In the world of printed marketing materials beyond just business cards, one of the first items that tends to spring to mind is the trifold brochure. At least, that seems to be the case with my clients.

What I want to know is, why a trifold? My best guess is because they've been around for a long time – since they're just made up of one sheet of paper, they're relatively affordable to print.

The downside is, there's not a whole lot of space on it, so you have to really focus your words and images. Many small businesses try to give an overview of their whole business in the space available on a trifold – and, if you have an eye-catching cover and a back cover with contact information or a self-mailer, then you have less than one and one-third pages to get your point across – which is not a lot of space.
Keys to trifold success

1. If you're seized by the desire to create a trifold brochure, ask yourself how you'll really use it in your business:
  • Will you give it out at networking events?
  • Mail it to prospective clients?
  • Use it to build credibility when giving out estimates or having a first meeting? 
  • Give it to existing clients to hand out when they make referrals? 
  • Give it out at a trade show?
  • Use it as in-office promotional materials (either in your office or your partners' offices)?
  • (If you've got another use, leave it in the comments below!)  

Make sure that if you are going to make one, they won't sit in your office gathering dust.

2. Create a test version before you go to the expense of designing and printing it. Fire up Publisher or Word, and create a brochure that you print a few copies of at home. Then, give it to your clients and networking partners, and ask their opinions. Even better, give it out in the same way that you'd actually use it in your business – take it to that networking event, mail it to a few prospective clients, or do whatever else you want to do with it. Ask yourself:
  • How does the interaction feel? Do you want to repeat that 500 or 1000 times, until you're all out of printed copies?
  • How do your customers react to the text in the brochure? Are you using the right words? The best calls to action? 
  • What questions do they have after reading it? Can you answer any of those for them, in the brochure?
  • Is there another way that you could accomplish this same end result? A better way, like a website page, PDF or regular, printed one-sheet?
3. Find a designer who will help you make the text and design effective. You want your brochure to be more than just pretty, just like everything else in your business.