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How to Use Brochure Printing for Your Business

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising, and public relations.

A brochure can be a simple affair or an elaborate show piece for marketing a business. It all depends on the purpose it will serve.

Brochures are typically multi-page printed documents that are distributed to target audiences to describe and promote a business' products, services, or efforts.

Common Uses for a Brochure

  • Product and service information
  • Catalogs
  • Financial prospectus documents to potential investors
  • Fundraising for nonprofits and charities
  • Membership solicitations for associations and clubs
  • Student recruitment for colleges and schools
  • Public service information for safety, health and community services
  • Instructions
  • Political campaigns

Common brochure distribution venues and methods include:

  • Trade shows and expos
  • Travel hubs such as airports and hotels promoting local attractions and services
  • In reply to inquiries, delivered by mail or in person
  • Direct mail to target audiences based on their demographics
  • In retail locations, primarily for more expensive products and services that require additional review prior to purchase (e.g., auto dealers, catering)
  • As inserts in order shipments or in retail packaging for instructions or to promote related products and services

Because of the printing expense, green efforts to go paperless and more reliance on online information, printed brochures are used less often than in the past. However, a well-organized and beautifully printed physical brochure can often make a significant impression since it engages multiple senses (vision, touch) which can improve chances of making a sale. Carefully evaluate whether the intended audience is more likely to respond to an online or printed piece.

How to Write a Brochure

Writing a brochure should lead the reader through the sales process, whether that means selling products, participation, or ideas. Following the AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) sales model has been a time-tested method to lead to a successful sale.

Following the AIDA model, the printed segments of the brochure would be as follows:

  • Attention: Cover.
  • Interest and Desire: Inner pages.
  • Action: Last page(s) and/or back cover.

Hire a Graphic Designer or Design In-House?

If the brochures will be printed on a desktop printer or at a photocopy shop, designing in house is certainly appropriate. Many office word processing and publishing programs have built-in templates that can be used.

But for any commercially printed brochures, hiring an experienced graphic designer is a must! The expense of reprinting if something goes wrong can be significant. Some commercial printers can also offer brochure layout and design services for an additional fee.

6 Types of Brochures

While a brochure can technically be of any length and size, there are some common brochure sizes and layouts that will affect how the written material will be presented. The following are some of the most common types of brochures.

1. Rack Cards

Usually these have a front and back and are designed to fit in a brochure rack. Size is typically 3-1/2" x 8-1/2" (or very close to it) which is about one-third of a standard letter size sheet of paper. Because they need to stand in a rack, they are usually printed on cardstock. They can be printed on one or both sides.

2. Rack Brochures

Similar in final folded size to rack brochures, these are multi-page pieces that read like a book or are a larger sheet of paper folded to fit into a rack (see trifold discussion below).

3. Multi-Page Brochures

Around the size of a typical letter size sheet of paper, these full size brochures also read like a book. The can open on either the short or long side of the paper.

4. Trifold Brochures

The brochures are constructed with one sheet of paper segmented into three separate panels on front and back. These can be either letter or legal size sheet folded to 3-1/2" x 8-1/2" or a very large sheet folded to about the size of an 8-1/2" x 11" letter size sheet. These can be paper or light card stock.

Example of Z-fold brochure.

Example of Z-fold brochure.

5. Z-Fold Brochures

A variation on the trifold brochure, Z-fold brochures are usually scored (or creased) in the same places, but instead of folding the last panel inward, it is folded backwards. Depending on the design, the front or back can be used as the front cover.

6. Custom Brochures

This is where brochure printing gets very expensive! Custom designed brochures can have a variety of features including:

  • Folder pockets
  • Die-cut slits to hold business cards.
  • Perfect binding (book-like construction with a spine)
  • Special fold-out pages
  • Custom die cuts to shape (e.g. front cover could be a page in the shape of a semi-circle)
  • Varnish effects (clear gloss applied to spot areas or to the entire cover)
  • Metallic inks

It's only limited by the imagination of the client and graphic designer... and the budget!

Brochure Printing Options

Brochures can be simple black-and-white (B/W) all the way up to full color glossy jobs. Here are printing options available along with cost considerations:

  • Ink Jet or Laser Desktop Printing. If cost is a major factor, brochures can be very cheaply printed on ink jet and laser desktop printers, then folded. This is usually acceptable quality for low quantity printing for small business. Some paper stocks for desktop printers from office suppliers come pre-scored to make folding easy and accurate. Word of caution: These pre-scored and brochure weight stocks can be quite expensive. So if the quantity needed runs into the hundreds, it may be cheaper to get them photocopied.
  • Photocopying. For quick brochure needs, photocopying is an inexpensive option. For cleanest folding, have the photocopy service do the folding. It is done by machine and creates sharp creases that stay folded. Photocopying can also be used for multi-page brochures. Again, the photocopy service can do the folding and staple binding to create a professional presentation. Both B/W and color photocopying is available. While photocopying is an inexpensive option, it is often not the most impressive presentation. Carefully evaluate whether it is appropriate for the product and market.
  • Commercial Printing. For the most professional brochure presentation, commercial printing is recommended. Everything from B/W to full color printing are options, with full color being the most expensive. Spot color printing uses two or more ink colors. Full color printing, which is also known as 4/color printing, uses four colors of ink printed in dots whose placement creates pictures and colors. The four colors of ink used are Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Black, abbreviated as CMYK. Commercial printers can use sheet fed presses for small runs or web (not to be confused with the Internet!) presses for large volume printing using huge rolls of paper. Many printers are now converting to digital printing. Digital still uses the CMYK ink scheme, but it can offer more flexibility and cost savings and is often more earth -riendly.

Paper Options

Brochures can be printed on standard photocopy paper up to specialty card stocks and papers. In general, the heavier the paper, the more expensive the project due to both the cost of the paper and any special handling it may require.

As noted above, for small quantity printing on desktop printers, pre-scored brochure papers from office suppliers and photocopied brochures can be options.

But for upscale and very expensive brochures, commercial printing is required. Printers and graphic designers can recommend appropriate papers for the purpose.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2013 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on June 17, 2013:

Aloha Monday, HawaiianOdysseus! Thanks for your kind comments. Yep, I say evergreen hubs are the way to go. for all of us hubbers. It's worked for my blogs, books and works here on HP. Video has been a great tool for me, too, especially with the strongly visual business I'm in. Have a lovely week ahead!

Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on June 17, 2013:

This is a classic example of a hub destined for evergreen status, Heidi! I love observing from afar as well as up close (when I study your format and style with greater scrutiny) how you craft and present these informative and instructional articles. The video is a golden complement to your written words. Thank you for sharing, Heidi!