Developing the right brochure

Developing the right brochure for your firm

Marketing Clinic

By   John C. Thomas
JOHN C. THOMAS is the president of Market Development Resources, a Dallas marketing consulting and services firm.

C PAs often spend thousands of dollars and several months developing brochures that prospective clients glance at and throw away. However, when they are created wisely, brochures not only increase the firm's visibility but they also improve the public's understanding of the kinds of services the firm can offer.

When planning a new brochure, CPAs should ask four essential questions. Their answers will help them develop brochures that will not kill the marketing budget, will complement practice development activities and, most important, will attract new clients.

You must determine if the brochure targets only one or all types of clients. Brochures can be used to offer details for decision makers and address issues for a specific industry, or they can be developed to highlight all the firm's services. For example, the latter kind of brochure can be distributed at career fairs to find prospective employees. Once you know what audience you want to attract, you can determine whether several short, targeted brochures are more appropriate than a more general one. Remember also that your competitors will be reading your brochures.

There are three traditional types of brochures-firm overview, product-service-specific and industry-specific. Each should be developed based on its purpose: to be left behind after a presentation, to use as a prop to support a presentation or to be sent to anyone, prospective client or not, interested in your firm.

Because many prospective clients simply choose audit and tax services based on the price of the service, consider making the most out of the consulting services your firm offers. Take a look at competitors' brochures and determine what makes your firm unique. Personalize the brochure by replacing phrases such as "we are" or "we have" with "you receive" or "this benefits you by." This helps the prospective client relate the firm's services to his or her needs. Also, it never hurts to include a few case studies and client quotes-they have a greater impact on a prospective client than pages of public relations copy.

Don't build obsolescence into the brochure. One midsize CPA firm listed office locations on the back of its brochure-which made the brochure outdated the very day the sales team received it because the firm had opened new branches. Avoid picturing a partner in the brochure-if he or she leaves the firm, the brochure is practically useless.

The firm's core services-such as audit, tax and consulting services-are best suited for the main body of copy. Print potentially dated material, such as office locations, telephone numbers, rsums, case histories and photographs on inserts that can be replaced easily. Updating inserts is also the quickest and cheapest way to revise a brochure.

As a rule, five inserts is the maximum. Nothing is more unprofessional than a brochure with inserts falling on the floor or sliding out when the brochure hits the prospect's desk.

There are basic folders with inexpensive photocopied inserts, and there are slick, elegant and expensive brochures created by PR firms or your marketing department's graphic artists. The total cost of a brochure varies depending on cover design, paper quality and print quantity. Tell your marketer what your total budget is before he or she gets started.

Generally, there are three stages to producing the brochure: copy development, production and printing. Costs to develop copy are largely fixed and do not depend on whether you print 50 or 5,000 copies. Expect to spend as much as $5,000 for theme development, market and competitive positioning analysis, copy writing and editing. The production stage includes laying out the copy, illustrations and photographs, selecting the color combinations and paper and developing a draft of the brochure to be used by the printer. Freelance graphic artists can charge anywhere from $40 to $100 per hour, depending on their experience. This stage can cost between $15,000 and $30,000. When you print the brochure, it is important to negotiate the best price with the printer. The more copies you produce, the lower your unit cost. A four-color, eight-page brochure could range from $2 to $10 per copy, depending on the number printed. Remember, the total cost includes the CPA's time spent in developing it.

The brochure is a tangible reminder of your firm and what it offers. Carefully evaluating a brochure's strategic intent can position the CPA firm as an industry leader and ensure the firm gets a good return on its investment.

Editor's Note
The Journal omitted the biography of the author of the October 1996 Marketing Clinic: Deborah W. Heslop is a sales and marketing consultant based in Beverly, Massachusetts. She specializes in new business development efforts with a bottom line focus: increasing revenue and expanding the client base. For further information, she can be reached at 508-922-3881.

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