Afraid to ask for collateral out of fear of retribution from content marketing evangelists? Fear not, collateral is content marketing
In our increasingly digital, content driven world, its easy to think of sales collateral as an extinct animal - once proud with an important place in the marketing ecosystem, but now irrelevant. After all, creating sales collateral implies that you are selling - and successful content marketing requires that you do not actively sell, but that you be benevolent instead.
Meanwhile, content and inbound marketers are extolling the virtues of understanding your customers' buying decision stage and developing content specifically for it. While this is true, it is biased towards the role of content marketing in lead generation. The reality is that businesses need to strike a balance between lead generation and lead conversion.
Sales collateral is content aimed at conversion
Our experience with a great many B2B clients is that while life has changed for many sales people, they are still in contact with the majority of customers. When they are in contact, those customers are at later stages of the buying decision process. If all your content is aimed at lead generation, what do your sales people work with to convert these prospects?
Well, good news, sales collateral is just another form of content. The strategies that apply to content marketing can just as easily be applied to the creation and use of your sales collateral. Doing so will improve the efficiency of its production and increase the effectiveness of its impact. This is achieved by closely aligning each piece of sales collateral with the information needs of specific, late decision stage prospects.
Turn your sales collateral into sales content
The important elements of an integrated sales collateral / content strategy are:
Segmentation - understand your audience, how it breaks down and the homogenous groups that you can afford to effectively market to
Buying decision process - Understand the stages that customers go through before buying. For the purposes of the sales collateral / content strategy we are particularly interested in the stages after lead identification
Touch points - Determine the possible touch points that prospects may refer to at each stage of the buying process; for example, web pages, sales person (by email or telephone), social media, etc.
Once you have explored each of these factors, and eliminated any null points (combinations that do not exist) you are ready to produce a collateral system that really supports your sales process and your sales people.
Do this by identifying pieces of collateral that answer the questions of prospects at each specific stage of the buying process . Produce a version of that collateral targeted at each relevant market segment or group of segments. Then make that collateral available at each of the appropriate touch points. Simple.
Integrate with sales
Finally, explain the whole system to your sales people - they should have been heavily involved in the definition of the buying decision process anyway - so that they understand when they should, ideally, use each piece of sales content for it to achieve best results. While your sales people will never do exactly what you tell them to, they should at least understand not to hand over all sales content in one pack at the start of an engagement - as to do so would rob them of the tools to move prospects through the buying decision process later on.