How valuable is marketing collateral in driving sales?  What types of collateral have the greatest influence on purchasing decisions?  What types of collateral are most widely used by prospective buyers?  These were some of the questions that Eccolo Media sought to answer in a recent study of collateral usage by US technology buyers.

The Eccolo Media 2008 B2B Technology Collateral Survey was based on a survey of technology buyers in US companies.  Two-thirds of the 155 survey respondents described themselves as purchase decision-makers, and the balance of the respondents called themselves purchase influencers.  While this study focused on technology buyers, the findings are relevant for any B2B company that sells complex products or services, including marketing services firms.

This study included five types of marketing collateral

  • White papers

  • Case studies/success stories

  • Product brochures/data sheets

  • Podcasts

  • Videos

Here are some of the most important findings:

  • White papers have the greatest influence on purchasing decisions.  Thirty-one percent of survey respondents ranked white papers as the most influential type of marketing collateral in terms of purchasing decisions.  White papers were followed by product brochures (23%), case studies (17%), videos (8%), and podcasts (5%).  Product brochures were also ranked as the least influential type of marketing collateral by 34% of respondents.  Forty-four percent of respondents said that white papers were "very" or "extremely" influential.

  • Product brochures, white papers, and case studies are the most frequently used types of marketing collateral.  The survey asked what types of collateral respondents had seen, read, or listened to within six months prior to making a purchase.  Seventy percent of respondents identified product brochures, 68% said white papers, and 59% said case studies.  Podcasts and videos trailed with 28% each.

  • Buyers use marketing collateral very early in the buying process.  Overall 56% of survey respondents said they review marketing collateral for the first time during the "pre-sale" stage of the buying process, that is, when they are beginning to consider solutions and before they initiate discussions with specific vendors.

  • Buyers read collateral materials online before they download and print.  At least 70% of survey respondents said they view white papers, case studies, and product brochures online before they download and print them.  The survey doesn't address how much collateral consumption is online only.

  • Marketing collateral is  highly viral.  Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents said they share white papers with colleagues, while 66% share podcasts, 65% share case studies, 64% share product brochures, and 60% share videos.  Forty-four percent of respondents said they share white papers with four or more people.

These findings show that marketing collateral remains a powerful selling tool.  Other research has shown that B2B buyers are increasingly using the Internet to research and gather information regarding prospective purchases, in many cases long before they contact potential sellers.  This means that the collateral you make available online plays a huge role in creating that critical "first impression" of your company with potential customers.  If you provide compelling marketing collateral online, you stand a good chance of being invited to begin a meaningful sales conversation.  Otherwise . . .