It’s time for a fresh look at the pros and cons of brochures versus one sheets for selling your services to prospective clients or employers.

Your choice of brochures versus one sheets  is critical in today’s fast-moving, attention-starved, Internet world.

Start by exploring your options with an open mind, rather than automatically choosing what worked in the past.

This is especially true when creating marketing materials you can distribute both online and face-to-face at events like interviews, networking events, & workshops.


Multi-page and multi-panel brochures are often the default choice for selling services. Often, they’re often considered “safe” choices because their familiarity.

You’ve encountered brochures everywhere, from waiting rooms and networking events to automobile dealerships and travel agencies.

Brochure pros

The major advantages of brochures include:

  • Flexibility. Brochures come in a variety of sizes and formats. There are 3-panel and 4-panel brochures based on folding a single sheet of paper to elaborate 2 or 3 panel “gate-folds” that unfold to deliver a 11-inch high by 25-inch wide panorama of text and graphics.
  • Layout. Brochures can orchestrate the delivery of information by progressively unveiling information; each panel reveals new information as its opened.
  • Tactile. Brochures excel at building brands using nonverbal communications. Instead of communicating solely through words and images, brochures can communicate through other senses, such as touch. The thickness of the paper a brochure is printed on, the use of glossy, matte, or textured surface finishes, and techniques like embossing, (i.e., raising), headlines or logos can reinforce a First Class image.

Brochure cons

The disadvantages of brochures is that they only come alive after they are printed and folded before distribution.

When downloaded as PDF’s, or sent as e-mail attachments, muti-panel brochures are often disappointing.

A PDF of 3-panel or 4-panel brochure, for example, when read on-screen or printed on a desktop printer, often does not present information in the right order. Carefully-sequenced arguments often get scrambled and appear out of order.

Other brochure disadvantages include:

  • Lack of focus. Brochures often suffer from lack of focus. This is because they’re written to provide general information that will enjoy a long shelf-life, necessary to amortize design and printing costs over a long period of time. This leads to a “safe,” generic content. Unfortunately, by failing to provide detailed, convincing purchase arguments, brochures end up discussing vague, boardroom-level abstractions that fail to engage the prospect’s attention.
  • Costs & delays. The need to write and design brochures for a long shelf life creates another set of problems; high costs and long production cycles. It’s harder to write and design for abstractions rather than specifics! It harder to write about like “missions” and “core philosophies” than it is to describe 6 benefits readers will takeaway from your book or 5 ways to save time preparing a new product introduction. Copywriters who can turn out polished feature/benefit copy before noon often end up spending weeks wrestling with metaphors for communicating “we care about our customers.”
  • Relevant. Brochures prepared and printed for long shelf-life often fail to engage busy prospects looking for detailed arguments and benefits rather than long-winded “corporate profiles.” In today’s time-strapped, short attention span world, few prospective clients or employers have time for long-winded “backgrounders.” Prospects only want to know if you can improve their are search engine visibility within 30 days or nurse a new innovation to market faster than their competition.

One sheets

One sheets offer a simple, practical alternative for selling your services. They resemble the product sheets manufacturers use to communicate point-of-sale information about specific models within their product lines.

Authors have been using one sheets for many years, using them to their books, attract media attention, and sell their back-end speaking and presenting events.

Today, marketing strategies based on several special-purpose one sheets offer significant advantages over less focused, inflexible, and far more expensive muti-page or multi-panel brochures.

One sheet pros

The power of one sheets come from a few key characteristics:

  • Efficiency. One sheets are efficient to produce. One sheets are easier to produce because each focuses on a specific product or service. They’re easier to write because each describes the features and benefits of a specific product or service. One sheets are equally effective downloaded from a website or pre-printed for distribution at meetings and special events.
  • Flexibility. Although printed brochures have to be discarded when information goes out of date, one sheets, however, can be  simply edited and updated.
  • Engagement. One sheets engage prospects more effectively than brochures because the single-page format promises a faster read and the contents focus on their specific needs.

One sheet cons

Although one sheets can be produced faster than brochures, you’re likely to need more of them. Ideally, as your business grows during 2012, you can prepare one sheets not only for specific product, but also specific market segments.

This doesn’t have to be a negative, of course, because once you come up with a format, or a one sheet template, you can adapt it to several product or service offerings.

One sheets are demanding, however, in that they are very transparent.

One sheets put a premium on content and wording–you can’t use design to camouflage a lack of relevance and meaningful reasons to buy. Your features and benefits must be relevant and convincing, and you have to communicate them as concisely as possible.

On the plus side, however, you don’t need a copywriter to create a one sheet if you can sell your products in face-to-face situations with your prospects!

Choosing between brochures & one sheets

Marketing and branding presents few opportunities for “one size fits all” solutions. However, unless your business has just received a multi-million dollar government bailout, you’re likely to find a series of focused one sheets easier to produce and more effective than a single, expensive brochure. What have been your experiences with brochures and one sheets? For example, when a vendor offers you an expensively-printed brochure, are you impressed–or, do you wonder where the money to print them came from?


Roger C. Parker is an author, book coach, designer, consultant who works with authors, marketers, & business professionals to achieve success with brand-building books & practical marketing strategy. He helps create successful marketing materials that look great & get results, and can turn any complex marketing or writing task into baby steps. Visit his website to see how he can help you or to ask a question.