Thinking B2B: Why B2B sales collateral needs to be better
by Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) I spend the majority of my time consulting to B2B chief marketing and revenue officers, helping them deliver greater returns on their marketing and sales efforts. Recently, I found myself on the client side of the B2B marketing and sales experience, as I was searching for a particular service that our B2B marketing agency is looking to bundle as part of our offering.
As part of my research process, I looked at some options online, read a host of articles and watched a few explainer videos. I also called a few people, asked for their opinions, was WhatsApped some pdfs, and so on.
After about 10 days of research, I’d narrowed my options down to three service providers, so I reached out to each of them via mail. After a series of hearteningly quick responses, the result was that I was left sitting with three brochures describing each offering. As is standard in the B2B world, each brochure pretty much described the same service, with similar pricing, but I was struck by how different the presentations were — and how that affected my experience.
One of the providers called me after sending his brochure to ask me not to pay too much attention to the design, since a redesign by a designer was currently underway. It struck me that his focus was on the cosmetic appearance of the brochure, rather than on the offering itself.
This is something we come across time and again in the B2B space, where businesses don’t put enough strategic thought into sales collateral, from brochures to folders and articles to explainer videos. His primary concern was that his brochure was going to be made to look ‘better’, whereas it actually should have been strategically redesigned to not only help me make a decision — but to swing the decision his way.
If any of the documents had included a matrix to show where that company’s offering could deliver the most benefit to our business, had pointed out the key elements that would have influenced my decision or had outlined the most-important considerations in choosing a particular service, I’d have been won over. Instead, I had to take all three documents and create my own matrix to compare the offerings, which to my mind was an obvious obstacle in the sales funnel.
The B2B marketers whom I know spend so much time doing research, writing strategies and creating adverts that they often lose sight of the fact that every piece of sales collateral is an ad, too. B2B businesses spend a fortune on developing brilliant print ads, tradeshow experiences, events and radio spots, but what is actually presented at the point of decision making — the collateral item — is actually more important. Therefore, I’d argue that it deserves as much, if not more, investment.
The information design needs to be considered seriously and take potential customers on a journey which needs to be logical, pragmatic, and make sense of the industry, and the offering, for the buyer. It’s the equivalent of a point-of-sale (POS) element in B2C — and the science, art and money that goes into creating those elements to win over consumers at the point of making the purchase decision is astonishing. So why do B2B marketers not commit to the same extent when it comes to that final element in the purchase journey that they’ve worked so hard to guide the customer through?
Adopting an outside-in approach to your sales collateral would be a big step. Put customers at centre of the plan and design and create sales collateral that makes it easy for them to understand your offering, evaluate it and get them over the line to purchase it. Think about B2B sales collateral as B2C POS, aimed at encouraging your customer to make a decision and buy — as opposed to telling them more about your company or service. They know that already, because of where they are in the purchase journey. To help improve this process, B2B businesses need to research their customers, develop an understanding of how they buy, know what they look for and understand how they compare offerings. Ask clients how they evaluate your service against those of a competitor so you know how to make those points of differentiation stand out.
Possibly, most importantly, every piece of B2B sales collateral needs to have a call to action. Phone this number. Email this person. Buy this now. Otherwise, what’s its purpose?
Things to note
- About six providers were excluded from my decision-set before they even knew that they were being evaluated. I made those calls based on the sophistication of their websites and the ease of use of their information.
- A lot of information was shared with me via WhatsApp, so make sure documents are easily shareable via WhatsApp in particular.
- I completed over 80% of the purchase journey before I spoke to a human representative of the company.
- Back2Basics: How to create B2B content that creates sales — Mark Eardley
Warren Moss (@) is the CEO and founder of Demographica, a multi-award winning full service agency that specialises in the B2B category. He has been chair of both the Direct Marketing Association of South Africa (DMASA) and the Assegai Integrated Marketing Awards (Assegais), as well as the only African to judge the B2 Awards, which recognise the top performing B2B marketers in the world. Warren contributes the monthly “Thinking B2B” column, which looks at the latest trends in B2B communications and explains why it is fundamentally different from B2C comms.