An Introduction to Marketing Collateral

A basic overview of marketing collateral and its role today

December 11.2017

“Marketing Collateral” is a much used (and abused?) term in businesses today.

Marketing collateral can be defined as a collection of media used to educate prospects and customers about how their challenges can be solved. It thereby delivers actionable value and ensures that it occupies top-of-mind real estate.

Unfortunately, the widespread use of this term has not gone hand in hand with a clear understanding of what it refers to. This often leads to many confused faces in conference rooms everywhere.

We wanted to do our part to help light the way through this fog, and clearly define not only what it is, but also why we need it (still).


What is Marketing Collateral?


What is Marketing Collateral?

Broadly speaking, marketing collateral is something created by the marketing team to support the sales team. It could be defined as a collection of media used as sales aids to make the sales effort easier and more effective, either by directly informing the customer about the offering’s benefits and value, or indirectly, by reinforcing the brand’s message and making sure that it occupies that prime top-of-mind real estate. It’s usually given away for free, as the value you get from sharing it is considered to be greater than the intrinsic value of the collateral itself.


This media is usually material that you hand over to your client or place in locations your client can access. While this traditionally referred to physical items (such as printed brochures, or product data sheets), in today’s context, it can just as easily be applied to digital material as well, which would also connect with the industry’s renewed focus on content. Customers are exposed or have access to this information via multiple channels, and for the first time, are now actively looking for the information, making content marketing, and by extension, marketing collateral more important than ever before.


With the easy availability of cutting edge tools, it’s easier than ever for teams to generate high-quality collateral in short periods of time, resulting in what one might consider a Golden Age of collateral.


Why do you need Marketing Collateral?

In the early days of marketing, businesses realized that there was a lot of information that sales teams needed to share with the client. Rather than forcing them to memorize all the technical details they didn’t understand, they figured it might be easier to simply provide handouts with these product-specifications that the sales team could refer to.


If used effectively, it can not only help empower your sales team with all the information needed to handle client interactions but also help convince your client about the merits of your offering. Every aspect of it adds to this impression – the design and layout used, the actual content being shared, and even the distribution channel can help.


Your collateral acts as a representation of your personality. In industries where there is little to differentiate your product, the relationship you have with your client matters most – and your marketing collateral is one of the easiest ways to help you create that favorable first impression. This is especially true in the case of technical documents and product data sheets. It’s more than likely that your client will have many of these from various vendors – how you make yours stand out would impact what they feel about your offering.


Your collateral is also an extension of your content marketing efforts. Content marketing today is considered an essential part of the marketing process, with both B2B and B2C companies focusing more on it. While B2B companies tend to focus on content marketing to generate more quality leads, B2C companies measure effectiveness through sales and customer engagement.


What is the objective of Marketing Collateral?

Despite the term, marketing collateral is not for the marketing team. Or even for the sales team. No, the people who your marketing collateral is really for are your clients. It is important to realize this early on, as it will help define what you create, and how you design it.


Now, I know what you’re thinking – we’ve only been talking about marketing collateral in the context of marketing and sales teams so far, so why the sudden switch?


Let me explain.


As we’ve mentioned already, marketing collateral is something that helps your sales team. What we didn’t really delve into, though, is how it does this – and that’s where the difference lies. Yes, it’s true that your marketing team are most likely to create the collateral, and the sales team will use it – but only in the sense that they act as a distribution channel. The collateral’s purpose though is to help your sales team add value to the client. Therefore, if it doesn’t add value, it’s just wasted money.


Later on, in this article, we’ll talk more about the specific purpose of each type of collateral, and how it impacts your client and your interaction with them.


What are the benefits of Marketing Collateral?

Developing good marketing collateral with a clear strategy has many benefits, both internally and externally. Here are just 5 benefits for why you should be investing in strong collateral:


1.          Communicating standard information

In every industry, there’s usually some specific information that will be needed to be shared with your customers. These could be as straightforward as terms and conditions of a specific offer, to pricing information, to even technical product-specification information. It makes much more sense, then, to have this information already prepared and ready to share, rather than making sure your sales teams learn it by rote and recite this information each time a client asks for it. Your collateral can then become something like a FAQs section on a website; the key difference being that you can proactively share it with the client.


