Website or Brochure? Which Do You Choose?

Article by C.J. HaydenIn an ideal world, every independent professional would have both an attractive, content-rich website and a high-quality, well-written brochure or marketing kit. That way you could use either or both to attract and approach prospective clients. But when time and money are short, you may need to choose where to invest your resources.

Of course you want to present the best possible image to your clients, but how do you decide whether to spend time and money developing or upgrading a website or on designing printed marketing materials, when you really can’t afford to create both right now? There are many factors to assess in making this significant decision, but for most service professionals, there are three areas you should look at closely:

1. Demographics & psychographics of your client base.

The most important question to ask yourself is: “How much time do my clients spend on the web?” If you’re marketing to heavy Internet users, such as high-tech managers or home office entrepreneurs, having a comprehensive website can be essential. On the other hand, if you are targeting light users such as senior citizens or people working in a storefront environment, a website might be much less important.

Try to determine how your ideal clients most often go about locating and selecting a professional like you. Do they respond to materials sent by mail or at least keep them on file for future reference? Do they tend to evaluate several possible providers by comparing what the providers say about themselves, and if so, would they prefer to do that by sorting through brochures or reviewing websites? How often do they hire someone they found by surfing the web?

Consider also the geographic range of your target market. If you are primarily selling to people you will see in person, printed materials may be quite valuable in presenting what you have to offer. But if your customers are across the country, a website can be an excellent tool for walking them through your assets and capabilities over the phone.

2. Overall sales and marketing strategy.

Don’t let the cart drive the horse. Whether you are considering a website or a brochure, choose your sales and marketing tactics first; then design the appropriate tools to support your choice. Websites and printed materials are merely marketing tools. To use them, you need to employ action-oriented tactics – sales and marketing activities you perform to make sure that customers will ultimately see the web-based or printed message you create.

To reach doctors in your metropolitan area, for example, you might decide upon contacting them directly with a call-mail-call approach. Your reasoning could be that they would never answer their own phone, so you would have to get your message across by other means. You believe that a well-written letter accompanied by a fact-filled marketing kit might be what would make this somewhat conservative group respond.

Could a website help this call-mail-call process? Possibly. Your letter or phone message could direct the doctor to your site for additional information. But how do you know where the doctor is reading his or her mail or getting your message? Is it after hours in the office, or at home after a long day? Is the doctor in front of a computer at that time? Your chosen tactic in this case requires a brochure, but a sophisticated website is probably nonessential.

On the other hand, to reach corporate training directors coast-to-coast, you might decide to focus on writing and publicity tactics to attract their attention. Because you believe that prospects like these are already receiving far too many unsolicited calls and mail, you might opt to spend much of your marketing effort on positioning yourself as an expert through the trade press and news media.

In this situation, a content-rich website would be a key component of your strategy. When you publish articles or issue press releases, you would want to reference your site as a source of additional information about your work. On your site, you could include published articles or previous media stories about you, which would encourage others to link to your site as a valuable resource. With this approach, a brochure or marketing kit would be much less important.

3. Relative priority of your unique needs.

When you know that you eventually want both printed materials and an informative web site, but must prioritize which to work on first, it’s easy to be driven solely by expediency. It’s tempting to begin with whichever choice seems easiest to accomplish. But basing your decision on what could get done more quickly or cheaply might not be the best idea.

Ask yourself instead, in your unique situation, which would be most likely to help you land more of your ideal clients sooner – a website or a brochure? That’s the best place to start.

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