Marketing brochures can be surprisingly powerful when done right. While not cheap or quick to produce, a professionally crafted piece will convey your personal identity.

Only a fool (or soon-to-be unemployed broker) would open up shop, turn on his computer and wait for eager investors to call in.

Promoting your business requires good marketing. That's why a snazzy, eye-catching brochure is the marketing tool of choice for some reps.

But putting together a brochure is not a slam-dunk. It takes time, money, a fully developed concept and maybe a little luck when it comes to running it through a firm's compliance department.

Just ask Corinne Crabs and Angela Sutter, brokers at Salomon Smith Barney in Bellevue, Wash. The two women created an eight-page brochure designed to appeal to their target audience of high-net-worth women. The 8½-by-4-inch piece features 1920s-style spot-color photographs of wealthy women participating in leisure activities such as golf, swimming and sailing.

The text briefly describes the brokers' services and backgrounds, and SSB's WEALTH (Women Establishing A Lifetime of Financial Health) program. It includes a postage-paid response card for prospective clients.

“We wanted the image to have broad appeal while still conveying that we can address the needs of our target audience,” Sutter says. “Simple, specific and targeted,” adds Crabs, describing their objective.

The two hired both a writer and a graphic artist (at $50 and $85 an hour, respectively) and spent nine months reworking their brochure, keeping the firm's compliance department in the loop.

“We took management along with us,” Sutter says. “The firm wants to target women, but it won't do it on its own.”

The women agree that the brochure, together with a workbook provided to clients at their seminars, have boosted business. “There was an increased awareness of who we were and what we could offer high-net-worth women,” Crabs says.

“I think the most difficult part of the project was finding just the right words,” Sutter says. “Our writer did not really know that much about the finance industry so we did a lot of rewriting.”

The team's decision to hire a writer was right on, says Peter Montoya, president of Millennium Advertising in Costa Mesa, Calif. “Most brokers don't know how to write,” he says.

In addition to getting outside writing help, you must also target your market and use an image that will appeal to that audience, Montoya says. He cites a female broker who was trying to establish a niche among women clients. She uses a duck in her materials. “A duck is not intimidating. It's approachable. That image works for her.”

Define Yourself

Pretty brochures are fine, but to be effective they must define your mission as a broker first and foremost, says Brenda Purnell, marketing assistant on the Mark Purnell Team of First Union Securities in Milwaukee. “Our brochure shows that we know our business, and that is what we wanted to portray,” she says.

But getting there took time. “In preparing brochures, the bottom line is legwork,” Purnell says.

She relied on First Union's internal staff of writers, artists and compliance people in creating her team's brochure.

“We had several three-way conferences, explaining what we wanted in content, color and quality,” Purnell says. “The firm submitted mock-ups along the way.” After three months and five different mock-ups, The Purnell Group has a “referral tool” she calls “phenomenal.”

The Purnells ordered 500 copies and figure the total cost is about $12 a copy. Expensive, to be sure, but Purnell would not change the approach. Her advice: “Get the content right; don't do it quick just to have a brochure.”

Get Personal

Janice Hoffmann, a broker for the Hoffmann-Trinca Team of Salomon Smith Barney in Claremont, Calif., says a good brochure should include “a personal touch, something that gives clients a flavor of the broker as a person.”

Hoffmann's brochure features pictures of her and her broker husband Larry, in casual clothes, strolling the grounds of the colorful Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden with their dogs. Scenic vistas and photos of native vegetation make her brochure look almost like a tourist guide. Adding even more personal flavor are pictures of the Hoffmanns interacting with clients. They hired a professional ad agency and a photographer for the package. Although the Hoffmanns paid for the brochure, SSB does not want them to disclose the cost.

“Dealing with finances is a very personal issue,” Janice says. “This brochure humanizes us. We go on walks, we meet clients, we have dogs. Clients know us as people first, and often ask ‘How are the dogs?’”

Be Yourself

Perhaps the biggest mistake a rep can make in creating a brochure is not being truthful.

“Don't create a piece that doesn't truly explain who you are,” says Ben Marks, a broker in The Marks Group of UBS PaineWebber in Wayzata, Minn. “You have to be yourself.”

He says brokers have to walk a fine line. They have to develop a brand identity for themselves as well as accommodate the firm's compliance department.

His “brochure” is a six-page statement of philosophy, strategy and description of the team members of The Marks Group. It's contained in a presentation folder with both The Marks Group and firm's logo on the cover. “I tried to leverage the UBS PaineWebber name and resources to my own benefit,” he says.

Those resources include people in the compliance department, which Marks aims to embrace and not alienate. “Don't look at compliance as an ‘us-and-them’ situation,” he says. “Connect with the individual you're working with and make them a team partner. Your brochure should be a team effort.”

And when you think it's ready for the printer, check it again. “Scour that thing looking for a missing period or dropped comma,” Marks says. “You cannot spend too much time reviewing it. It tells people who you are and what separates you from the competition.”

The spare-no-expense attitude is shared by another broker in the Southeast who refuses to share his brochure. “I spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on this brochure,” says the rep at a regional firm. The quality of the piece “says a lot about how we do things,” he adds. He credits it for bringing in $5 million in a one-week period. “But … I'm not about to give this away to some guy in Des Moines.”

Five Points for a Powerful Brochure

Peter Montoya, founder of Millennium Advertising in Costa Mesa, Calif., and author of the personal marketing book, “The Brand Called You,” teaches brokers how to create brochures. He insists effective pieces are built using these five concepts:

  1. Give your brochure one focus. Hit on a single benefit, feature or value that you offer.
  2. Make it 75% to 100% personal. People want to know about you. Business and products will come later.
  3. Write it right. Make it third person, objective and narrative. Avoid using bullet points. Break up text with headlines, sub-headlines and quotes. Always be positive. Never use an anecdote based on a bad experience.
  4. Go for a knockout cover. That means full color with landscape, scenery and people. “Never put a mug shot or logo on the cover. People see that and assume ‘boring financial service.’ You want to invite them — not repel them,” Montoya says.
  5. Get a high-quality printing job and use heavy gloss paper.

Registered Representative welcomes your comments on this story. Contact Senior Writer Tom Nelson at Thomas_Nelson@Intertec.com or call our editorial department at 800/621-0720.