If you work in marketing communications, you've probably seen this scenario a dozen times: A harried sales guy, shirt-sleeves rolled up to the elbow, storms into your cubicle. "I got a hot sales call in Toledo in three weeks. I got to have a brochure to leave behind," he says, smacking his fist into his open palm.

You sigh. So it begins—yet another brochure. And you know how it'll end: Thousands of dollars and multiple late-nights-against-deadlines later, he'll have his brochure. But the company won't have the sale. And you'll have a coat closet stacked with bulging boxes of forgotten collateral.

Is there a better way to support sales? Something you can leave with prospects that's just a bit more memorable—and more effective—than the standard brochure with its forced march through company "visions," product descriptions and corporate bios?

Yes, indeed. Here are eight suggestions, not as comprehensive answers to every sales-communications situation but as inspiration and provocation for creating material less likely to gather dust—and more likely to draw your company closer to a sale.

1. Make it a magazine. David Ogilvy once asked why print ads had to look like print ads—why not make them look like articles? Why not go one step further and make your brochures look like magazines? Instead of the usual ho-hum content, create articles that position your company, products or services as ways to solve problems or achieve customer-desired goals.

For about a decade, Baystate Health Systems in Massachusetts has published a beautiful four-color glossy magazine, AlphaSights, that it distributes to referring medical professionals in Central Massachusetts. Distributed three times a year, AlphaSights is loaded with articles about new procedures, protocols and initiatives at its flagship hospital, Baystate Medical Center. It's been a phenomenal success: The first issue alone attracted an increase in referrals that more than offset the entire year's production costs.

2. Make it useful. Here's another lesson from healthcare. Every day, legions of pharma and medical device representatives leave tons of samples, coffee mugs and brochures in physicians' offices across the country—clutter, clutter and more clutter. In a competitive field, how do you stand out?

One medical products manufacturer got wise. It developed a pad of forms, 8.5" x 11", with pre-assigned check boxes and fast, no-brainer ordering fields that a physician can complete in seconds. All she has to do is fill a few boxes, sign it and run it through a fax machine to order the product. In a crowded field of competitors, this manufacturer got the most orders—not because it had the nicest mug or the most beautiful brochure but because it left something behind that made its products the easiest to get.

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image of Jonathan Kranz

Jonathan Kranz is the author of Writing Copy for Dummies and a copywriting veteran now in his 21st year of independent practice. A popular and provocative speaker, Jonathan offers in-house marketing writing training sessions to help organizations create more content, more effectively.

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Twitter: @jonkranz