits to make, and can only say “…perfect!”

 

If you think content should be written quickly with as few revisions and re-reading as possible, your content is always going to be awful as a result. Good written content takes time. Period.

 

  1. Brochures need a “gatekeeper” section to start the discussion

Gatekeeper figure (young woman) presumably reviewing product information on a tablet PC

 

Gatekeepers, the employees who actually read and research choices of partners, purchases, or new hires, are your core audience. By addressing gatekeeper objections in the form of a rational, brass-tax dialogue, you can condition gatekeeper acceptance and pass through their cubicle to make the sale. In some cases, the gatekeeper is the same person as the buyer. In some cases, they’re there to make sure the buyer (their superior) doesn’t waste time on non-critical tasks.

 

Consider using a FAQ style Q&A dialogue format. People tend to identify with one side in a dialogue. This is especially true if the perspective represented on each side seem reasonable and credible. 

 

You don’t need to create characters and names or fashion it as an interview to get the dialogue effect. You can simply use italicized headings as in a FAQ-style Q&A section, but make sure to voice the objections in the imagined mindset, diction, and true concerns of the ideal prospect, based upon your customer profile (your researched profile of your ideal customer for the product or service). This is absolutely essential to gaining gatekeeper approval.

 

Use cold, hard data to back up the answers. Be sure that your objections are based on research and your answers to those objections are both sympathetic and thorough in their resolution of the challenge. No cheating. Be realistic and never be afraid to dig deep when putting the objections and answers together.

 

 

Brainstorm collectively on objections and answers content and tone. Go from department to department and ask them to imagine what their objections might be if they were working for the prospective partner or customer. Or take it along to the company marketing meeting and poll the room. You might get some very different perspectives when asking people with other roles how they view the value proposition being presented in the form of answers to gatekeeper objections. The truth is that good gatekeepers are doing the very same thing, either in reality or in their own heads. 

 

Use hard data. Don’t wing it. Pull the right data from the right sources to prove your point for each answer to each objection. Make sure to reference the data with a quoted source or link — preferably both! Gatekeepers are tough customers!

  1. Include a clear, persuasive call-to-action in your brochure design

 

A brochure isn’t just an informational piece. It’s a marketing tool. In sales, there is a dictum that every pitch should end with asking for the sale in some way. Marketing, aside from finding the right audience and figuring out which channels work best, is largely about setting the conditions for that big pitch. Messaging and the couching of the conversation, however, are only part of the battle. How do you go for the conversion?

 

An effective brochure should encourage a definite action. The place for the call to action (CTA) is at the end of the brochure normally, since you’ll need to address the objections mentioned in step #5. But once those objections have all been definitively flattened, throw out the CTA in a direct way by giving a web link to help to get the lead into your email and CRM system. Once they’re in the system, you can mature the lead in your lead nurturing pipeline.

  1. Package your business brochure for mass consumption

Luggage at an airport (alluding to accessibility and portability) of business collateral

 

Many don’t envision the brochure beyond the dimensions of the printed page. Isn’t that a backward look at the brochure? We think so!

 

A brochure is not just a page of folded glossy paper; it’s an expanded business card. The brochure is supposed to be an expanded source of information with all the crucial details about your product or service. A brochure should be a portable sales person to explain and show the offering to the prospect where they live, commute, work, drink their coffee, and talk shop to their workmates. So think about how to make it as accessible as possible. Include an easy-to-type, branded URL to an explanatory video. Make the URL a CTA worthy of a snapshot and a text to the team – more on this in the next section.

 

If your brochure is not easy to share on and offline, it’s just not reliable as marketing collateral. Ask yourself how likely people are to be able to get others to pass a physical edition around. And how would they text someone about it or describe it on the phone? How could they share it via email? Could they post a link to it? Is it gorgeous enough to take a photo of the print version? 

  1. Brand the entire experience of your conversion funnel

Gummy bears (alluding to the branding power of an experience and of shape)

 

From start to finish, your service or product brochure is there to brand the prospect on your company as a go-to provider of needs. Don’t diminish your logo now! Represent it lavishly in full color. Make sure the use of brand colors as highlights for the information, subtly branding the experience of what they’re reading. 

 

Brand the URLs and/or CTAs. Make any links in the form of well-branded campaign vanity links and try to consolidate these into just one well-branded CTA URL.

 

For example, if yours is a car rental company, then your print brochure was picked up in the lobby as someone picked up or returned a car. You might send them to a CTA with a video that demonstrates the value of the product 9or service and allows them to purchse right there.

 

Positive example: remind the prospect of all the highlights of your rental service by summarizing the key benefits of convenience and hassle-free drop-off right in the CTA.

 

Make it a playfully-memorable vanity URL. For instance, something like “hertz.com/ouchless”. Everything is important is being represented here: (brand name, the service branded into a feeling, simple to remember and type in).

 

Negative example:hertz.com/Special-Offer”. Not very compelling, right? This negative example would be too generic, first of all, and would omit any campaign branding or feeling regarding the service entirely. It additionally leaves a few too many typographical factors to stumble over, like capitalized or special characters. Avoid this approach. Keep the format simple.

 

Give the brochure reader a themed, branded feeling in one compact, easy-to-remember URL that’s hard to get wrong. If the prospect can’t read the URL and then type it in from memory, they may never get to the landing page before getting distracted by something easier to tend to. Strike while the iron is hot by using an effective CTA with an easy-peasy URL leading them right into your lead nurturing pipeline.

  1. Poll the workplace for honest feedback on your brochure design

checkmarks on a blackboard (alluding to business collateral design feedback)

Get randomized feedback in-house. Has your department got weary, numbed eyes on that collateral one-piece? The real test is to take a single copy of the v.1 edition of your marketing department’s brochure and pass it around the lunchroom to other people who understand the business of your company and industry.

 

Look closely at the eyes of each person holding that single copy. Register via short, abbreviated notes what you see, as well as what they say. There’s your feedback! Don’t over-think it. Make a short list and just check yes or no to questions like:

  1. Reader liked it?
  2. Lead-up effective?
  3. Pitch effective?
  4. CTA made sense and seemed effective?
  5. Were they confused or disappointed by anything?
  6. If so, what?
  7. Comments or questions?
  8. How do you interpret this feedback session overall?

After about 20-30 or so such encounters, you should have a pretty good idea where the biggest challenges lie and to which parts you should give top revision priority. Did anyone have an impossible time getting any of the planned humor or excitement or brand tie-in? Then you’ve failed in those areas. Go back to the drawing board and take another whack at whatever fell flat. Remember that effectiveness (function) is the name of the game here.

 

You now should have all you need to start designing your killer new brochure. If there are elements here you’d like to try, but don’t think you can do it in-house, don’t fret. Flip180 can help

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