The concept of collateral marketing—using brochures and other printed materials that you can leave with a client—can be an effective part of a company's sales cycle.
It's just a matter of choosing the right pieces.
Adding Collateral Marketing to Your Sales Cycle
It's easy to lump collateral marketing and advertising together—you might print up brochures and postcards for your business at the same time, after all—but there is a dividing line. While advertising and other marketing strategies often focus on getting a prospective client to make contact with you, collateral marketing usually comes into play after that first conversation. It's the brochure you send after you say, "Let me give you a little more information about the process," or the white paper you offer to educate a client about a specific facet of what your product can do for them.
The key benefit of collateral marketing is that it offers the opportunity to provide your potential customers with information they can actually use. Not all collateral marketing materials are heavily branded—a white paper, for instance, will often act as an authoritative guide to a topic. It likely will have your business name on the front and offer plenty of opportunities to update a client about your products, but that's not the reason a client will read it all the way through. Rather, it helps your clients to see you not just as someone who wants to make a sale, but as an authority in your field.
Writing collateral marketing materials can be a specialized process. While your clients are usually already interested enough to sit down and read something that you've sent them, the materials have to help them make up their minds (which often includes educating them about your offerings to the point that they can appreciate the differences between you and your competitors). As a general rule, these materials are designed to match the rest of your business' branding—they use the same logo, colors and style as your business card or letterhead.
Your Collateral Marketing Options
There are a variety of different types of marketing collateral, including brochures, web content, product data sheets, and white papers. Not all collateral marketing materials are written, either. With the ability to share audio and video files, you can just as easily create multimedia materials. Marketing collateral helps to move your clients to the next step in your sales cycle, regardless of the format that it comes in.
Many companies count other types of materials, such as a press kit, company fact sheets, or a current list of clients and partners among tools in the collateral marketing process. In some cases, those materials may help to educate prospective clients about your current offerings—a company fact sheet may reassure a wary customer—but such materials often serve a different purpose. A press kit, first and foremost, is not meant to be handed out to your clientele. Rather, it's meant to inform the media and hopefully provide you the opportunity to get covered in the news, educating an audience that isn't yet in your sales cycle. It's essentially an entry-level version of your collateral marketing materials.
The difficult part of putting together a collateral marketing strategy is the sheer number of options on the table. It can be tempting to try to bring out a dozen different brochures at once, but that's not always a practical option. Rather, the best strategy is to take a look at your sales cycle. Which questions come up on a regular basis? Which seem to be key sticking points for prospective clients trying to make a decision? If you can identify key points where your clients need more information, those are your starting points for creating marketing collateral. If you can answer the big questions now, you can worry about less-common concerns down the road. Collateral marketing materials should serve a logical purpose in your sales and marketing plan—if you don't get asked for product sheets on a regular basis, but you do need a white paper to inform your clientele why they need your product in the first place, the choice of where to focus your efforts should be obvious.
The Future of Collateral Marketing
When you look at web content labeled as marketing collateral, you may see an overlap between that approach and other marketing methods, such as content marketing. Content marketing routinely uses white papers and other collateral marketing materials to provide incentives for signing up for newsletters, as well as offering blogs to regularly offer up information to maintain the interest of potential clients. A blog or an ebook could be considered collateral marketing as well as content marketing. It's especially important to make sure that your offline and online strategies mesh well, just as you need to consistently brand your company between advertising and marketing efforts.
Online marketing collateral is growing in popularity, in part because the cost of producing an electronic version of a white paper and emailing it out is much cheaper than having thousands of copies printed and mailed. In many industries, you may find that your prospective clients are not only used to the idea of receiving marketing collateral electronically, but actually prefer it. Consider a webinar, which can serve much the same purpose as a white paper. Holding a seminar and asking a variety of potential customers to attend simply may not be an option, especially if you work with clients outside of your geographic area. However, a web-based seminar is inexpensive to hold (a fraction of the price of renting space) and a prospective client can easily make room for it in her schedule.
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