Writing Brochures: Less is More

It was one of those awkward moments.

I was sitting with a marketing director for a senior housing agency. She asked me to review the company brochures and make recommendations.

The three brochures had a good look overall with appropriate images, but way too much content. It was a challenge to find their website or contact information among all the information.

I tactfully explained that with a brochure, less is more.

Since the reader needs to find out quickly if the service they see on the brochure is what they need, they only need the basic facts. Details can be left for later in a phone call, follow-up content, or placed on the company website.

“I would condense some of the content,” I said, trying to sound diplomatic.

I explained the good points of the brochures while letting her know the wording should be cut down.

Then, as if she didn’t hear a word I said, she proceeded with “Oh yeah, I need to add more about our finance process.”

I’m not sure what she heard, but she definitely did not get the point. Maybe I was too diplomatic.

I have seen this happen more than once. Business owners believe they have to put everything they know on a brochure.

I’m sure it is because they are afraid the customer won’t get the information they need to continue the conversation with the company. But actually, just the opposite is true.

Have you ever picked up a brochure and started reading it, only to find it was boring, bogged down with wordiness? You have to wade through tons of content just to find what you want to know. Most people will not take the time to finish it.

It’s important to remember the purpose of a brochure is to get a potential customer on the phone or to their website. It should be structured in a way that makes the customer take the next step.

The brochure can’t be expected to do all the heavy-lifting.

There is not enough room, even on a trifold, to go into detail about what makes your widget function or the engineering that goes into the widget.

A brochure should give just enough information to highlight the benefits of the widget, so the customer will think, “This is something I need.”

Most important of all is to emphasize how to contact you, how to get to your website, and a call-to-action.

If the customer does not know you or your company, the brochure is their first contact. It needs to appear helpful and encourage the customer to find out more.

And it doesn’t matter if the business is selling a product or a service. The same principles apply.

I was given a brochure by a representative of a medical imaging company at a recent conference I attended. It was a trifold with a few small images.

The content almost covered the entire brochure, with a word count approaching 800! It was tedious and too detailed to read. It did not hold my attention.

Not only that, but the Flesch-Kincaid (FK) score was 9.4, way too high for the average reader. Here is a sample from that brochure, reworded to keep me out of legal trouble but with the same style and tone:

The imaging staff will escort you into the MRI room for the next phase of your appointment. An MRI technologist will explain the exam and answer any questions you may have. A comfortably padded table is provided for you and the technologist will help you lie down. A device called a “coil” will be wrapped around your body part to be examined for optimal imaging. Please inform the technologist at any time during the procedure if you are uncomfortable and they will make necessary adjustments. When you are properly positioned and comfortable, the technologist will guide the scanning table into the MRI opening.

This is only a third of the content used to explain what would happen during an MRI.

I understand why the company believed they should explain everything about having an MRI — it’s common for people to feel claustrophobic and fearful of the sounds they hear during the MRI. The imaging staff needs the patient to relax during the procedure, or else it won’t be completed.

The company had the right idea in mind when they developed the brochure. However, those details are better left for patient educational materials, something they could give the patient once the test is scheduled.

Here is how I would revise the brochure:

Feeling Nervous About Getting an MRI? Do You Have Trouble with Closed-in Places?

  • We will get you through it! Our technicians are experts in setting your mind at ease.
  • They have helped hundreds of patients finish the test, even when they thought they couldn’t.
  • You can do it too!

Call [number] for more details. We will send you the patient instruction packet. Or, you can go to the website [URL] for more information.

Simple, to the point, and it gets the patient on the phone or to the website for more information.

There are other tips on writing brochures to keep in mind too.

Bullet statements catch the eye much better than a string of sentences. There should be plenty of white space and images. That helps people “skim” and determine if the product or service will help them.

Break up content with helpful sub headlines and avoid big blocks of text.

Keep the Flesch-Kincaid score under 8. This is especially important in health care, where there is a wide range of educational levels among patients. The target audience may read at the fifth-grade level or the twelfth-grade level. The lower the FK score, the better.

If you are helping clients with a brochure, show them how less is more.

The goal is to get the prospective customer on the phone or to the company website for more information.

If the brochure is loaded with too much content, then the reader may stop reading.

Think of the brochure as if it were a business card.

You can’t get everything about your business on a card. Nor should you expect to do that with a brochure.

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Published: April 11, 2019

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