The phone rings. Good news... it's a potential client. You say, "Thanks for calling, I'll send you our brochure."
But what should you really be sending them?
I'm often asked to review brochures or asked about brochure design. But before I make any comments I always ask one question-
"Why do you think you need a brochure?"
Often there's an awkward silence before the answer comes. "Because we need one to send to customers."
Do you really need a brochure?
The desire to have a brochure is often automatic. But if you run a service business I suggest you consider all your options. The usual type of brochure that most businesses use may not be your best solution. Read on, and get a few ideas on why you might want to save your marketing money for something that really helps you.
When a potential customer contacts you it is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of your field. You can help your customer make a more informed decision about using your type of services. Remember, one of the critical factors in marketing your service business is to instil trust in you. Customers must first come to trust you and understand how you can help them before they will use you. Education is often the key.
The problem with most brochures is they are focused on 'what' the business does, or 'who' the people are, or 'where' the business is located. This is all good information but it won't help your customer to trust you. There's little educational value.
Keep in mind that your potential customer probably has other brochures from other firms that also talk about their "latest equipment", "highly trained staff", "years of experience" and "friendly customer service".
How do you send out the brochure?
Another factor to consider when deciding on whether you need a brochure is how you will send it out. Many firms send a covering letter with the brochure. In this letter they often say the same things as in the brochure, listing the services provided, pricing and contact details. So why do you need the brochure?
In many cases a personalised letter from the business owner will have more impact than a simple brochure. Plus, in the letter you can focus on the main issue for that particular customer, making an even stronger impression. Of course you can save time by using a template, so you don't need to completely re-write the letter each time. And as you would expect, a letter is much less expensive to produce than a brochure.
Be honest... how often do you sit down and fully read a brochure. You're not alone. Usually it's a quick scan, a brief look at any pictures, and drop in the bin (or the "to do later" pile).
Even large firms have trouble using brochures. One client of mine, a state office of a large engineering firm, doesn't like using its corporate brochure because it has too much of an international focus. They find the brochure doesn't address the needs of their clients.
What else can you do?
Marketing a service business requires a bit more thought than just placing pictures of your equipment, staff or premises in a brochure. Give potential customers a reason to trust you. Minimise their risk by giving them helpful information. Be different - most businesses don't do it!
If we think about building trust, there's a few ways we can go about it. Instead of the usual brochure, why not try one of the following:
-?A checklist to help customers decide what they really need to do.
-?Tips on how to minimise their need for your type of services.
-?An impartial fact sheet on why the problem occurs, giving the customer some background on the issue.
-?An information sheet on your business including client testimonials, success stories, case studies, and some history of the business. Remember to make it about customer benefits, not just about you.
-?A reference list of associated information sources, so the customer can see how much there is to know about your field.
-?If you offer a range of services, develop a series of information cards so you can send only the ones each customer wants. They'll look great with your cover letter!
-?Some services (accountants come to mind) have lots of helpful data (such as tax and depreciation rates) that can be shown on a small pocket card or folder.
(Remember, all these items can be produced cost effectively on your letterhead, special paper or printed on coloured card. Even large firms can use the same concepts.)
At this point you might be thinking, "Great, I could put some helpful tips in my brochure." That's a good start. Please note, I'm not against using brochures. (After all, the definition of a brochure varies widely.) I'm just suggesting there is often a smarter way to use your communication opportunity.
And if you're worried that by giving your potential customers information, they won't want to use your services, then maybe you should think again. After all, as a customer, none of us want to pay for a service we don't really need.
Have the courage to tell your customers what they need to know. Give them a reason to trust your expertise. Reassure them that you have their best interests at heart.
And there are some great benefits from educating your customers. You'll find you face fewer customer complaints, and attract a better standard of client. Because you have shown integrity and given the customer information, they will trust you more and be less inclined to complain about trivial matters. Give it a go.
What's that I hear - you want me to send you some information. Sure. I'll send you a broch... oops... I mean one of our fact sheets.
(c) 2004 Stuart Ayling
Stuart Ayling runs Marketing Nous, an Australasian marketing consultancy that specialises in marketing for service businesses. He helps clients to improve their marketing tactics, attract more clients, and increase revenue. For additional marketing resources, including Stuart's popular monthly newsletter, visit his web site at www.marketingnous.com.au