How to make a brochure that sells

Today, when we think about marketing a business we think of social media, SEO, and landing pages. However, let’s not forget about the brochure. Printed media is certainly not dead. People still want something tangible, something real, and something that they can hold with sweaty hands, transcending your business or product beyond just ones and zeros. You see, people believe that a ‘real business’ should have some physical marketing collateral and a brochure is just the thing that moves you beyond touchscreens, Google and Facebook, and represents you in the real world. Most people think they know how to make a brochure by downloading a template and dragging some photos in. However, to make something that your customers will want to keep and not throw in the rubbish requires planning, great design, excellent copy, and a clear message.

Think about it, we’ve all been handed brochures by pushy salespeople with stiff arms extended. The ones who stand at the entrance to the mall shoving flyers in our face. Usually, we grab one, glance at it, and then throw it in the next rubbish bin we come across. You see, the problem with most brochures is that they’re all boring. So, let’s look at how to make a brochure that grabs people’s attention and gets them reading. Most people think that they know how to make a brochure and they probably do to an extent. However, making a great brochure is not a simple task. It’s something that requires planning, creativity and excellent design.

Know your objective before you start

Why do you need a brochure? Who will you be giving it to? How will it be delivered? All these factors are important when planning the design of your brochure. Don’t just create an average brochure because you think you should have one. Instead, think about how a brochure can complement your existing marketing channels and design it in such a way that it compliments your promotional portfolio. Having a clear plan and putting your reader in the forefront of your mind is a recipe for a successful brochure that not only looks and reads great but also drives sales.

Write quality copy

Put simply, pretty things get our attention. Your visual design and layout will get your readers attention initially, however, you need to make your brochure worth reading. Most people think they know how to make a brochure but fail to focus on the content. There’s no point having great design that grabs your readers interest only to lose them in drab, poor copy. Here, it’s important to think about who your audience is and to write your ‘voice’ accordingly. Is the style you’re going for an informal, personal and conversational tone or perhaps more formal? Always make sure your reader is top priority and write copy that doesn’t just convey your message but also engages your reader. Use effective language to describe the experience of owning your products or using your service to get the reader visualising what it would be like. This will then entice them to your call to action. If the only copy in your brochure are facts, information, and figures you may lose your reader. Try and include a narrative and descriptions that make the reader want to read your brochure and not just look at the pretty pictures and colours.

Templates

Templates for brochures are a great resource. They can provide you with a guide and a mock-up that makes it easy to drag-and-drop your content in. For example, you can download hundreds of templates for Adobe InDesign in many different formats and configurations and simply pull in your assets as you like. These are great if you’re not sure how to make a brochure or you’re new to Adobe InDesign. However, most people make the mistake of designing the brochure backwards by downloading a template and then trying to make their content fit.  Best practice is to design your brochure from scratch. Then, once you define who your reader is, know the purpose of your brochure and decide on the delivery method, you will naturally be led to whichever template works for your purpose. If you start with a template without proper planning, you may end up compromising on quality and end up with a brochure that is boring and anything but unique. So, plan your brochure first, think about your design, your content, your audience and then decide which format would work best.  Here are three of the main formats to get you started.

Bi-fold

Bi-fold brochures only have one fold in the middle. Their popular as they have a similar layout to a book and tend to be more of a formal design that allows you to have a cover (front and back) and your content inside like a booklet. Bi-fold is great if you have a lot of content to fit in and you don’t necessarily need to break it up into different sections.

Tri-fold

The tri-fold brochure has two folds which creates three equal sized panels. They’re a great layout for breaking up your content into multiple sections. For example, different tour packages, pricing, or product options. The way that they fold also allows you to stand them upright on display or fold them down into a compact, thin format that’s easy to hand out to people, or display in a stand.

Booklet

Booklets are great for making a big impression. They look professional and they’re something that your customers will want to keep as reference. However, for a booklet you need a lot of quality content and images to fill it.  Booklets are great for large organisations, product catalogues, real estate, or anything that requires a lot of information.

Once you’ve chosen which layout works best for you, it’s time to jump into Adobe InDesign to make your brochure. Here, you can configure the workspace to match your template so that you can see where the folds will be. This is done by using ‘gutters’ and will help you place your elements where they’re meant to be.  Use InDesign’s ‘New Document’ dialogue to select the number of ‘columns’ you want. For example, 3 columns for a tri-fold or 2 for bi-fold. Here you can also adjust the margins to allow for a ‘bleed’ so that you can make sure that everything you place will be in the printable area and won’t get cut off.

It’s often helpful to fold a real piece of paper in the same configurations as your layout and roughly sketch out your elements with a pen. This will give you an idea where everything goes and make it much easier once you get into InDesign, as you can use it as reference to work out which way each of your panels will face. You don’t want to accidentally end up with body content on your cover page or vice versa!

When you’re ready, you can then use InDesign’s ‘Print Booklet’ function to make a mock-up of your brochure and see what it looks like. Always print out a mock-up before you send your order off to the printer to get your brochure produced.

