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Why a Brochure Website Doesn’t Work Anymore

A brochure website is a reflection of the early Internet. They’re extremely light on features, lack engagement, and put an unhealthy emphasis on aesthetics to drive its success.

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by Eric Sharp

I’ll never forget the moment I realized ProtoFuse was officially out of the “brochure website” business.

Why a Brochure Website Doesn't Work Anymore

A few years ago I was sitting in a sales meeting with two executives from a local investment firm. Though pleasant to talk to, their intent was direct and clear from the get-go.

Me: “Tell me about your needs, guys!”
Them: “Our website has got to be super slick with a kick butt design!”
Me: “Of course. A professional visual design is critical. So, what else?”
Them: “That’s it. We just want an eye-popping design that impresses.”
Me: “Any other goals? More traffic? Convince users to take action? Plan for writing valuable content regularly? Measure your investment?”
Them: “Nope, we don’t need that stuff.”

In just five minutes, both parties knew it. They wanted something we stopped offering — a brochure website. We ended the meeting earlier than planned, had a friendly goodbye, and I haven’t taken another sales meeting like it again.

What is a brochure website?

A brochure website is a reflection of the early Internet (2000ish). It typically stems from the mindset that simply having an online footprint is enough to meet a company’s marketing goals. They’re extremely light on features, lack engagement, and put an unhealthy emphasis on aesthetics to drive its success.

Unfortunately, brochure websites — especially if you’re an SMB — don’t work anymore. The websites that win today understand it takes more than just a basic website with a pretty interface.

Let’s unfold these issues into five areas.

Issue #1: Brochure websites are nearly impossible to measure ROI

Our client Cactus Technologies created enough leads (that then turned into sales) to exceed their original website investment — in just 5 months after launch!

How did Cactus know that? How could they calculate that positive ROI?

From the initial launch Cactus had their calls to action, data and reporting singing harmony. Brochure websites overlook these essentials and consequently have no accurate way of measuring their website’s ROI.

“We don’t know how to measure our website’s ROI” is never a comment that a business owner or C-level executive wants to hear from marketing.

Cactus Technologies was able to accurately calculate their website’s ROI.

Issue #2: Brochure websites don’t impress Google

Can a brochure website rank for a keyword in Google? Sure. Will it significantly limit its opportunities? Absolutely.

Google makes it very clear that creating valuable content regularly (Webmaster Guideline 1.4) is critical to their algorithm. Websites that commit themselves to new or “fresh” content gain favor to the search engine that generates over 1.2 trillion searches a year (that’s 3.5 billion a DAY).

Brochure websites have no plan for adding content regularly, and consequentially put a ceiling on keyword rankings, organic traffic, and ability to generate links naturally (which is also critical to Google’s algorithm).

For those wanting to go deeper on how fresh content impacts Google rankings, read this nicely illustrated piece by Moz (image credit: Moz)

Issue #3: Brochure websites have a single (and ridiculous) measure of success

Which website below has properly identified its measures of success?

Website A:

  • Double organic search traffic in 1 year
  • Increase opt-ins to newsletter by 25% in 6 months
  • Generate 10 prospect inquiries a month
  • Increase conversion rate by 1%

Website B:

  • Ensure our prospects and customers are impressed with our “eye-popping” design

Here’s the disconnect for those stakeholders. Today’s website should be backed by a impressive professional design — it’s the norm, not the exception.

Brochure websites forget about setting business impacting goals because their stakeholders become infatuated with aesthetics.

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Issue #4: Brochure websites are more about the company than helping its audience

I’ve heard people also call a brochure website an “informational website.”

Informational for WHO exactly?

Most websites understand they should provide services/products information, company information, and contact information. However, brochure or “informational” websites will come to a screeching halt after they cover those basics.

A brochure website’s content fails to:

When a website fills itself up with sales and promotional informational, it just feels like one big sales pitch. No one likes to be sold, but everyone likes to buy!

How to create amazing content

Issue #5: Brochure websites don’t scale well


A brochure website’s architecture is like a playing card pyramid. When nothing changes, it’s a beautiful thing. Remove one card, things start to get messy!

Since brochure websites have a myopic “here and now” perspective, they don’t see into the future and plan for how the website will grow over time. Because of this, they typically face structural issues early and often.

High performing websites grow over time. They add new functionality and content. Ideas are tested and measured. They expand and contract. Without fluid architecture, you’re simply left with a fragile card pyramid.

More: How to Improve a Website

For the record, I still don’t know what “eye-popping” means

As you might have guessed, ProtoFuse didn’t win the business of that investment firm. I checked on their website many months after our meeting and did take notice of their newly launched one.

As expected, it was your prototypical brochure website. I’m sure initially it made them happy until the honeymoon of glitz and glamour passed. My guess is the firm’s leadership felt the squeeze of more practical needs within three short months. Or, maybe not. Ignorance can certainly be bliss.

Furthermore, if anyone can explain what an “eye-popping” website is, please enlighten. :)

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