Eccolo Media recently surveyed buyers of business technology products and services to determine how they use and value various types of marketing collateral materials.  The 2010 survey was conducted in June and included responses from both senior business executives and technology managers and specialists.  The Eccolo Media survey was limited to technology buyers, but the findings provide valuable insights regarding the attitudes and practices of other types of B2B buyers who purchase complex products and services. 

 Here are some of the key findings from the 2010 survey.

  •  White papers have the greatest influence on purchasing decisions.  Thirty-nine percent of survey respondents ranked white papers as the most influential type of marketing collateral for evaluating purchase decisions.  Brochures (28%) and case studies (18%) followed white papers in terms of influence.

  •  Brochures, white papers, and case studies are the most frequently used types of marketing collateral.  Eighty-three percent of respondents said they had used brochures within the previous six months to evaluate a prospective purchase, while 76% identified white papers, and 67% identified case studies.

  •  The most important distribution channel for marketing collateral materials is the company website.  Seventy-one percent of respondents said they find white papers at supplier websites, 65% obtain brochures from company websites, and 56% acquire case studies through that channel.  The second most important distribution channel for white papers is outbound direct response campaigns, with 59% of respondents indicating they had obtained white papers via such campaigns.

  •  Potential buyers use marketing collateral early in the buying process.  The majority of respondents said they review marketing collateral for the first time during the “pre-sale” stage of the buying process when they are beginning to consider solutions and before they initiate discussions with potential suppliers.  Sixty percent of respondents said they first review brochures during the pre-sale stage, 53% first read white papers during that stage, and 49% first read case studies during that stage.

Why Should You Care?

Printing companies that offer marketing services and web-to-print solutions face new marketing challenges.  These services differ in significant ways from traditional print manufacturing services.  They are more complex and usually require a longer-term commitment and a larger financial investment than traditional job-based printing.  Therefore, they call for the kind of marketing and sales tactics that work for other kinds of complex products and services.

The Eccolo Media survey provides two important takeaways for providers of marketing services and web-to-print solutions.

  •  Relevant, buyer-focused content should be a core component of your marketing programs.  White papers are the most influential kind of marketing collateral not because of their format, but because of their content.  Good marketing white papers help potential buyers understand how they can address important business issues and challenges in an “objective” and (mostly) non-promotional way.

  •  Marketing content is particularly important for creating engagement with prospects in the early stages of the buying process.  Today’s business buyers are conducting research independently, often long before you even know who they are.  Most prospects will review your marketing collateral/content before they agree to meet with your sales rep.  If you don’t offer compelling content, or if prospects can’t find it, you probably won’t get a meaningful in-person meeting.

 If you’re a provider of marketing services or web-to-print solutions, does your marketing collateral/content make the grade?

You can obtain the full survey report here.