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You're at a conference and another guest asks if you have any literature on your products and services. Do you reach into your bag of tricks and produce a brochure or a sales sheet? Brochures and sales sheets are both powerful marketing tools, but sometimes it's hard to know which one to use. Hopefully the following will clarify for you.
Brochures and sales sheets are very similar in many respects, at least from a printing perspective. They're printed on similar papers using identical processes, and are even available in corresponding dimensions. They also share an end goal: To sell your products and services.
Still, there are some marked differences between brochures and sales sheets. Brochures are often folded, sales sheets are not. Sales sheets often contain perforations for information cards, coupons, discounts and other incentives; and they're also often finished with a UV or aqueous coating to add a premium luster.
Beyond physical attributes, brochures and sales sheets do share the same goals but do so in slightly different ways. There are five types of brochures (leave-behinds, point-of-sale, response, direct mail, and sales support), and each has its own niche purpose within the brochure marketing world. Sales sheets can be viewed as an extension of the brochure - a premium sales support tool intended for decision-makers.
Brochures can be given to anyone and include general information about a company, product or service. Sales sheets focus exclusively on a single product or service and with a technical slant. Everybody gets the brochure, but not everyone gets the sales sheet because not everyone understands the data on the sales sheet. A brochure might highlight some key features and benefits based on the technical data, but it won't go in-depth on every technical aspect like a sales sheet will.
Let's say you're selling the next best web development software that's both easy to use for the layman and infinitely customizable for the developer. The average customer who is going to use the platform to build a simple personal website might appreciate a brochure that explains how easy it is to do this, while the developer might find more value in a sales sheet that explains that the system works with PHP 5, is cross-browser compatible, uses AJAX and other technical specifications.
On the flip side, it could be argued that a developer considering using the platform for client-side services might likewise be interested in the brochure to see how the software is presented to customers; and that more customers might be tech-savvy or at least impressed by stats that they want to see the sales sheet. There really is no right answer to the question, brochure or sales sheet? It all depends on your audience, your products and services, and your marketing philosophy. When in doubt, hand 'em both out.