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.