Be unique

When you’re designing a brochure, it’s very easy to get influenced by all the average looking brochures you’ve seen in the past. It’s also very easy to simply confirm to all the ‘rules’ that you know make a brochure or simply follow what we’ve previously read on how to make a brochure. However, to produce something truly unique it’s important to start from scratch, think outside the box, and plan something that stands out from the crowd. Think creatively about every element such as layout, paper type and colour scheme. If you’re having difficulty getting the creative juices flowing, you can use sites like Pinterest for inspiration. Sites like this have thousands of different ideas and include some very interesting layouts and designs.

Images

Always use high-quality, high-resolution images in your brochure. Just like it’s important to write quality content, it’s just as important to use quality images that are original and striking. Think about what the message is that you want to convey visually and choose images that tell your story. Perhaps use images that capture what it would be like owning your products or using your service. Don’t just put a boring photo of your corporate building on the front. Instead, choose images that are engaging, personal and contain people. Avoid stock images if you can or, if you can’t avoid them, at least try to choose photos that don’t look like stock images. Your images should also reflect the ‘voice’ of your brochure and complement your copy. If your product or service doesn’t suit the use of many images, then consider using patterns or textures to give your brochure visual appeal. If you’re using images as the background in your brochure, make sure that the font can still be easily read, and doesn’t get lost.

Fonts

There’s so many fonts out there and sometimes we can get a little over excited. But, when it comes to fonts, show restraint! Don’t go crazy with multiple fonts. A good rule is to use only two fonts, one for headings and one for body content. Make sure that the fonts you choose are different enough to stand out from each other. An easy way to do this is to use one Sans font and one San serif. The font you choose should also match your content. For example, if your brochure is about your organisation’s sales figures for the year then you might want to use a more formal font. However, if it’s an adventure travel brochure you might want to go for something that’s a little more casual. Always choose a font that is clear, easy to read, and one that stands out from your background. The most important thing is your reader and you don’t want to make it difficult for potential customers to digest your content.

Use shapes

Using shapes in your design is a great way to break up your content as well as draw the reader’s attention to particular elements within your brochure, such as a call to action. By using shapes, you chunk your content into more digestible bits rather than just having a wall of text. It may help to think of your brochure as a tangible infographic in the sense that it’s a way of conveying a lot of information in a visual and easily digestible format. Having text in a box also makes it clear and easy to read. Shapes can also be a great way to build perspective into your design and make your brochure visually striking.

Less is more

It may be tempting to fit every product offering and service into your brochure… but don’t. The purpose of your brochure is to build desire and awareness of your product and drive customers towards a call to action. Brochures shouldn’t be a reference guide for every product you sell. If you try to put too much information into your brochure, you will lose your reader. It’s better to put less and have the customer contact you for more information than to put too much in and have them not interested at all.

Paper quality

Use good quality, thick paper.  The better quality the paper, the more the reader will want to keep your brochure. No one likes to throw something quality in the bin! However, if you use flimsy paper that feels cheap, your brochure will be “filed appropriately” … In the trash. Using good quality materials also sends a message to your customer that you are committed to quality.

Have a call to action

Think about the purpose of your brochure. What is it you want your customers to do? Don’t assume that a potential customer will look you up online and contact you. Instead, make sure that you include a clear call to action in your brochure that guides the reader towards the next step and makes it super simple for them. Having a brochure without the call to action is like a website without a ‘buy now’ or ‘contact us’ button. Think about the customer journey for your product or service, decide what the next step is for your customer (e.g. it may be simply to buy your product over the phone, or to make a booking), then make that step super easy for your reader.

Use perspective

A brochure can be a great medium to be a rebel and break all the rules. You’re now free from the shackles of HTML and web design limitations, so go ahead and use perspective to create something that stands out. Text doesn’t have to be in a straight line and neither do images! So, come up with some creative layout ideas to give your brochure a unique depth.

Colour

Colour is one of the most important elements in your brochure. Colour is a powerful evoker of emotion so, use it wisely. Think carefully about your colour scheme and use colours that complement each other. You may already have a corporate colour scheme and want to use the same colours, or you may want to do something different. Templates such as the tri-fold allow you to be creative with colour in different sections, whereas booklets require you to think more about how the colours harmonise and complement each other as a whole. You may also want to include a texture or pattern over a flat colour to make your brochure stand out. Just always remember that readability is the most important so make sure you don’t lose your font in complex patterns or bright colours.

Having a brochure is a crucial tool in your marketing armoury but it’s a resource that requires great respect and a lot of planning. Throughout the design process you must always have the purpose of the brochure and the reader as a priority in your mind and ensure that all the design decisions you make are ones that help drive your reader towards the call to action. There’s no point having a brochure that looks interesting but doesn’t affect customer behaviour. Hopefully now you have an idea on how to make a brochure and can go forth and produce something truly amazing that your reader will want to keep and take home.