Do Your Marketing Materials Pass the 10-Second Test?

The route to developing effective marketing material is paved with pitfalls. But a conversation with a successful advisor in the northeast highlighted the biggest pothole in developing any marketing material; whether a brochure, a Dan Richardswebsite or a presentation to prospects, focusing on similarities rather than differences will make you fail to stand out.

Two weeks ago I got an email from Carl, a 25-year veteran, asking if I could help with a team brochure that had been drafted by an award-winning marketing firm. Carl’s six-person team had strong differences of opinion on this brochure. In return for a $500 contribution to one of the charities that I support, I agreed to spend some time reviewing the draft material and give Carl my opinion.

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The 10-second test

I gave Carl’s draft brochure the 10-second test. That’s how long most prospects take to examine marketing material before forming an initial impression of an advisor. In those ten seconds, they might look briefly at the front and back covers of a brochure and quickly flip through it, glancing at the headlines at the top of each page and photos and graphics.

Carl’s brochure was headlined “Helping you reach your dreams” and the cover featured several photographs – one of a couple in their 60s walking hand-in-hand, another of a woman in her 70s playing with her grandchildren, a third of a man on a golf course and finally a couple dining on a beach.

My takeaway from the 10-second test: The brochure was polished, well designed and communicated a professional image.

It also was depressingly generic, looking like hundreds of other brochures and was almost entirely devoid of a distinct personality or anything that would give prospects a sense of how Carl and his team are different from other advisors.

Because this brochure was so similar to many others in the industry, it won’t hurt Carl with prospects, but because it conveyed a sense of sameness it wouldn’t help him either.

Start with the end in mind

The first step in any communication material is to “start with the end in mind,” to borrow the phrase from the late Stephen Covey. Carl and I discussed the purpose of the brochure – was it part of a direct-marketing campaign, a handout at a luncheon for prospects, something for use with centers of influence or material that clients could pass on to friends and family who might be interested in sitting down with Carl?