Ingredients of an Effective Brochure

David walked into the break room, glad for a chance to catch his breath on the first day of his new job. He had just sat down with a Gatorade when William, the company owner, came over and greeted him. “How would you like to go over to one of our clients this afternoon and tell them about the new service program we are planning to start offering this summer?” he asked. 

David wondered if William was out of his mind. “I don’t think that will work,” he protested. “I don’t know anything about the program! This is only my first day, and besides, I didn’t come dressed for a sales meeting—just look at my dirty pants and my work boots!”

Now I know that none of us would make a mistake like William’s by sending someone like David out on an important sales call. But what if we are making a similar mistake? Have you ever considered that your brochures and catalogs are like salespeople for your business?

A brochure can be like David—they just aren’t up to the job. It might be the way they are “dressed” or the kind of information they have (or don’t have), but they aren’t equipped to succeed in the mission we are sending them on. 

The following seven ingredients will ensure that your brochures are well-dressed, articulate, and successful salesmen.

A catchy cover

The front cover of your catalog or brochure sets the tone for the rest of the piece. It’s what people see first and what they will remember the longest. A front cover has several jobs:

Identify the company. The name and logo of your business on the front cover tell the customer who the brochure represents. This is similar to how a salesman provides you with his name and the name of his company when he first meets you. 

Look great. A cover should be visually appealing, with an attractive picture or graphic that creates a positive first impression. A good cover design leads the reader’s eye from left to right to make it natural to flip the page.

Tell what’s inside. Usually there is a minimal amount of text on the front cover, but the text that is included should be thoughtfully chosen. You might simply list the name of the piece (User Guide, Summer Catalog, etc), your tagline, or include another brief description. Another option is a bulleted list of contents or products. Don’t forget to date the brochure if it covers a certain time period.  

Consistent branding

Does your company have a unique and clear brand and logo? It should! Your paper salesmen should wear the company uniform. That is, all your marketing materials should be branded in a way that ties them all together and connects them to your company in a customer’s mind. Use your company colors and fonts on your brochure. 

Customers tend to gravitate toward companies with professional branding, so this is an important part of equipping your marketing materials for success.

“Customers tend to gravitate toward companies with professional branding.”

Evocative photos

People like looking at pictures, so make sure to include pictures in your brochure. Marketing materials without professional photos lack punch and aren’t as successful in evoking emotion. Consumers expect to see your product or see the results of using your service. Product photos show the readers what your products look like, and lifestyle photos help readers visualize using or owning your products. 

Compelling copy

Now that we’ve covered the pictures in your brochures, let’s talk about the copy—the words you use to describe your product. Your brochure can’t say everything, so you will need to decide what to include and what to leave out. 

Compared to pictures, words might seem boring, but they are still important. Obviously, your brochure copy should be proofread to ensure it contains no spelling or grammar errors. You will want to list the specs and brief descriptions of your product (the features), but don’t forget to bring out the benefits of it as well. 

When you find yourself making a statement about your product or service, ask yourself, “So what?” Then revise the sentence to answer the question “So what?” This simple question helps you incorporate the benefit to the customer.

Example: “We have the parts you need in stock.”

After asking, “So what?” we can revise the sentence: “We have the parts you need in stock so that you don’t lose valuable production time waiting on parts to ship across the country.”

The style of your copy can be relaxed and casual or more professional and businesslike, depending on what fits your brand best. 

Helpful information

Every business exists to meet a need or solve a problem. In your marketing materials, identify the customer’s problem and position your business as the solution that will solve it. 

For example, if you are a pest control expert, tell how termite damage to a structure goes beyond what can be seen on the surface. Go into detail about your product or service, explaining how it works and why it is effective. If applicable, list the various steps that are involved.

Try to think like a customer and provide answers to questions that they may have. You can also consider what objections they have and include material to help meet that objection. 

Positive proof

Request testimonials from your customers and use them in your brochure. Testimonials “testify” to potential customers that you can be trusted and that they are not taking a big risk by buying from you. 

Mentioning your satisfaction guarantees or warranties also provides proof that you are confident you will be able to meet your customers’ expectations. Pictures of completed projects are proof of your competence. 

Clear call to action

What do you want your prospects to do after their visit with your paper salesmen? Do you want them to pick up the phone and call you for a quote, or do you want them to visit your website? Make sure to include a strong call to action that directs customers to take a specific action. 

Perhaps doing business with you involves several steps. Consider listing three simple steps so that customers know what to expect. Example: 

1. Decide which model is best for you. 

2. Add any optional accessories.

3. Place your order. 

Case study: The right brochure for Formwright

Formwright, a Rosewood Marketing client, is a metal roll forming machine distributor in Indiana. They also build custom trailer packages for roll-forming machines. If you’ve seen Formwright ads, for example, in the Plain Communities Business Exchange, you’ve seen Formwright’s distinctive new brand.

After creating the Formwright name and brand, we started working on a new Formwright brochure to feature their roll formers and trailer options. For each brand that Rosewood creates, an accompanying brand manual describes the colors and typefaces and includes instructions on how and how not to use the logo and special effects like patterns and angles. 

The brochure designer turned to the Formwright brand manual for guidance on designing the brochure to be consistent with the Formwright brand and personality.  Formwright’s brand personality is primo, companionable, and solid

“An effective brochure is accessible to everyone.”

Maureen, the designer, pored over the brand manual as she began the design process. She reviewed the text from the copywriter, picturing how each section would be laid out on a page. She checked what photos were available and made a list of photos she needed.

“It’s like an unfolding story. As you build, the momentum grows, and if you’re going in the right direction, you know it,” Maureen says. “Getting the first couple of pages done and getting the clients’ buy-in and knowing he’s happy with it kept me motivated to keep going.”

The front cover features a unique photo along with the Formwright name and tagline: “Shaping the Future.” Turning the page to the first spread, the next photo sets the mood for the brochure by infusing warmth and positivity for the future and highlighting Formwright’s agricultural heritage.

The brand manual suggested using a diagonal line to mimic the diagonal line in the logo icon. “I try to get some movement in what I design. That diagonal line repeated throughout really helps create movement,” says Maureen. Each spread in the brochure is designed to direct the reader’s eyes to the starting place on the page, and then guide them across the page and entice the reader to keep paging. 

To break up the long horizontal pages, Maureen used blocks of patterns or colors with diagonal sides. But there are also vertical and horizontal lines to provide variety and keep the design from being too static. 

Prospects who drop by Formwright’s booth at trade shows walk away with a copy of the new brochure. Formwright also mails a copy to prospects who call them for more information. 


An effective brochure is accessible to everyone. The customer doesn’t need to have internet access or a computer or smartphone to flip through a brochure and get acquainted with your company. Less techy people can easily find what they are looking for.

How equipped are your paper salesmen? They have a big job as they work to attract attention, generate desire, establish trust, and give clear direction to prospects. Your well-dressed and well-trained paper salesforce will be a tremendous asset in helping your business find new customers. 

About the Author: Marvin Martin is head of sales and marketing at Rosewood. He provided the inspiration for this article and collaborated with the Rosewood Messaging Team to produce it. Contact Marvin at