Sunday, October 30, 2011

Marketing Collateral Remains Critical (But Buyers' Preferences are Changing)

Earlier this month, Eccolo Media released its 2011 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report. This survey focused on business buyers who had been involved in a recent purchase of business technology, and it was designed to measure the use and influence of five types of marketing collateral.
  • Product brochures/data sheets
  • White papers
  • Customer case studies
  • Podcasts/audio files
  • Videos/multimedia files
This survey was limited to technology buyers, so the results may not reflect the attitudes and practices of all B2B buyers. On the other hand, it's probably fair to say that technology buyers as a group tend to be "early adopters" of new communications methods. Therefore, the findings of this survey may provide a good early indication of how other kinds of B2B buyers will use and value marketing collateral in the near future.  You can obtain a copy of the survey here, and I encourage you to review it.

The 2011 survey revealed a surprising shift in the consumption of some types of marketing collateral, so surprising that Eccolo Media conducted a follow-up survey to gain additional insights. (Note:  Eccolo Media has conducted this survey since 2008, so year-to-year comparisons can be made.) I'll describe the change in consumption patterns, but first here are some of the major survey findings.
  • Product brochures/data sheets are the most widely consumed type of marketing collateral, followed (in order) by white papers, video/multimedia files, case studies, and podcasts/audio files.
  • Marketing collateral continues to have a major influence on purchase decisions.  At least 61% of survey respondents said that all five types of collateral were "very" or "extremely" influential.
  • White papers remain the most influential type of marketing collateral.
The surprise in the survey was a significant drop in the consumption of some types of marketing collateral. Compared to 2010, the consumption of customer case studies fell 17 percentage points, white papers declined 14 percentage points, and product brochures/data sheets decreased 11 percentage points.

These results do not mean that case studies, white papers, and product brochures are becoming less critical to effective marketing. The follow-up survey conducted by Eccolo Media addressed five additional types of marketing collateral - company Web pages, social media sites, blog posts, e-books, and presentations. It showed that buyers are using all of the "new" types of content to research business issues and learn about products and services.

So, what's happening is that companies are offering marketing content in a wider variety of formats, and buyers are taking advantage of the expanded options to consume content in the format they prefer.

The results of these surveys contain three important lessons for B2B marketers.
  • Informative, valuable, and compelling marketing content is more critical than ever for successful B2B marketing.
  • The number of content formats available to companies is increasing, and many of the newer formats are attractive to potential buyers.
  • It's becoming important to deliver the same basic content message in a variety of content formats. For example, B2B buyers view white papers as highly influential because they present valuable information in a objective, non-promotional way. This type of information is still essential for marketing success, but it's now important to embody that information in Webinars/Webcasts, podcasts, and presentations, as well as in white papers.


  1. The brochures/case studies and the white papers both do their jobs in different ways. A brochure/case study is useful when the buyer has partially decided that he is going to find out more about the solution that you offer. The white paper works, even when the buyer is at the business need stage, and may not be even evaluating you. It works as a great influencer to grab his attention

  2. Atul,

    Thank you for your comment. I completely agree with your point. Case studies and brochures work fine when a prospect is at the consideration-evaluation stage of the buying process. White papers and similar content are better suited for the awareness-needs identification stage.