Despite the constant insistence that print is dead and that people apparently have 2 second attention spans, people in fact continue to read and research, and continue to pick up brochures and ask for sales sheets. I think the perception a business creates with materials like these is a really downplayed aspect of business as we become a faster-paced and volume-driven society.

A company I worked at before was always reluctant to produce print materials. The boss considered them fluff and said that a good sales rep could close without them. From a strict sales perspective maybe that’s true, but in my opinion that’s a short-sighted attitude that can lead to some serious pitfalls in public perception.

Most marketing is invisible when it’s working well.

Sales sheets, handouts, and brochures are no exception. A handout or brochure does more than simply reinforce the points in a prior sales meeting or dazzle the reader will colorful imagery and zippy text. How well put together these materials are has an effect on the overall perception of the business they represent, and in that way the mere presence of the sales sheet can help seal the deal as much as the images and text contained within.

A person may not consciously think anything specific about your sales materials, but it’s as much about those subconscious inferences as it is about simply preventing a negative.

There’s a basic example most are familiar with: If I handed you a sales sheet on products I offered on a black and white printout on regular paper, what assumptions would you draw about my business? Or what if I didn’t have anything to show you?

There’s obviously more to a good brochure than high quality paper and graphics, but it’s an important start.

This idea is true in all kinds of marketing, especially writing. Good writing is invisible because the reader just flows across it. You accept it without question, for the most part. It’s only when the wording is clumsy or there are blatant mistakes that the reader “notices” the writing (or when it’s amazingly good).

Being invested in your products and services says a lot.

If I’m telling you my product or service is revolutionary and is going to “change the way XYZ is done,” I’d better have some stuff to back it up, right? If my product is really so amazing and I truly have such confidence in it, shouldn’t I have literature on it as well as examples? Otherwise my lack of investment in my own product is an indicator I’m blowing smoke.

You’d be better off not having brochures and such if they don’t embody what you’re selling.

It may not be that third bullet point about the warranty that finally convinces you to buy if you’re on the fence, but as a prospect you’ll be looking for any reason to say no and save your money. Anything at the last minute that gives you doubts or makes you wonder if shopping around some more would be a better idea could break the sale.

There is an aspect of marketing that’s a bit like keeping up with the Joneses, but the potent stuff presents like more than simply saying “Me too!” A mediocre attempt will at least prevent criticism of incompleteness, but a strong attempt can cut through the noise and jar the viewer. That’s what it’s always taken, and more so these days amidst the saturation of data anywhere we look.

As with a lot of things in business, the measure of usefulness of brochures and other materials is not just in the profits they attract, but in the losses they prevent by reducing missed opportunities.

Categories: Musing.

Comments

  1. Matthew Parent

    I suspect that your previous company suffered from a very common fallacy: “Everyone thinks like I do”. Some people are sold almost exclusively on the fluff. At a previous company I worked for, our clients absolutely loved some of the visualizations we could create for them. They couldn’t actually use them for any real data analysis but they looked cool.

    I would also like to specifically respond to the following quote: “Consider this: If I handed you a sales sheet on products I offered on a black and white printout on regular paper, what assumptions would you draw about my business? Or what if I didn’t have anything to show you?”.

    I think the order of preference would be.
    1) High quality materials – In the worst case this shouldn’t affect the client’s decision one way or the other.
    2) Nothing at all – This could go either way. Some people will care, others won’t.
    3) Low quality materials – This is almost certain to make you look like a joke to the client.

    • Brian Watkins

      Good comment. I agree with your order. Reminds me of what they say about voice acting, that no voice acting is better than bad voice acting.

  2. Bryce

    Yep, cardstock and print on business cards to the interior of the office set the mood for the place. An interesting concept, and makes me wonder if when people pick up brochures and stuff if having the brochure itself brings them closer to the sale more than actually reading all of it.

  3. Marty

    I’m not an avid reader by no means. I like things short and to the point. My news reading is done through MSN. Sunday paper, skim thoruhg to see if there are any articles that catch my interest. Those I”ll take the time to read, unless they start out with a bunch of “fluff” that I’m not interested in reading.
    I don’t mind things about a company , how they got started, where they came from, where they plan on going, but that should be 2nd to what the actual reading material is all about.
    If I’m looking to buy a new furnace, I really don’t care about the history of the company. I want data, facts. What do they have to offer in furnaces. Features…etc.

    Yes, I guess I do have a short attention span, unless it is something of interest. So an article has to capture my attention right away, or I”m off onto something else.

    Take for instance, say I’m looking up information/reviews on knives ( this goes big time for youtube reviews). don’t start out with some history on the guy who created the knife, give me your opinion on the actual knife. Isn’t that what I came to that site for in the first place? If I want to know the history about someone who makes knives, I’ll google that.
    Again, get to the point of the review, or i”m off looking for another review that is to the point.

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