How to Create Effective Sales Collateral – Content and Design Best Practices
Sales collateral is the key to moving prospects through the sales funnel.
By developing effective marketing collateral, you’re providing potential clients or customers with the information they need to make a purchase decision.
Read on to learn how you can incorporate collaterals into your sales process and the top types of sales collateral to use.
What Are the Stages of Awareness?
Whether it’s an impulse buy or a carefully researched investment, every purchase goes through a series of phases. The buyer journey can vary in length and complexity, but a prospect will typically progress from early awareness to the purchase and even post-purchase stage.
You can conceptualize this journey by identifying the different stages buyers go through. There are various models you can use.
This complex model makes sense for nonlinear buyer journeys that involve multiple decision-makers.
- Initiative. An event triggers the start of the journey. It’s usually a realization that the buyer needs to address an issue. Some buyers will conduct internal research at this stage and set a budget for the purchase or identify the goals they want to achieve.
- Research. Research is a key buying activity. Independent research conducted online represents 27% of the B2B buyer journey, and offline research represents 18%. There might be an initial contact with your organization at the end of this stage with a request for a proposal.
- Assessment. During this stage, prospects will look at the different solutions they identified during the research phase. They will compare these options and measure them against their established requirements to narrow down their list of options.
- Decision. Buyers might seek more information at this stage. They will decide if your solution is the right fit.
- Implementation. Once buyers have picked a solution, they will plan for the purchase and for rolling out the new product, often with the help of the vendor.
- Support. Implementing a new solution can be disruptive. As a vendor, you have an important part to play by providing support to help the buyer achieve their goals.
- Renewal. The last phase of the buyer journey is about customer lifecycle management. You have established an ongoing relationship with the buyer and keep providing support or upgrades. Eventually, the buyer might purchase a new solution from you if they need change.
Five-Step Buyer Journey
This model is more straightforward, might make more sense for selling consumer products, and can be used as a starting point for mapping the customer journey that is unique to your audience.
- Awareness. The buyer becomes aware of your brand or product or aware that there is an issue they need to address.
- Consideration. The prospect will learn more about the product through online research or by contacting a salesperson. They might look at the price, weigh the pros and cons, and compare it to other options.
- Decision. Is the product a good fit? Does it help the buyer achieve their main goals? The buyer will decide whether they want to purchase the product during this crucial stage.
- Retention. The buyer might make another purchase and eventually turn into a repeat customer during this stage.
- Advocacy. With this model, the last stage is advocacy, where the customer becomes loyal to the brand and encourages others to try products through word-of-mouth marketing.
What Is a Sales Funnel?
Regardless of the model you decide to use to map the buyer journey, the sales funnel is an important concept.
It describes the process of moving from one stage to another.
A funnel conveys the idea that your prospect pool will get smaller with each stage. The top of the funnel represents your outreach efforts and the early awareness stage.
A portion of these leads will move on to the next stage and consume content to research the product and decide.
Once you have a model to represent your sales funnel, you can collect KPIs to measure performance. You can, for instance, keep track of the conversion rate for each step of the funnel.
The advantage of mapping your sales funnel is that you can deliver the right information at the right moment to help a prospect move to the next stage – a great experience for buyers. You can also use this model to automate some aspects of your marketing efforts.
What Is Sales Collateral?
Sales collateral helps you anticipate and answer questions and rebuttals.
These resources educate and engage prospects. You can do it with a mix of digital and print resources, videos, interactions, and more.
We mentioned the idea of providing the right information at the right moment to help prospects. Sales collateral is how you can achieve this goal.
Four Types of Sales Collateral for Each Stage of Your Sales Funnel
Here are some of the most popular types of sales collateral prospects encounter during their journey.
A landing page is unique because it can fit in different phases of the buyer journey. You can have landing pages designed for the early awareness stage or use landing pages to deliver more technical information for a user closer to deciding.
Different elements on a landing page, e.g., chatbots, inspire users to stay on the page longer, make a purchase, or leave a review.
Prospects access landing pages by clicking on an ad, a link you shared via email, or through a social media post.
They can also find landing pages by navigating on your site or through a search.
