Over the years, as a marketing consultant I’ve created with my clients many printed brochures, catalogs, sell sheets, posters, postcards, booklets, programs, mailers and flyers. It really didn’t (and doesn’t) matter what they were for – fitness equipment, regional theaters, beauty products, herbal supplements, food, high tech, financial services – the conversations were similar.
Discussions centered around messaging, layout, size, and purpose. One of the questions that always came up in the natural products industry was “Where will this printed marketing collateral actually end up?” Will the stores allow the small booklets and trifold brochures next to the products, will they be placed in a rack with other ones, or will they get sent to the Siberia of the store’s back room?
Who are these pieces for – the store staff, the consumer, or the recycling bin? And since the dominance of the web for all things marketing, is there still a role for printed marketing collateral?
In the just published Natural Products Marketing Benchmark Report 2011, natural products marketing decision makers tell us that marketing and sales collateral is still one of the most used marketing tactics (#3). But are these printed pieces effective? Apparently not. Out of the 34 tactics measured, sales collateral ranked 15th, right in the middle.
What this tells me is that old habits die hard. Natural products companies can’t let go of their fondness for their brochures and the like, even if they know they aren’t that effective. And who can blame them really? So many of these companies sell products made from the natural world, and who can resist showing a glowing field of lavender or a sunrise shot of harvesters in a field. They have wonderful stories to tell about their companies and their products, and when laid out elegantly with emotionally-laden photos, who can resist buying those products?
The supplements category found sales collateral to be the most effective - and this is more likely due to the fact that this category relies so much more on information and education as a way to sell its products.
The problem is who gets to see these pieces? Do consumers still call up companies for their catalogs? Don’t they go to the web for their research?
Collateral is for Retailers
If there is still a place for printed collateral, it has to be directed to retailers.
Respondents to the Benchmark Report said that sales collateral is most effective in terms of driving qualifies sales leads, driving sales and increasing brand awareness. This is true when the audience is retailers (and might be true for consumers if they ever saw the material).
Walk up and down the aisles of Natural Products Expo East and West and you can collect in 30 minutes at least 5 pounds of printed material. And that’s what many retail buyers do – selectively pick up brochures, catalogs and pricing sheets for both products they currently have on their shelves and products they are considering. At the end of the day or when they return to their stores, they review what they’ve collected. And then what do they do? My guess is that if they are interested in carrying a new product, they go to the web to get even more information before they call up the company.
Eventually, all research ends up on the web.
So the question is – how much do you spend on your sales collateral knowing that retail customers will eventually go to the web. Do you create a piece that gets them to your website as quickly as possible, or do you create one that becomes a collector’s item?
In other words, if you’re going to invest in sales collateral, the goal has to be in making it as effective and cost-effective as possible. That might mean letting go of those glossy, spectacular brochures and catalogs and going for collateral that directs the retailer as quickly as possible to your website or designated landing page that is designed specifically to convert them into customers.