2.         Reference material for sales

Related to the previous point, when there is a lot of technical information to remember, it is generally a better practice to not have to rely on your sales team remembering the entire content verbatim – especially when the wrong specification could drastically impact the performance of your product. Having a technical sheet or other collateral that a sales rep could refer to during the meeting, and can then share with the client, acts as both an easy way to avoid any confusion, and a handy memento of the conversation.


3.         Supporting material for conversations

Good collateral should be able to add value even when it doesn’t have a team member there to explain it. It should be something that either communicates a specific value to the customer and should work to reinforce the prior conversations. By doing so, it empowers the customer to have the information needed to answer some of the standard questions, and be able to make a fair comparison with other services.


4.         Branding tool

Your marketing collateral is something that your clients will engage with repeatedly, either directly or indirectly. It can be useful then to ensure that they communicate your brand identity clearly, and help to distinguish your values and principles from others. That way, each time your client sees it, they will be able to associate your values better with your brand. And the more often they see it, the more likely it is that your brand will stay at the top-of-their-mind.


5.         Campaign promotions

Marketing collateral is also extremely useful as supporting tools for short-lived campaigns. They provide a method for you to communicate your new offering with your existing brand identity, and help to flesh out a more cohesive understanding of your brand personality. Campaigns are known to be very effective at creating a sense of importance to a short-term event and can be a great way to grab the attention of your clients and prospects. Developing suitable material can, therefore, be a really effective way of letting your client rediscover you.


Where can Marketing Collateral be used?

Marketing collateral is an extremely versatile tool. Due to its nature, it can be used in virtually any channel, depending on what your objective is and how you hope to achieve it. You need to think of it in terms of where your client is. For instance, if your client is likely to frequent online forums, then it may be a good idea to see how you can make your content accessible there. Or if your client is likely to attend a tradeshow, it might make sense to hand out leaflets or brochures at the venue. Today, many modern companies are leveraging digital solutions (such as Paperflite) to share content during events; this is mostly because of the superior tracking and engagement data that can be instantly collected. We’ll discuss the channels more in detail later on in the article. The better you understand your customer and his behavior, the more avenues you will have to use your marketing collateral and can adapt your collateral accordingly.


Sales and Marketing - Collaterals


What is the difference between Marketing Collateral and Sales Collateral?

Over recent years, the term “sales collateral” has gained popularity. Used mostly by sales teams to refer to the material they use in their interaction with the client, it has inadvertently muddied the waters, causing confusion regarding the difference between the two. In effect, though, sales collateral is more a subset of marketing collateral than a separate entity in itself.


While marketing collateral refers to all collateral used to better inform and engage with your prospect, sales collateral refers specifically to the material that your sales team carries or uses to push the sales conversation forward. They are usually designed and organized to better help them in their interaction with the client. As a result, these are used more when leads have already been nurtured, have moved down the funnel, and are now interested in making a purchase. Marketing collateral though is used at all stages of interaction with the client. This could be even before the client is aware of your brand; in fact, in many instances, marketing collateral can be instrumental in making you pop up on the client’s radar. It would even be utilized after making the sale, as a lot of collateral might be relevant in providing customer support, and helping to upsell or cross-sell services to the client.


To sum up

Hopefully, this gives you a clearer understanding of what marketing collateral is, and how the term is meant to be used. You should also know why it’s important, and how using marketing collateral effectively can be beneficial.


This is the first part of a series of posts we'll be doing on marketing collateral, its evolution, and its continuing value to organizations today. In our next installment, we help you with the steps involved in making your marketing collateral effective - so come back soon!


For more information on how you can use your digital marketing collateral better, take a look at how Paperflite helps you leverage your content to gain actionable insights from your conversations.

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