When a user follows a link, there is an expectation. The landing page must deliver on what it promised. It also needs to present the user with a clear next step through a call to action.
Blog posts are one of the most common types of sales collateral on the internet.
On average, B2B prospects consume three to five pieces of content before reaching out to a salesperson. Blog posts are ideal for this journey stage because you can discuss issues and present your product as a solution.
Prospects can find blog posts through regular search, but you can also generate traffic via email and social media. Salespeople can also recommend blog posts for a more personalized experience.
Don’t forget to use calls to action and to recommend additional posts to read.
Blog posts should engage users with great copy, interesting facts, and value. You can use a mix of short blog posts to introduce important topics and long-form posts as more detailed guides.
The great thing about blog posts is that you can write about a specific topic and deliver the kind of targeted information a prospect might need before moving on to the next stage.
Videos are engaging and easy to consume. You can use them at different stages of the sales funnel. For instance, a Social Media ad can be a great way to generate awareness.
You can also create explainer videos for the research stage and product demos to support the decision stage by showing what the product looks like.
Lastly, you can use videos during the retention stage by developing content that will help customers get more out of the product they bought.
Technical Data Sheet
A technical data sheet is a document that lists the specs of the product you offer. It’s not suitable for the early stages of the sales funnel due to its technical nature.
It’s a great sales collateral to introduce once a prospect is in the assessment stage. A technical data sheet will help them compare performance to what competitors offer and see how the product measures up against their requirements.
The benefit of offering specs and data is that this type of information boosts confidence, an important factor to help a prospect reach the decision stage.
How to Create Effective Sales Collateral
The following sales collateral types will help you build a strong funnel.
The White Paper
A white paper is a document or report that provides facts to support a decision. It’s usually over 2,000 words long, but some white papers can be a lot longer. The style is usually academic, and even though it’s branded content, there is no obvious sales pitch.
For example, the Revenue Marketing Report by Outfunnel (shown above), discusses sales and marketing alignment, stating how alignment results in revenue increase, yet few companies are able to achieve this.
White papers often identify an issue and discuss its scope and impact before going over different solutions. These documents usually rely on data, statistics, and studies to show how different solutions perform and identify the best one.
It’s a great tool for the late research and assessment stages.
The prospect has to learn a few things about the solution you offer before they can dive deeper into the data that you present in a white paper.
It’s also a great tool for lead generation and qualification. Many marketers use contact forms to ask prospects to share their information before downloading a white paper.
White papers are best for complex and expensive products. They’re a must for difficult buyer journeys with multiple decision-makers.
- White papers boost confidence. High confidence levels often result in buyers spending more.
- This type of sales collateral establishes your brand as the go-to expert.
- You’re making a solid argument backed with facts and data.
- You’re taking an in-depth look at how your product performs and creating realistic expectations.
- White papers take time to create.
- They can become outdated after a few years because the data and statistics they require don’t age well.
Take a look at this document from Oracle to see what a technical white paper looks like.
The Case Study
A case study is an engaging way of presenting your product as a solution to a pain point. It typically starts by introducing a person or business with a problem.
You can then explain how the person or business struggled to find a solution and how they discovered your product.
The case study should then go over how the person or business implemented your solution and what the outcome was.
It’s a great tool for showing different use cases. You can develop a case study series to provide content that feels more personalized for the different buyer personas you work with since they might experience different pain points.
You can get better results by connecting case studies to social proof with some testimonials from the people you’re discussing in the study.
Case studies are usually more specific than other research pieces, which is why they’re great for the consideration and evaluation phases.
Case studies are versatile. You can adapt them to reflect the complexity of the product you offer. Overall, they’re great for products that have different use cases.
- A case study can highlight the human dimension of the buyer journey and help the prospect identify with someone who experienced a similar pain point.
- Storytelling makes this content type feel engaging.
- You can build social proof by including testimonials.
- Case studies can feel more personalized because they discuss something relevant to an audience segment.
- Case studies can feel salesy.
- Not all prospects will relate to a specific pain point or use case.
This case study is a great example. It’s engaging and establishes expertise by discussing how Gong solved their clients’ challenges with their product. It’s filled with quotes and conversational copy, making it interesting and educational.
