Marketing collateral includes any type of written material that helps market a business, product, service or idea, such as flyers, information sheets, brochures of all sizes, annual reports and even folders that hold several of the pieces. Although collateral types vary from each other regarding the special information included, certain principles guide the writing of all collateral so it accomplishes its intended objectives.

Research and Plan

Determine the objectives of your collateral. Your objective could be to establish an image for your entire company, clarify mistaken assumptions or gain a specific number of new prospects for a particular product, for example. You can have more than one objective, but you should determine the main objective and write primarily to it.

Pinpoint your target audience. Sometimes one written piece of collateral can reach several audiences; many times it cannot. Decide in advance who your main audience will be and ask yourself, and others in your company, what your target audience's questions and concerns are and how you will address them.

Decide what type of collateral to produce. Collateral could include anything from a one-page flyer or product sheet to a lengthier annual report or brochure. Find examples of collateral you admire and decide the format that best suits your objectives.

Determine the size of your written piece. The length is partly determined by the message you want to convey and partly by cost. If you're unsure of the length, obtain estimates of producing materials of different lengths.

Write a Draft

Craft a compelling headline. Imagine your audience with 10 similar pieces of collateral from companies who want their attention, and write a headline that will grab their attention and make them pick up your piece and read it.

Decide on the three to five main points to discuss. Turn each point into a subhead. Include specific features or customer benefits in the subhead whenever possible. For example, a subhead that says "Nice" is positive but vague. Change it to "Streamlined and Space Saving" and the reader sees the benefit.

Write about each point by explaining features and benefits. Make sure your audience readily understands your copy. For example, if you're explaining a technical product to a non-technical audience, you'll need to define technical terms. Simple, clear, conversational writing is best. It may help you to imagine you're writing to a specific person.

Add a strong call to action. Decide what action you want your audience to take after reading the collateral. It could be pick up the phone, email or return a reply card. Or perhaps you want them to attend a demonstration or explanation session. Give them all the information they need to respond, including a contact's name, if possible, for a personal touch.

Revise and Proof

Check for spelling and grammar errors. Proofread the whole document yourself, and take advantage of computer spelling and grammar programs to catch errors you might have missed, as well.

Edit the entire piece methodically by applying a systematic approach. Start by reading for consistency and sensibility. By just rereading the piece, you're not likely to find errors or needed revisions; you're too close to the product. Instead, read just the headline and subheads to see if they make sense together. Read the copy to see if each section answers its subhead.

Edit the entire piece again for conciseness. A brochure that's packed with words is daunting to read and often goes unread. If it can be said more simply, revise it.

Edit again, focusing this time on grammar. Go through the entire piece looking only for punctuation errors. Go through it again looking only for subject and verb agreement. Ask a colleague to proofread your copy before you publish it, so you have another perspective from someone not as close to the piece.

Things You Will Need
  • Target market data

  • Samples of other collateral