The explosive growth of tablet (and smartphone) ownership has caused many companies to treat these devices as a marketing channel. Research firms like Forrester have been tracking the growth of "mobile marketing" for the past several years.
Most of the buzz about mobile marketing has involved B2C programs. What has gone less noticed is that tablet computers are quickly becoming an important sales enablement tool in many B2B companies. In a recent poll of its members by the Corporate Executive Board, 75% of respondents said they are already using tablet technology to support sales or plan to begin using tablets within the next 12 months.
Consider just a few examples:
- Earlier this year, InformationWeek reported that Level 3 Communications, a telecom and network services company, had just given iPads to its 1,300 North American salespeople and sales engineers.
- In early 2011, cbsnews.com reported that AstraZeneca and Novartis are among several pharmaceutical companies that have acquired iPads for some of their outside salespeople.
- In late 2010, Medtronic, Inc., a medical devices company, made news when it purchased 4,500 iPads for its sales and marketing team.
Sales reps also love tablets because they make life easier. For example, before they received iPads, Medtronic's salespeople routinely carried about 25 pounds of printed product literature on sales calls. The iPads make most of the printed collateral unnecessary, and they weigh less than two pounds.
The benefits of using tablets to support sales efforts are obvious, but it's important to realize that they also create new challenges for marketers. To maximize the potential of tablet-based sales presentations, companies need to provide salespeople new kinds of marketing content. B2B marketers have long been responsible for supporting salespeople with marketing collateral documents such as company brochures, product brochures, and customer case studies. These collateral materials have traditionally been printed documents that sales reps would carry on sales calls.
With tablet computers, these traditional marketing collateral documents can be transformed into rich, interactive marketing content. For example, a product brochure can include links to schematic drawings or audio/visual files that show the product in use. A company brochure could contain a video message from the CEO or a brief interview with an industry analyst.
Developing this kind of rich, interactive content is primarily a marketing function, but marketers must work closely with front-line salespeople to ensure that the content will be relevant and compelling for prospects and easy for sales reps to use.
So far, the use of tablets for sales presentations has primarily involved large enterprises. Given the significant benefits, however, that's about to change. Therefore, if you're a marketer in a large or midsize B2B company, you should be thinking now about how you can develop tablet-friendly content and how you can put that content in the hands of your sales reps.