The Slide Deck
A slide deck is something you would use during a presentation. However, a growing number of marketers are using this content type to deliver information online in a convenient format.
Slide decks make it easy to consume content.
At the same time, the format allows you to tell a story with a progression. You can, for instance, use a few slides to introduce an issue and then show how your product can solve this problem.
You might need engaging visual content like infographics and visuals to establish awareness or facts and statistics to help with the consideration stage.
Slide decks are best for products and services that require a complex research stage. They’re great for introducing different ideas during the early research phase.
- Slide decks make content easy to consume, even for mobile users.
- It’s an excellent way to educate while only taking a few minutes of the user’s time.
- The formatting and visual content can make information easier to remember.
- Slide decks aren’t ideal for presenting ideas in depth.
- It can be tempting to pack too much information on your slides.
Check out this slide deck about tech trends from Accenture for an example of an engaging slide deck that uses visual components.
The Email Templates
Email communication is a crucial element of your sales funnel.
Using templates allows for consistency and makes it easy to customize and automate some aspects of your email marketing efforts.
Email has a wide range of uses, including:
- Establishing an initial contact between the seller and the buyer (e.g., cold outreach)
- Supporting the research stage
- Thanking a buyer for their purchase
- Delivering value through coupons and deals
- Keeping a customer engaged after a purchase
You will need some good copy, email marketing software, a subscription list, links to blog posts and other content types, and possibly A/B testing software to optimize your campaign.
You can use email templates during the research and assessment phases. An email series is a great way of delivering content that helps the prospect progress.
You can also use emails post-sale. It’s a great way of keeping in touch, and you can help buyers get more out of the product they bought by delivering more educational content.
- Email templates are great for engagement.
- It’s possible to personalize the content of your emails.
- You can track clicks to identify the leads that consume the most content.
- You can use an email series to deliver content that grows in complexity to help prospects move along the sales funnel.
- Prospects already receive many marketing and sales emails, and some emails remain unopened.
- Without proper audience segmentation, your content might not feel relevant.
Scroll down to the bottom of this email marketing guide to see some examples of successful campaigns.
A one-pager is a short document that sums up your value proposition. You can think of it as a digital version of your elevator pitch or as a resume for a business. In short, it tells people what your company does, for whom, and how.
It’s a great resource to use after the initial contact with your brand. It allows the prospect to get to know you better.
One-pagers are helpful for complex buying journeys where buyers will compare different vendors.
Use your company mission statement and branding strategy to develop a strong one-pager. It’s a great sales collateral type for vendors who offer an ongoing service or who want to become a recurring supplier.
- One-pagers help prospects understand your values and determine if you would be a good fit as a vendor.
- You can distill information and boost confidence during the decision-making stage.
- It’s a great way to make a positive first impression.
- You’re not tailoring the information to each prospect.
- There is not enough room to discuss specific product benefits.
You can see a great example on the Amazon website. This who we are page engages visitors through storytelling and goes over the principles of the eCommerce giant.
The Battle Cards
Battle cards are a visual guide that help prospects compare products.
You can create battle cards that work as a side-by-side comparison of your different products or develop visual guides to help people compare what you and your competitors offer.
Battle cards are very useful during the assessment stage since they allow for a quick at-a-glance comparison of the different options available.
You’ll need some data about the products you offer and about your competitors to develop good battle cards.
Battle cards are great for products with complex decision processes and for buying journeys, they involve teams. They’re also useful for comparing tech products with different features.
- Battle cards act as quick visual reference points.
- You can make a strong argument with data without being pushy.
- Battle cards can boost confidence and simplify the buyer journey.
- Data might not always work in your favor.
- You have to identify your main competitors.
If you want an example, take a look at this page from the Apple website.
While the 5Ps of Marketing are still important, Customer Experience has gained importance in recent years. It’s important to keep up with the latest trends shaping the buyer journey. More brands are investing in experience as a differentiator.
Marketers are developing content that provides a positive experience besides educating users, and businesses are offering personalized experiences during and after the buying journey to boost retention.
The overall trend is to have buyer journeys that are becoming longer and more complex.
More decision-makers are involved in B2B purchases, and buyers continue to expect a self-directed research stage where finding and consuming content is easy.
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