Brochures are Total BS.

Last Updated Dec 18, 2007 9:21 AM EST

Brochure are Total BSI've been thinking about this for some time and it seems to me that brochures are pretty much as waste of paper and ink, not to mention time and resources. I know that most marketing folk swear by them, but frankly, I don't think that many top sales professional use them, particularly in B2B environments. While there is one (very weak) reason for having a brochure, here's what I've noticed:
  • They're too product-oriented. Most B2B sales involve outsourcing a function, which means a combination of products and services customized to meet a particular customer's unique situation. A brochure, by it's nature, can only describe the products or services, and not the business impact of customized outsourcing, which is what the customer is actually buying.
  • They're ridiculously cheesy. Brochures for B2B products are often full of pictures of grade-B photographer's models pretending that they're business people, along with strings of dopey buzzwords and biz blab. (I realize that these are attempts to sell "benefits" but they're usual so awful!) Much of the time the brochure is just at multi-page advertisement -- with no reason (like an accompanying article) to bother to open it.
  • They're redundant or out-of-date. In most cases, the brochure is a subset of what's available on the website. While I'm no fan of "brochure-ware" websites they do have the advantage of providing depth (like detailed case-studies, white papers, etc.) and they can be updated to reflect product changes, news stories and other information that timely. In today's fast-moving world, a brochure, once printed, is generally out of date.
  • Nobody reads them. Answer honestly. Have you ever read a brochure? I've probably received several hundred over the years and I've never, ever read a brochure. Maybe I glanced at the cover and read the headline, but nothing more. And remember, as somebody who writes about high tech, I actually have (theoretically at least) a reason to read the damn things. I'll be surprised if any admits to having read one.
  • They're expensive. Brochures must be written, edited, reviewed, laid out, re-edited, re-reviewed, re-laid out, and then printed, generally in 4 color on glossy paper. It's not at all unusual for a brochure with a print run of 20,000 to cost $100,000 or more. That's a lot of money for a document that's out of date immediately, and which nobody is likely to actually read.
  • They encourage lousy sales practices. There's this entire "I'll send you a brochure" thing that goes on in sales cycle. It's suppose to be a way to keep the prospect interested, but in my opinion, it's really just a way to make the sales rep think that a deal is still alive when in fact it's already dead as a dog. I simply don't believe that sending somebody a fancy piece of paper that's going directly into the circular file cabinet is going to do anything to move a sale forward.
The only justification that I can find for having a fancy brochure is that the fact that your company is willing to spend that kind of cash for something essentially useless is an indication that you're "really in business" and serious about your products. It's kind of like a guy buying a $50,000 car to impress the girls at the local watering hole. He figures that they'll figure that, if he's got that kind of money to waste, he's got some extra to waste on them.

Of course, a fancy brochure has the exact opposite effect on me. Whenever I see a fancy brochure, I figure that the company is inefficient, burdened by a marketing group that's wasting money. And my opinion of the company -- as reflected in what I write -- suffers. But that's just me. I suppose there must be some benighted souls out there who think that a fancy brochure bequeaths legitimacy. Otherwise they'd disappear from the face of the business world.

What do you think? Have you ever had a sales opportunity develop or close as the result of a brochure?
Seriously: if somebody out there thinks they're useful, I want to know.