Published August 1, 1998

Capability Presentation: What to Include in a Capability Brochure

Before prospective clients hire you, they want to know what you can do for them and how qualified you are to do it. At some point, you will need to make a presentation of your capabilities. A clear, concise company profile can be a means to get potential clients interested enough to give you a chance to make that presentation. It can also be left with a prospect after an initial contact at, for example, a networking session.

There are four main sections you should include in your brochure: Introduction, Staffing, Facilities, and Clients. You may want to include others depending on the type of service you offer. Let's start from the top.

Introduction.
This section defines who you are, what you do, and who you do it for. Be specific. For example, "IDS is a small consulting firm that specializes in technical writing services for software developers and systems integrators." If you are small and do everything under the sun, you lose credibility. Organizations normally hire specialists as consultants, not generalists.
Staffing.
Describe relevant experience in a functional, not chronological, manner. Consultants and small businesses often use outside associates and operate with a small support staff. Include this information and point out that this leads to controlled overhead expenses - a direct benefit to the client.
Facilities.
Describe your in-house computer equipment, printers, software, fax, etc. If you have a modem, let your clients know that this allows constant access to mainframe systems. It may sound ridiculous, but some decision-makers think that terminals are the only way to get to a mainframe computer. Let them know about this benefit. Hmmm, there's that word "benefit" again.
Clients.
A listing of representative clients is important to show that you are not new to the business. Dropping some well known names will enhance your credibility, thus instilling a sense of security in the decision-maker's mind (yes, this is an indirect benefit). Do not use past clients by name unless you have worked with them under your current company name or as an independent consultant.
Include a short statement about your fee structure at the end of this section. A simple statement such as "Projects are conducted on a contractual, retainer, fixed fee, or cost-plus basis" conveys a professional attitude. Avoid saying "competitive" or "negotiable." The word "competitive" is so overused that it has lost its meaning. Don't include any prices since the purpose of the brochure is to get the client to talk to you, not to decide whether to hire you.

Take pains to avoid these mistakes when you produce your profile: beginning with a vague purpose, overselling or under-rating your business, and writing unclear text. Have others review it for content, clarity, and appearance before you distribute it. Consider using a professional writer or editor to help you get the profile into its final form.

To get some other ideas, request brochures from your competitors and clients. Review them critically because you might be looking at poor examples. Remember that by focusing on the benefits you have to offer and not just the features that describe what you do, potential clients will be more inclined to select you instead of your competitor.