If you think print has no place in a digital marketing world, think again

As professional marketers, we swiftly transitioned into a fully integrated digital marketing approach. Many of us have rushed to hug a tree enthusiastically, and proclaim ‘print marketing collateral be gone’. After all, who needs these pesky and expensive four-color brochures, double-sided data sheets, and hand-outs, not to mention the costly envelopes, stamps and the Pony Express that never delivers it on-time and cannot be tracked?

I hate to admit it, but unless you are exclusively marketing your products and services to millennials, most senior decision makers, stakeholders and influencers at the C-Suite, still need the look of a heavy-duty paper stock to believe you are ‘for real’. Logic defies it, as you can Google anyone for ‘instant corporate credibility check’, but the web has equalized the playing field between startups with great web brand presence and larger companies with crappy websites. Critical decisions may still depend on your sales force’s ability to use effective marketing collateral in a strategic way.

If you missed that point in your overall digital marketing strategy, you might become collateral damage when your CEO says “where is my hand-out”? Reboot and consider these top five reasons why marketing collateral still counts for your company’s bottom line.

1. Want credit? You ‘gotta’ have collateral. Admittedly, this starts out as the lamest reason. Tools for their own sake rarely make sense, but the defense gets better. When the client gets a call from a prospective buyer, partner or investor requesting more information, what do they have to send? That embarrassing trifold brochure they just ran off the office color printer of a PDF file? Maybe some direct mail postcards from the tradeshow in 2012? Or better yet, some of their partners’ materials they’ve been using. Even if they don’t expect to have a massive request for sales materials, they will have requests. If they don’t have some semblance of professional materials that speak to what they bring to the market, they simply won’t be taken seriously. Nor should they.

2. Collateral makes you look the part. Companies of all sizes need to be concerned about perception. With smaller firms, this is often a particular challenge. In order to penetrate an industry, bring a product to market, and/or compete against entrenched players, small companies need to look the part. Their sales materials can’t beg the question, “how long have you been in business?” or “do you have the capability to meet our needs?” Because if they do, the sale is lost. Marketing materials are an effective way for smaller companies to deliver their unique selling proposition to buyers. Great materials can make even small and mid-size players look like leaders in their industries. If your client is serious about making traction in the market, these materials must send that message. 

3. Collateral is a sales tool. It’s all about the sales team. Sales people need tools if they’re going to be effective. Years ago I worked with the top sales guy in an organization that clearly didn’t value marketing. He called us in because, he said, “I need brochures so my sales guys will quit whining about not having any.” This way his sales team would quit making excuses and start making sales, he said. He just wanted us to create a very small number of brochures and data sheets. It wouldn’t take much. I still wonder to this day if he thought our team was paid based on the number of brochures that were printed. I think he missed the point. Collateral materials give sales representatives the resources they need to be effective in sales meetings. They also provide the tools they need to create appointments and follow up. Not having great—or even good—collateral is a tremendous liability in this process.

4. Collateral creates excitement for an internal team. When rebrands and website launches are done well, they create excitement within the company. One company I worked with unveiled their new brand, including new business cards for the entire team, at an annual dinner. This created a buzz around the new brand, contributed to team building and even helped boost the staff’s ownership in the brand. Even if the company isn’t undergoing a wholesale rebrand, creating new materials can still build energy, help put employees on the same proverbial page and build their belief in their business. Their employer is making an investment in itself that they can see and touch. 

5. Collateral carries the brand. You know, of course, that the best collateral builds and maintains strong brands. It forges a connection between the buyer and the seller. It communicates superiority and competitive differentiation. It enables companies to stand out among all the others. Sometimes clients get caught up in the sad reality that “people don’t read marketing pieces.” I know people don’t read. And I know people don’t study it like it’s a literary masterpiece. That’s not the point. (However, if it looks like it was written by an English-as-a-second-language ninth grader, they will notice that.) The point is, good collateral makes an impression, carves out real estate in the prospect’s brain, and influences buying decisions. It helps make a competitive statement and win business.

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