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Sunday, March 18, 2007

John Caples on Layout - for Enterprise Software Brochures?!?!

When Clayton Makepeace makes a list of books by the old masters and tells his subscribers to read them, I listen. On the list is, "Tested Advertising Methods" by John Caples, as revised in 1995 by Fred E. Hahn with a forward from David Oglivy.

This is pure gold. Be that as it may, so far, it appears to be entirely B2C oriented. Chances are, whatever it recommends is applicable to B2B either as-is or with slight modifications.

Looking for ways to apply this wisdom immediately, I thought about a debate going on at one of my clients regarding the layout of their brochures. This client develops software, which enables immigration attorneys, large corporations, and universities to:

  • process cases faster
  • balance their caseload and staff for optimum performance
  • provide their clients with self-service online.

Let's look at Caples' advice:

In choosing illustrations for your ads, you will usually get more sales if you cash in on the experience of mail-order advertisers and department stores whose experience depends on ads that produce direct, traceable sales.

Avoid weird, outlandish, or far-fetched pictures that have nothing to do with the product or service you are selling. Use pictures that attract buyers, not curiosity seekers. Here are some safe bets:

  • Pictures of the product

  • Pictures of the product in use

  • Pictures of people who use the product

  • Pictures showing the reward of using the product

What Caples says about layout was in a B2C context and more specifically, focuses on ads as opposed to brochures. Offhand, I don't think that will matter too much.

What's more important is how to adapt his advice to software. After all, software, enterprise or otherwise, is intangible and abstract by its very nature. This is the challenge.

Screenshots of an application are common in software brochures. This would dovetail with Caples' recommendation of providing "pictures of the product." Often, such images wind up as blurry representations of a complex user interface with little for the viewer to latch onto in terms of benefits - implied or explicit.

So, what do you think? How would you adapt Caples' recommendations for a software brochure?

Eric Rosen
Strategic Marketing Writer
Clear Crisp Communications
Easier to Read Means More Sales and Leads

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At 7:14 AM, Blogger Anna M. Roman-Mercado said...

Having spent most of my writing career in technology and software development industries, this issue has been a continual challenge. When it comes to software screen shots the parts are greater than the whole. My experience has found that the zooming into specific areas of a screen shot to highlight functions, features, and output allows the reader to visually connect the software with your copy.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Eric Rosen said...


Your suggestions are exactly what is playing out with the client. The copy conveys a feature as a benefit followed by the screenshot zooming in on that feature. We've added a caption to make the screenshot even more explicit.


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