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What kind of wholesale marketing collateral is needed to support your business? This can be a tough question for many wholesale distributors and manufacturers. With the advent of online marketing tools, B2B eCommerce portals, and the like, some wholesale brands and distributors might be wondering if investing in other marketing collateral is a waste of money.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Though printed catalogs and price sheets are being replaced by digital versions, the truth is, these tools exist to support customers who have already reached the decision to buy from you. They don’t support the “customer journey” your buyers take before and after they reach their purchase decision.

That’s where wholesale marketing collateral comes in. It serves as a roadmap, of sorts, for the journey your customer will take to purchasing your product. It provides the tangible support and key information they need along the way.

What is wholesale marketing collateral?

When people think of marketing collateral, they often think of printed materials like flyers and brochures. But marketing collateral is more than that. Collateral actually refers to any type of media or content that supports your customers’ decision-making process or “customer journey.” In addition to printed materials, this could include web content, videos, blog posts, or sponsored posts on a lifestyle or industry blog or website.

In wholesale, marketing collateral fulfills two key roles. It can build your brand in the eyes of B2B buyers and provide answers to their questions as they determine whether or not to make that purchase for their business. It also needs to provide information to help them sell to their end customers.

These dual roles make wholesale marketing collateral a pretty broad area. That’s why it’s important to stay focused on the needs of the customer and the journey they take when making the decision to buy from you.

What is your customer’s journey?

The customer journey refers to the steps that a customer takes to make a decision about buying your products. So what are the steps of the customer journey?

1. Need identification

Need identification happens when your customer identifies a problem or need. Some products address needs customers don’t know they have; marketing collateral can help them identify that need.

What types of collateral can help with this part of the customer journey?

  • Lifestyle imagery – Lifestyle imagery differs from product photography in that it portrays people in realistic or aspirational situations where they would be using your product, and is great for creating a need for products that are more upscale and less price sensitive. You can use this imagery in your collateral, and provide it to your customers (retailers and the like) for use in their marketing. You could even use it in editorial coverage and PR for your product.
  • Lookbooks – Typically used in fashion and design marketing, a lookbook can be online or in print. It is a collection of photographs showing your product line, styled to demonstrate the essence of your brand.

2. Brand awareness

The next step of the journey happens when customers become aware that a solution exists to address their need. Here, branding comes into play to position your product as the best option, and branding materials should definitely be a part of your wholesale marketing collateral mix.

Flyers and brochures are some of the first marketing tools that spring to mind when thinking about brand awareness, but there are other wholesale marketing collateral options that can be even more effective:

  • Public relations and influencer marketing – whether you’re working with a fashion influencer or a technology journalist, some of the most effective brand awareness comes from third parties. This type of collateral encompasses everything from press releases to guest posts on blogs or sponsored content.
  • Video – Video is rapidly becoming one of the most effective ways to reach customers, whether they are B2B customers or consumers. It can be deployed all along the customer journey, but one of the most effective ways to use it is in your branding.
  • Mailers – An essential aspect of branding is staying “top of mind.” Mailers – anything from a postcard to an abbreviated catalog that invites B2B buyers to your online ordering portal – can be a great way to stay in front of customers and drive sales.

3. Research and comparison

As customers move toward making a purchase decision, they will begin researching options. They will have specific questions and are looking for specifications and detail to help them compare options and make decisions. It’s key to understand what sorts of questions your customers are asking in this leg of their journey, and to provide materials that answer those questions.

Here are some wholesale marketing collateral tools that can help your customers with their research:

  • Product imagery – Product imagery exists to provide more tangible information as they are doing research about your product.
  • Product data sheets – As customers research, they need more information about your product. Customers want to know, “How big is it? Where was it made? What are its ingredients or materials?”
  • Demo scripts for highly technical products – These can help train retailers or field sales reps on how to sell products through to end customers.
  • Product reviews – Data sheets provide customers with data and specifications about your product, but reviews tell customers about the actual experience of using it. Customers want to know, “What do other people think about this product? Will it be popular?”
  • Case studies and success stories – Like public relations efforts and influencer marketing, case studies and success stories lend third-party credibility, or “social proof,” to your marketing efforts.

4. Purchase

Once the customer has made their purchase decision, your job as a marketer isn’t done yet. Marketing collateral should support the purchasing process and make it easy for customers to actually buy your product.

So, what types of marketing collateral can support the purchase aspect of the customer journey?

  • Trade show package – If trade shows are part of your marketing strategy, you’ll need a trade show support package. Trade shows are unique because they compress several aspects of the journey – need, branding, comparison and research may all be happening on the tradeshow floor along with the purchase. So when creating your brochures and other promotional materials, make sure to incorporate the elements above, such as case studies and reviews, product data sheets, product or lifestyle imagery to address customer needs to understand how the product might be used, how it compares with similar products, and to provide social proof around your products.
  • Field rep support package – Field reps work with the customer throughout the customer journey, but it’s during the purchase leg of the journey that they really earn their keep. Make sure they have the tools they need to deal with those last minute objections and close the sale by providing a complete field rep support package that incorporates your key branding and product information, along with an easy-to-use order writing process.
  • Online support materials – Make sure your web copy, imagery, B2B portals and online ordering are well crafted with consistent messaging. Incorporating materials from previous legs of the customer journey, such as lifestyle and product imagery, links to reviews, case studies and complete product specs can help to support the final purchase decision for B2B buyers.
  • Mobile order writing – You can also support field reps by making sure the actual ordering process is easy. With a mobile order writing application, your reps can take orders in the field quickly and easily, and immediately sync those orders to your back office for processing.

5. Experience

Once your customer has made their purchase, it’s important not to forget about them. Marketing collateral that supports existing customers can be a key part of retention; it’s always cheaper to retain an existing customer than it is to find and convince a new one.

What types of marketing collateral support the customer experience?

  • Customer support materials, such as manuals and guides.
  • Internal support scripts, to ensure customers get help when they need it and have a great experience with your product.
  • Retail Point of Sale displays – If your products will be sold in retail stores, your buyers need materials to support those sales – this helps to ensure they become repeat customers. One way to do this is through providing POS displays, merchandising guidelines, product videos, etc.

Wholesale marketing collateral supports your customers throughout their customer journey, from creating need and awareness, to providing the materials needed to research and compare options, supporting the purchase decision and buying process, and helping to improve the customer experience post-purchase.

What sorts of wholesale marketing collateral do you find most helpful to support your customers through their purchase journey? Please let us know about it in the comments.