You only get one chance to make a good first impression. A key part of successful marketing is your brochure, and many consumers will decide whether or not to call you based on it. Your brochure—not you—defines your image. You might get only one shot, so make it a good one.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. Being able to identify your own may be difficult, but it can be very beneficial. Some weaknesses can be improved quickly, but others may require so much time that it may not be worth the effort. If design is not one of your natural talents, you need to recognize that and hire a professional for your marketing materials. But if you intend to create your own business brochure, start by collecting good brochures and make note of the design details that make them outstanding.
The Goal of a Brochure
The main purpose of a contractor’s brochure is to:
- generate sales leads;
- provide documentation to justify higher prices; and
- sell additional services.
In short, a brochure’s goal is to sell more contracting services to more people, more often, for more money.
Bad Brochures Un-Sell
A quality brochure implies that you are a veteran contractor, and a cheap brochure implies that you are new to the business. If you are a veteran contractor with a home-printed, cheap brochure, you will look new to the business. By the same token, a high-quality brochure makes the statement that you’re a pro, even if you’re just starting out. A brochure can sell or un-sell. It’s up to you.
Many construction product manufacturers offer brochures that you can adapt for your company’s use. Some even offer to help pay for you to have them printed. But they aren’t helping you by paying to print your brochure—you’re helping them pay for theirs. They’re promoting themselves and their product, not you. So don’t use them. You can have your own brochure that is equally professional-looking and that works solely for your business, and not someone else’s.
Delivering the Message
If your brochure design is just a hodgepodge of material without a well-planned, focused message, don’t even print it. What is the message you want to convey? Answer:
I am the quality contractor you want to hire.
Your headlines are often all that are read. If you can say the same thing using fewer words, do it. The reader is scanning your brochure, so your headlines should read like that of a news story. Brochures are nothing more than garbage on the way to the trash can. Your job is to get a message delivered on the way to the trash, so keep your headlines short. If you must break a long headline by continuing on to a second line so that it fits on a tri-fold brochure, try to find a natural break, with the second line being longer than the first, if possible. But breaking at the natural pause takes precedence.
ABC Contracting is Num-
ber One in Kentucky.
ABC Contracting is
Number One in Kentucky
is Number One in Kentucky
Another mistake is to put a period at the end of a headline. Periods stop the reader from going further. Their use may also be wrong in terms of the rules of punctuation. In headlines in marketing materials, just skip them.
Nothing to Brag About
Avoid “minimum expectation” taglines or slogans. For example:
Thorough and friendly service is our motto.
Your service had better be thorough and friendly! There is general overuse of the words “thorough,” “professional” and “quality” within the construction industry. Avoid such cliché adjectives. Here’s a better slogan:
Done once, done right.
Words that Sell
The overall impression your brochure conveys is more important than the actual information. There are certain words that sell construction services.
- “You” and “your”:Talk directly to your reader. Instead of writing, “Our clients receive the service…” try, “You will receive the service…”
- “I”: If you’re a one-man operation, say so. Customers seek personal service. Instead of writing, “Our company’s goal is… “ or “We at ABC Contracting seek to…” try, “I will perform…”
- “Easy”:Home buyers don’t want their lives made more difficult at this time.
So, write: “The plans will be easy to read and understand.”
- “Professional”: As in, “I am a member of the International Association of Professional Contractors.”
A picture of you is a must. You’re not selling a product… you’re selling yourself. You are the product. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but many people do, so reconsider using your picture if you:
- look very overweight. It implies that you can’t do the work yourself.
- look very young. It implies that you are inexperienced.
- look like a mass murderer.
If you’re male and have a ponytail, hide it in the photograph. You want the reader to identify with you. Keep your picture as simple as possible. Consider using digital air-brushing to touch up your photo.
Other Photos & Images
Make sure each picture earns its keep. A picture of a house within a contracting brochure is a waste of prime advertising space. Each picture should help sell your service. Perhaps the photo could be of you working at a jobsite. Sell yourself. You cannot bore people into hiring you.
Don’t Be Silly
Avoid cartoons. Cartoon graphics do not present a professional image. Would a professional engineer use cartoons? And don’t use puns or clever plays on words. Strike the right tone.
Make sure every photo and illustration has a caption below it. Each caption must be an ad within itself. Each caption must promise the reader a benefit. Also, a picture of a finished project is smart. Ads for cooking ingredients always show a photo of the finished dish.
Add a few quotes from satisfied agents and clients. The use of short references works, but you should always get permission first.
Don’t include anonymous quotes, which can be dismissed as fake. Testimonials must include a name and a city. Only credible testimonials work. Do clean them up to make them error-free, but don’t change their content.
TIP: To assure believability, ask your clients for permission to display their pictures next to their testimonials.
Make Them Want You
Make your list of qualifications as long as possible. List your direct work experience, your licenses, your special training and qualifications, and any higher education you’ve acquired (including the name of the school), even if your degree is not directly related to your business.
