By Peggy Bekavac Olson
A primary barrier between a company and potential prospects is lack of knowledge about what the company has to offer. Marketing, which combines written content and visual media to disseminate information about your company's products and services, creates awareness, preference and a call to action from prospective customers.
Good marketing conveys information in a way that prospects understand; it compels them to take action to engage with you. A company's success depends in part upon how well it communicates this information.
Although there are many ways to generate sales, the purpose of marketing collateral is to support sales efforts when a prospective buyer has been identified and some form of contact has been made. By educating and building credibility, marketing collateral prepares prospects for the sale of your products and services, which makes the sales process easier and more effective.
The most common types of marketing collateral are sales brochures, product data sheets, fact sheets, mailers, posters, signs, sales presentations, sales scripts, demonstrations and white papers.
Frequently, marketing collateral serves as prospects' only touch-point until in-person sales calls are made. Used effectively in lead generation and promotional campaigns, collateral can generate interest and inquiries, while creating a good company impression. Collateral also serves an important role as a sales call leave-behind to help reinforce key points made in the sales pitch.
Prospects expect professional-quality sales materials to validate that your company means business and has the products and services they're interested in purchasing. Therefore, good marketing collateral is frequently acknowledged by sales teams as something they desperately need and want; however, it is often ineffective, or even worse, nonexistent.
With this in mind, take a critical look at your marketing collateral to assess its usefulness. Following are several good questions to ask:
Depending on how you answered these questions, a collateral update or redo may be in order.
Following are ways in which businesses can increase marketing collateral effectiveness.
Find out what they need to know before they make a purchase decision. Write down questions you hear from prospects, and try and answer them in your collateral. Write from the prospects' point of view, and don't get carried away with your own interests. Remember to focus on prospects and how your company can help.
2. Motivate prospects to learn: Get the first page or front cover of your collateral wrong and you will likely lose prospects' interest. Don't put only your company logo or product name on the front. Use thought-provoking statements that motivate readers to pick up the collateral piece and actually read it. Include one or two core benefits in your headline. You may even want to tell prospects that there's something inside just for them - a gift, free report, special discount et cetera.
3. List benefits and differentiate: Buyers care about benefits, not features. Don't get caught up in industry jargon and techno-speak detailing what you do from an internal viewpoint. Benefits are what sell. No one needs to know about every aspect of your product or service. Don't waste time telling them about things that don't articulate benefits. And make sure you tell prospects how you're different and better than the competition.
To develop an effective list of benefits, create a list of product or service features, and then add the words "which means that ..." after each to get to the root of the benefit.
For example, "We enable faster transaction processing, which means that consumer checkout is speedier," or "This solution is class A approved, which means that you get hardware, software, service and support all from one vendor," or "We offer rapid underwriting and boarding, which means that merchants get up and running, processing electronic payments as quickly as possible."
4. Make collateral sticky: Putting useful information in your collateral encourages prospects to keep it, refer to it in the future or pass it on to others. Provide hints, instructions, tips and other pertinent information.
5. Be clear and brief, and make it personal: Organize your collateral so readers can easily find what they want to learn about. Target buyers in a straightforward, I'm-talking-to-you style to increase response. And be brief; no one wants to read an incoherent, rambling encyclopedia.
6. Use testimonials: Let customers help make the sale. Use statements or quotes from your best customers about their positive experiences with your company.
7. Call to action: There's only one way to end marketing collateral pieces, and that's to ask for action. If you want prospects to respond, make sure to include a company telephone number, e-mail address, Web site URL or reply card.
8. Brand consistency: Use consistent brand image and message delivery through each piece of marketing collateral. Providing the same look and feel while reinforcing your messages maximizes effectiveness and results.
Marketing collateral gets prospects ready for the sale by providing education and validation. It advances the sales processes. How well you prepare and utilize marketing collateral is key to the sales process and, ultimately, your business success.
Remember, marketing collateral is a window into your company - its people, policies, culture, business, capabilities and benefits. Make sure it's up-to-date, accurate and professional so that you can put it to work to help propel your business forward and upward.
Peggy Bekavac Olson recently founded Strategic Marketing, a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in financial services and electronic payments companies, after serving as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for TSYS Acquiring Solutions for more than five years. She can be reached at 480-706-0816 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com.
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