Business collateral is an, admittedly, fairly vague term used to reference a wide variety of printed or digital pieces of marketing material, and is often referred to by similar names such as marketing collateral, sales collateral, brand collateral or identity collateral. The one consistency between these names is the term “collateral” (meaning ancillary or accompanying), which is important because it drives home that these marketing pieces are not meant to stand on their own, isolated from the rest of your business processes or other marketing efforts. They are individual pieces that may build a brand, introduce a product, explain a service, strengthen credibility, or guide a decision, but can’t (and shouldn’t) try to do it all at once.
Although by no means complete, here are the most common types of business collateral seen in today’s marketing landscape. In addition to this list, some industries have their own unique types of business collateral, such as deposit or withdrawal slips for a financial institution, estimate forms for a landscaper, or restaurant menus.
- Business Cards
- Fax Cover Sheets
- Invoices / Packing Slips
- Email Signatures
- Flyers / One Sheets
- White Papers / Case Studies
- Pricing Sheets / Sell Sheets
When you’re ready to introduce business collateral into your business, sales or marketing processes, remember that not every piece of collateral is created equally or is appropriate for the same purpose. You should never produce a piece of collateral because “everyone else has one”. Every piece of collateral should have a clearly defined purpose (extra points if this purpose is spelled out in your marketing strategy), whose format and content is chosen specifically to support that purpose. For example, you may find that you make a great connection with potential customers when face-to-face at a business networking event, but struggle to get people to contact you down the line. Start by evaluating your business card design (you are handing out business cards, right?), then move into considering a piece of easy to hand out collateral, such as a tri-fold brochure or postcard. Your contact information should be featured prominently, along with a strong call to action that tells the reader why they should reach out to you now or in the future. This simple piece of collateral could be the bridge between your initial connection with a person and thinking of you when they have need of your products or services in the future.
Business collateral can serve a variety of purposes, but some of the most common reasons include:
- Top-of-mind. You may offer a product or service that people don’t need all the time. Make it as easy as possible for your potential customer to remember you when their need comes around. Top of mind pieces are usually small, easy to keep pieces of collateral, such as fridge magnets, branded pens or note pads.
- Take-aways. These are pieces that usually bridge the gap between meeting someone or telling someone about your product or services, and getting them to follow through with contacting you later. Your in-person encounter is your first impression that can be solidified with the second impression of your takeaway. These are usually brochures, postcards or single page flyers.
- Lend credibility. Every piece of collateral should improve a potential customer’s view of your business, including how credible and professional you are. Potential customers will judge the worth of your products or services based on the value they assign to the collateral you have produced. If your business card is printed crooked, or there are typos in your brochure, a potential customer will devalue what they think your offerings are worth, making it harder to close the sale.
- Differentiate from competitors. With the Internet, potential customers can access your competitors more easily than ever before. Confront this obstacle head on by producing collateral that clearly spells out what makes you different from everyone else.
- Guide consumer decision / set the narrative. At some point, your potential customer will be left to their own devices to decide if they want or need the products or services you provide. Help guide that decision by providing collateral that takes them from a “maybe” to a “yes”. For a restaurant, this may be a take-away menu with photographs that make you drool. For a general contractor, this may be a coupon that offers a 10% discount if the work is booked in the next month.
- Points of contact. Make it as easy as possible for a potential customer to contact you. Provide them collateral that has your address, work phone, cell phone (at your discretion), website, social media accounts, etc. Make contacting you the easiest thing they have to do today.
Just as every business is unique, so, too, is every piece of business collateral, and this uniqueness makes it impossible to define exactly what makes a piece of collateral successful. There are, however, some common elements that will contribute to the overall success of your own collateral. Successful business collateral should be:
- On brand. Your logo and/or slogan should be prominent, your design should be consistent with your brand style guidelines, and should be used in a manner that always reminds the viewer who they are interacting with. If the potential customer can’t differentiate your collateral from a competitor’s, you have a problem!
- Part of your overall marketing strategy. Your collateral will be the most focused and purposeful if it’s part of a larger marketing strategy.
- Consistent / supports other collateral. All of your collateral should be consistent, both in design and message. The sum of the whole is greater than the parts – you will see far better results if you build each piece of collateral off each other, versus approaching each piece individually without an eye for how it supports everything else.
- Start simple, move towards complex. Make sure to have on hand business collateral that runs the gamut between ten thousand foot view, and nitty gritty. As you approach new potential customers, use your ten thousand foot view pieces to narrow in to only those who are the most likely to need your products or services. Save your more detailed documents for those who have already shown an interest, and need a final nudge to close the sale.
- Up-to-date and on-hand. No matter how much effort, time and consideration you put into a piece of collateral, if it is out of date or you don’t have it on hand, it’s worthless to your potential customer. Make sure you keep your collateral relevant and ready to hand out!
It’s easy to produce business collateral – it’s difficult to produce it right. If you want to introduce the right business collateral into your business, sales or marketing processes, or if it’s time to rethink collateral you already have, let us help steer you in the right direction!