White space is a tool to use sparingly. Make lists of related items compact. Then use white or blank space around them to clarify and set off those groupings of related items. Be consistent with the spacing and margins throughout the brochure, but don’t overdo it. Give your readers enough information to hire you. Direct-mail advertisers use long body copy because it works (and they know it). Your list of qualifications can practically run right off the bottom of the brochure, as if you didn’t have enough room to list them all.
List the fact that you carry general liability insurance, and specify that your employees are fully covered by workers’ compensation. Always offset your premium costs by exploiting your policy for marketing purposes.
The following is text you could adapt to add to the inside of your brochure (preferably on the right-hand side). It’s a promise. Include a headshot of yourself looking straight into the camera, positioned above the promise. Also, add your signature on a slight angle below it. Few people will actually read the promise word for word, but the message will be conveyed nonetheless.
My Promise to You
Choosing the right contractor can be difficult. Different contractors have varying qualifications, equipment, experience, work ethics and, yes, different pricing. One thing for sure is that your project requires experience and expertise. Ultimately, a successful project depends heavily on the contractor’s effort. If you honor me by permitting me to do your project, I guarantee that I will give you my very best effort. This, I promise you.
Certifications and Affiliations
Include logos in your brochure that demonstrate third-party certifications and qualifications, and other relevant affiliations. They should go on the back of your brochure.
Your contact information should be one local phone number and one professional email address. Avoid toll-free numbers. Avoid filler words, such as “Call today!” Every unnecessary thing you include diminishes the important points you are trying to convey. And put your contact information at the bottom of your brochure. Readers will first look for the phone number near the bottom.
Placement of Your Company Name
Make sure that your company name is at the top of the front of your brochure and not the bottom. Brochure holders used for display on countertops at businesses are designed such that they obscure the text that may be at the bottom of the brochures.
TIP: Read this article on Logos and Taglines for Contractors.
Help Them Read
People are accustomed to reading words that appear in lower case. Using all capital letters is a mistake in that it makes it harder for the reader to recognize the words. All caps tend to be read letter by letter. When in doubt, avoid ALL CAPS.
Avoid using many different font types, sizes and colors. It diminishes the continuity of your brochure. Stick to two fonts: one for headlines and one for the body text. “Impact” fonts are best reserved for headings. Impact fonts command attention, and they help the reader determine what’s important. Choose a serif font for the body text. Serif fonts exist for a purpose: they help the reader’s eye pick up the shape of the letter. Bolding and italicizing do not necessarily count as separate fonts. However, only use them to add emphasis and clarity. And never use comic fonts… you are a professional, not an entertainer.
Check your spelling and grammar. By the way, it’s “peace of mind” and not “piece of mind,” and your automatic spellchecker won’t catch that one!
Size your brochure to fit in a #10 envelope. You’ll want to be able to mail it, so make sure it fits in a standard business-size envelope. Furthermore, most brochure display holders are made to accommodate this size.
Use heavy cardstock. Brochures printed on your home printer using 20-pound paper look cheap and flop over in a display holder. Cardstock is not expensive. Gloss paper with bold colors creates an upscale image. Plain copier paper creates a poor image.
Avoid light-colored ink. It’s simply too hard to read. Light-colored ink is also difficult to copy and fax. If your brochure has light-colored ink, try test-copying and faxing it to yourself to make sure it comes through. Also, avoid reverse copy (white or light-colored text on a dark background).
If you’re having your brochures printed professionally, make sure that, upon final payment, all film, color separations, artwork, etc., become your property. This leaves you free to switch printing companies and keeps you from becoming a captive customer.
More than One Weapon
Consider having a separate brochure for every target audience. Remember, your brochure is not likely to be read by the public at large; rather, it’s intended for a targeted clientele. If you create more than one version of your brochure, keep them all consistent in their overall look so that your brand isn’t obscured by a new design. Just as you may have different business cards for your different services and specialties, they still readily identify one brand—yours.
TIP: It costs the same to print a good brochure as it does to print a bad one. The only difference is in their results.
If you’re planning to have only 1,000 brochures printed, you’re planning to fail.
A contractor’s brochure, like all marketing, is a catalyst or a magnifier. If you offer a poor service, marketing will lead you to your demise quicker. If you do good work, marketing will magnify it. Your brochure is only second to YOU as the key ingredient in achieving success. If you are a good contractor, you have an ethical duty to market so that more of your fellow citizens can learn about and benefit from your good work. It is so sad to see a good contractor with a bad brochure.
Business cards are so inexpensive that it’s affordable to have different business cards for the different contracting services you specialize in. If you’re going on an appointment for a particular service, bring your corresponding business card.
Tips for Business Cards
- Use the back of your different business cards to emphasize each different service you offer.
- Make sure that your full-color logo is on the front.
- Make sure that your full contact information is on them, including your website address and “red phone” number for new business.
You should also consider getting a business card holder for the outside of your work vehicle. Some manufacturers sell card holders with suction cups so that you can attach one to your truck. At the jobsite, place it on the exterior of your truck on the side that faces foot traffic.