Thinking B2B: Is your B2B sales collateral as good as you think it is?
by Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) If you walk into a bank and ask for information on its business-banking offering, you’ll get a brochure. Ask a telco about its B2B offering, you’ll get a brochure. Even on the premium end of the scale, put in a query about McKinsey’s management consulting capabilities and it’ll email you a pdf brochure. In the B2B world, the brochure is the common denominator when it comes to sales collateral — but so many brochures don’t do the job the company expects them to.
How buyers evaluate
There’s very little consideration about how the potential client is evaluating those brochures for information — most brochures are designed from an inside-out perspective, as opposed to an outside-in one. To be fair, most B2B buyers don’t actually know how to evaluate between brochures: if they’re evaluating a few companies, they’ll tend to look at the parts of the brochure that stand out or what the company positions as its selling point.
A potential win for a selling company is, therefore, to start the brochure by telling the potential client what to look for when buying its product or service. This will, of course, be biased in the favour of the company’s own offering (which seems obvious but so many companies don’t do it).
Firmographics are very important: tell the buyer how big your company is, who your clients are, what your experience is and who your people are. This is important because it positions the company in terms of the scale of account it’s able to service. Many smaller companies tend to inflate numbers to make themselves look bigger or more capable than they are — but that results in a twofold problem. First, it creates an unrealistic expectation for the buyer that’s hard to match once the deal is signed; suddenly, there aren’t enough resources to deliver on the promise. Secondly, many buyers are actually looking for smaller, more-boutique companies to work with, so don’t sell yourself as something you’re not and close yourself off to that kind of opportunity. Be authentic, always.
Generalist vs specialist
While many brochures trumpet varied industry expertise as a major selling point, they sometimes miss the mark as they position the company as generalist, rather than specialist. If your collateral speaks to specific experience and case study in those industries, it may give the buyer comfort that you understand its world, rather than having surface-experience in many different fields. If your experience across different fields is extensive, make different brochures that show that. An agriculture-sector brochure is going to look very different to a construction-sector brochure; the needs, the language, the nuances and the solutions are fundamentally different. One-size-fits-all isn’t going to cut it in 2019.
Case studies are also very important because they give a B2B buyer a sense of your ability to deliver results — but, again, it’s how they’re communicated that makes them more or less effective. Draw the buyer in with a couple of headlines eg say “We helped a logistics company increase sales by 15%.” That’s a case study on its own, as it demonstrates to potential buyers that you have the ability to generate success in their industry. If they want to know more, they can get in touch and you can demonstrate your skills by providing more in-depth info and showing how you can apply your skills to doing the same for their business. The brochure will never replace the salesperson, so don’t put pressure on the brochure to make the sale on its own.
FAQs are also an increasingly important element for brochures. By way of example, if you’re a marketing agency and you’ve experience working with other agencies under a client umbrella, say so. That’s a question that brands always ask, so provide an answer upfront. A good set of FAQs demonstrates your understanding of the buyer’s sector and will comfort them.
Another point that seems obvious but is rarely well-communicated is the detail on company ownership. It’s becoming an increasingly important sales element in South Africa, where buyers are looking beyond the base BBBEE rating and wanting a deeper understanding of the company ownership. Have strong empowerment credentials? Share them!
Many brochures also overexplain services. There needs to be a level of assumption that, since buyers are in the market for a specific product, you don’t have to tell them what that is. If they’re looking for overdraft services from a bank, you don’t have to explain what an overdraft is. How you deliver information at the top of the sales funnel is very different to the way you communicate it at the bottom — sales collateral, like brochures, is for buyers who are at the bottom of the funnel, and want an understanding of what exactly it is that you can sell them.
In terms of USPs, rather share what it is that you’re able to do well. Lowest price is not a USP for many companies. Great service may be a USP for a company that’s had a poor client-service experience — so, if your service is particularly great, talk about it.
The last thing is the one that companies most often forget: you’ve engaged a potential buyer with your brochure but what happens next? Technology is playing an increasingly important role in helping enable sales from well thought-out brochures. Built-in analytics to your brochures may give insights on when and how people are reading brochures, and which sections they’re spending their time on. Linking this to marketing automation technology may be potent; if a B2B buyer is reading your brochure and drops off on page 3, it can trigger a mail that serves them page 4. If they spent much time looking at the case-study section, an alert can give you the chance to offer them additional detail on case studies that could convert them.
Even if your brochure is going to look the same in 2019 as it did in 2009, the technology that underpins it has come a long way — and the company that makes the best use of that tech is going to be the one that lands the client.
- Thinking B2B: Why B2B sales collateral needs to be better — Warren Moss
- Back2Basics: How to create B2B content that creates sales — Mark Eardley
Warren Moss (@warrenmoss) 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.