This article was written by Pim van Baarsen, co-founder of marketing agency CMA Silverstone. The company produces on- and off-line marketing materials for a range of clients, and also offers the strategic input to ensure any marketing programmes reach their full potential. CMA Silverstone operates primarily in the technical and professional sectors, with a specialism in the motorsport and automotive industries and in 2011 won the MIA Service to the Industry Business Excellence Award.

Brochures, leaflets, flyers and all that; why bother? In this day and age, these things are dead, right? Social media, mobile marketing, blogging, text messaging and all the other modern stuff has killed it, right?

Well, wasn’t TV going to kill the radio? Wasn’t the video recorder going to kill cinema? They were, and yet they are still around. And so will good, old, paper-based corporate literature. If done right, of course…

Truth is, paper-based corporate literature still has an important role to play in today’s B2B marketing mix. Just as with any other piece of marketing its about getting the right message across, to the right person, at the right time. And as with all other pieces of marketing, there are good, even great, ways to do it, and then there are less good ways…

So what makes effective corporate literature?

The first two things that have probably sprung to mind are design and copywriting/content, but let’s start at the beginning: purpose. Once you’ve decided a hardcopy piece is the way to go, you most likely will already have a use for it in mind; but let’s refine this a little and really dig down with some key questions;
  • What are you looking for the piece to do? Inform the client? Persuade them to buy? Invite a response? Think carefully about what you want the piece to achieve as this will have a huge impact on the design and content
  • Who is the piece for? Is it really “one size fits all” or are there different pieces needed to talk to different target groups? If you do want to produce a single piece for multiple groups (perhaps a corporate brochure, say), ensure that every group responds to the piece in the way you want them to; carefully consider the layout and content and try to create a “guided route” through the piece for each audience, so that what they read is meant for them and (hopefully) respond to it in the way you desire.
Taking time to define who the piece is for and what you want them to do with it, will allow you to create a focused and effective piece of corporate literature.

But it’s got to look good, right?

Of course, the design of the piece is very important and you have to ensure that the “look and feel” of the piece appeals to your target audience. But don’t forget that we live in the modern world and your corporate literature piece is unlikely to be the only thing they see from your company, especially after you have raised their interest. So do think carefully how your piece fits in with your overall company presence, including that within the social media spaces. Allow the reader the opportunity to find out more about your company and/or products on-line. If they are easily able to identify the piece as being a part of your overall marketing it will help build confidence.

And the copy? Not too wordy, less is more and all that?

Copywriting of your hardcopy piece is hugely important. We have all heard about needing a perfect headline, conveying product benefits and ensuring you have a compelling call to action, and there is a lot to be said for that, but let’s make it a little more basic.

What, really, is the purpose of the first line? The purpose of the first line is to get the reader to read the second. And the second line? To read the third. And the third line?... You get the picture. The way to make a persuasive point (or cause a reaction) is all about how you get there; sentence by sentence.

Bearing this in mind we can now more easily appreciate why we need that compelling headline. We also now understand why focussing on the benefit to the reader is as important as people always say. Without that, and the strong call to action, you simply won’t engage your reader enough for them to want to read the next line.

This also means that less is not always more. The basic rule of copy length is simple; it needs to be as long as necessary, but no longer. Some products need more explanation than others; some audiences want more information than others, and sometimes you just need more copy to get the reader to the response you desire. Your copy should be engaging and relevant. As long as it is, people will keep reading.

Anything else?

As we live in the world we have today, your traditional hard copy piece of corporate literature simply cannot stand alone, so try and embrace the modern world; reference and promote your social media platforms where relevant and of course guide people to your website where they can find further information about what they have read.

Also do not forget that with the advent of QR codes, you can now extend the reach of your hard copy piece directly into the online space; imagine you have a product demonstration video on-line; putting a QR code linking to this on the relevant page/image will allow the reader to view your product in action, directly from the hard copy.

As you can see, it is entirely possible to create an effective piece of literature that fits in perfectly with (and even extend into) your company’s presence on-line and in other media.