Collateral marketing materials in the form of sales brochures, product sheets, white papers, etc., have long been important aids to most B2B marketing and sales. Traditional B2B advertising methods were designed to target a company’s primary audience(s) with messages about the most important benefits of its products and services. Such messages (often consisting of a one-page ad, sales letter, etc.) were intended to generate interest in those products and services, so when the company’s salespeople contacted prospective and existing customers, they would have some pre-knowledge of what the company offered.
However, a major limitation of traditional B2B advertising is that such messaging often didn’t have the capacity to inform a company’s target audience about the details of its products and services (especially complex equipment with many specifications). Collateral marketing materials were then employed at the point of contact (typically as a physical sales call) to provide prospective and existing customers with additional information that would help them better understand the products or services being offered, which in turn, helped salespeople close more sales. If a sale wasn’t made during this initial contact, then salespeople would regularly send customers more collateral pieces to maintain their contacts and hopefully convince customers to buy in the future.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that traditional collateral marketing tended to comprise a significant portion of a company’s total marketing/advertising budget. Multiple pieces were required, especially if a company sold scores or hundreds of individual parts and components. In addition, quantities in the thousands, of each piece, were printed to achieve economies of scale. They were then stored and managed in a physical “document library.” Salespeople generally had to be located where the collateral marketing materials were stored or wait for them to be shipped to wherever they were working.
Collateral marketing materials are still important aids for many companies, but many have converted the process to a Web-based system. There are many benefits of bringing collateral marketing materials into the digital age.
Materials no longer need to be printed in vast quantities. Salespeople print the pieces as needed (on-demand printing) or, better yet, the piece remains digital and is included as part of an email campaign or an attachment in an email to a client for whom a salesperson has already established a relationship.
- Materials no longer have to be stored in a physical space. Salespeople can locate and access the collateral at any time, often through a company’s cloud.
- The contents of collateral marketing materials can easily be revised. In the past, each revision would cause a company to discard all the outdated printed quantities, which was both costly and a waste of paper (read trees).
- Although a person still must be assigned to the management of the collateral marketing materials in digital form, he or she can do so from any computer. No longer does this person have to work as a “librarian,” keeping a document room clean and organized, doing regular inventory, ordering more quantities to be printed and fulfilling requests from off-location salespeople for a specific set of materials in specific quantities.
- A digitized system for storing and distributing collateral marketing materials essentially levels the playing field, since the smallest company is no longer faced with large printing and distribution costs. This allows them to operate lean and compete with larger companies.
Today, many companies place their collateral marketing materials in their document management system, or enterprise content management (ECM). ECM typically includes all documents and data that relate to a company’s total operations.
The effect of the rapid development of the digital component of content management is evident in the changing definition of ECM, as provided by The Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) International, the worldwide organization for enterprise content management. As recently as late 2005, it defined ECM as follows:
“Enterprise content management is the technologies used to capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes.”
By early 2010, this statement had been expanded significantly:
“Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM covers the management of information within the entire scope of an enterprise whether that information is in the form of a paper document, an electronic file, a database print stream or even an email.”
The trend is clear that most, or all, printed materials in any form (including newspapers and magazines) will eventually disappear, and probably sooner than predicted. Regardless of size, the quicker a company migrates their traditional collateral marketing materials to a digital form and distribution system, the more money it will save and the more competitive it will become.