I think I need a brochure?

Or what you should ask yourself before planning a new marketing piece.


I’ve had countless discussions with clients about brochures they thought they needed. Many business owners think they need a standard three-fold brochure because that’s a common piece everyone has. Vistaprint, UPS and Staples constantly have sales on them. So you must need one, right?

In some cases this is completely true, and your customers would be lost without a brochure. There are at least two or three take-out menus around my fridge at this point, and they all utilize that three-fold style. In other cases, these brochures sit in a box in a storage room and go to waste. No one’s further ahead when this happens.

The discussion I have with clients doesn’t always revolve around a brochure; this is a common problem that crops up with all marketing pieces. You may think you need an app because all cool companies have one now. Your sister-in-law’s company just bought some billboard advertising and she’s told you that’s the path to go. Someone handed you a really cool die-cut business card and you really want that “wow” factor too.

Whatever communication vehicle you’re considering to deliver your message, there are seven questions you should ask yourself before investing in any new marketing piece.

  1. Who is using it?
  2. How is it being used?
  3. Where is it being displayed or distributed?
  4. What’s the primary message?
  5. Is there value to this piece?
  6. What’s the goal of this piece?
  7. What’s my budget?


Once you’ve answered all these (and hopefully easily, so you know you’re on the right track) ask this one final question: “Is this the most effective way to communicate my message to this audience and achieve the response I want?”

To answer this, look over your seven previous responses. Does anything stand out? Does every answer make sense? Did you not fully answer any of the questions? If not, why? How can you address this?

If you don’t know how someone is getting your brochure in their hand, or what the goal of the piece is, you may want to rethink your strategy. How can you easily distribute to your target audience? You need a proper distribution method for the piece to be effective. There’s no point of having thousands of brochures sitting in your storage room unused, or being tossed out because they’ve become dated.

You don’t always need to rethink your plans for a marketing piece, but asking these questions is essential before beginning the process – and a big part of a discussion you should be having with your design and marketing team. As a graphic designer, I’m a visual problem solver. My role with clients is to create a solution for their company and make their lives easier. Having brochures (or any project) go to waste doesn’t make me feel like I’ve helped a company in any way. Nobody needs another frivolous expense.

There are no standard marketing pieces you need in your arsenal. You only need the piece that communicates your message in the best possible way to your audience. If you don’t have that, rethink that next piece until you do.