In working with thousands of financial advisors—and designing thousands of brochures—we’ve learned what makes a great brochure. The following five steps to creating an effective brochure are based on what we’ve learned from that experience.

Step One: Pick a Single, Focused Benefit
You can’t be all things to all people, so don’t try. Painting a picture of yourself as the advisor who does everything will only confuse your prospects. If you try to be the advisor who is a great money manager, is Internet-savvy and also offers the best retirement planning advice, you’ll just end up with a brochure that’s a blunt instrument, not the marketing scalpel it should be.

Based on your specialization statement, select one specific benefit to entice your target market. The most effective brochures are built around a compelling story, and communicate their central benefit in an anecdotal way.

Step Two: Write a Personal Biography
If you can’t sell yourself, your products will sit on the shelf. By the time a prospect finishes reading your brochure, he should feel as if he really knows you, as though he has something in common with you. By revealing yourself as a human being rather than talking about your accomplishments as an advisor, you can get past sales resistance and make an emotional connection with the reader.

Your personal biography should comprise 25% to 50% of your brochure’s content. Limit company and service information to one or two paragraphs at most. Present your company as a support system and capitalize on the power of your company name. If you must include your products or services, use bullet points on the back of the brochure.

Step Three: Some General Writing Guidelines
Use the third-person objective point of view in writing the text. So, instead of “I went to the Air Force Academy,” you’ll write, “Tom excelled at the Air Force Academy.” Consumers associate third-person writing with objectivity, not ego. Keep the text positive—do not mention financial icebergs or bleak scenarios that may frighten the reader.

Be candid and avoid clichés. Consumers are much more sophisticated than ever before, and they have strong “B.S. detectors.” Be honest about the realities of life and investing, rather than falling back on clichés and empty promises.

Use subheads. These short headlines which come before each new paragraph break up the text of your brochure and make it much more appealing to the reader.

Step Four: Create a Knockout Cover and an Appealing Layout
Your brochure must have a compelling cover. The most riveting personal biography is meaningless if your prospects don’t pick up your brochure. The cover must stimulate a reader’s curiosity, crying loudly, “Pick me up!” A casual reader examines the cover, but a curious reader opens the brochure.

Do not place any images or text on the cover which refer directly to your company, products or services. Your cover should not sell, but create curiosity. Always place your personal or company logo and contact information on the back of the brochure.

Your brochure design should also be appealing and lead the reader into the text. One way to do this is by employing lots of open or “white” space. Densely formatted blocks of text intimidate, and excessive graphics lead readers away from your message. Well-chosen images and inviting text will communicate class and professionalism.

Step Five: Pay for High-Quality Typesetting and Printing
It’s essential to use four-color (full-color) printing when producing your marketing materials. Full-color design dramatically increases readability and overall impact, and makes you appear successful and professional.

Good typesetting counts; even the best laser printer will not give you the type quality you need to produce a good brochure. Most printers offer typesetting services at the rate of $150 to $250 per page. It’s money well spent.

Generally, do not choose the printer who offers you a rock-bottom price. In printing, you definitely get what you pay for. Check to make sure your printer uses a four-color press printing at 175 line screen or higher, and make sure you see printed samples of his work. Print your brochure on a heavy, high-quality paper; this will ensure good ink absorption and a substantial, quality feel.