Stories have been around since humans could grunt. As commerce emerged in the developing world, stories turned to narratives which turned into marketing collateral. The oldest known piece of marketing collateral was found in Thebes, Egypt around 3,000 BC. It was an advertisement on the papyrus of slave Shem. In it, the seller of fabrics called Hapu claimed he would give a reward to those who reported the whereabouts of the slave Shem and return him to the store. He goes on to say that his store is “where the most beautiful fabrics are woven for each person’s taste.” Talk about a clickbait headline.
Marketing collateral has come a long way from those days but the premise still remains the same — tell a story or narrative that gets people’s attention. In order to create these product narratives to create great marketing collateral, let’s first take a look at the functions of marketing and how that ties into product narratives.
I’m going to briefly touch on the 5 P’s and the 5 C’s of marketing so you get some perspective on the traditional marketing methods. What will drive the narratives will be more of a pragmatic marketing approach, which I’ll touch on a little later.
The 5 P’s of Marketing
Classical marketing deals with the first 4 of these P’s, which is commonly called the marketing mix or the principles of marketing. A 5th P has been added (People) since getting the right people to present your company or product is an important part of success.
- Product: The product (or service) you want to sell.
- Price: How much the product will cost the customer.
- Promotion: What you will say about the product to get people to buy.
- Place: Where you will sell and promote the product (e.g. retail store, online, sell to distribution).
- People: Who will be selling and interacting with the customer in the place you will be selling your product.
These 5 P’s are what all products need to have in order to be successful. In terms of modern marketing, a lot of people have switched to the 5 C’s of marketing, which lends itself nicely to digital marketing.
The 5 C’s of Marketing
The 5 C’s of marketing take a more consumer-centric approach that has an impact on the type of marketing collateral you’ll have to generate. They are listed below:
- Consumer: Behind every B2B or B2C, there is a person – the consumer of your content, products, and services. They need to be at the center of your plans.
- Context: Context is about knowing the who, what, where, when and most importantly why the consumer wants something.
- Content: Content must be influenced, inspired and driven based on context. It must be relevant and useful information that is delivered just in time across all platforms.
- Commerce: Make it easy to buy. Reduce buying friction as much as you can.
- Convergence: All parts of the organization must know what other parts are doing since the customer is central and needs to get a consistent experience across the company.
As you can see, there is some overlap between the 5 C’s and the 5 P’s — mostly on the Promotion, Place, and People side since those are where marketing collateral is needed. The 5 C’s also align themselves nicely with pragmatic marketing in that the messaging and focus is to solve the customer’s problem. More on that later.
This is important to know since all of these items will have to be coordinated and consistent in messaging tone and tenor. In order to do that, you’ll need to create a product narrative.
What is a Product Narrative
A product narrative is a 2-3 paragraph description of your product that captures the message you’re trying to communicate. Think of it as an elevator pitch for your product where you only have 20 to 30 seconds to explain what your product is and does. These narratives should be the tip of your pragmatic marketing collateral spear. This technique also applies to your company via developing a PR Narrative, which inspired the process below.
How to Create Product Narratives
Product narratives should be created with all the parties that will need to create, market, and sell the product. The audience for such a narrative should be your typical customer explaining your product to their grandmother. The reason I say your grandmother is that the product narrative must be clear, concise, and compelling so that she can understand it quickly from someone else.
This customer-focused approach is at the heart of communicating what you do since, in order for your product to have a chance at success, it needs to be easily shareable by your customers. Essentially, you want to have such a rock star product (and narrative) that your customers can’t wait to tell their friends, family, and grandmothers.
In order to create this rockstar product narrative, consider this simple 4 step process. For each step (except step 4), write 1-2 sentences and pick a word that describes it.
Step 1: Why Does the Product Exist
The why of your product (and company) is an important concept to nail down. The why your product exists is not to make money or acquire fame or fortune. It must be deeper than that. It’s akin to the larger context of why someone should care about it.
As an example, let’s look at the Sutro Smart Monitor (they are a client).
The why of the smart monitor is to keep your pool and/or spa water safe to use.
Step 2: What Makes the Product Unique
Uniqueness is the way a product rises about the noise to make an impact. The uniqueness of a product (or service) will give a customer a reason to want to spend their time interacting with your marketing collateral.
For Sutro, the uniqueness of the Smart Monitor is that it gives you treatment recommendations based on the chemicals you already use. On top of that, the technology for monitoring the water is the same as used by the EPA and FDA, which makes it the gold standard for water measurements.
Step 3: What Pain Does the Product Solve for Customers
The customer pain point or problem your product solves for them is essential for a product narrative. It’s the single biggest concept in pragmatic marketing in that your product has to solve a real and urgent problem that the customer will pay for.
For Sutro, the problem solved is the hassle of consistently measuring pool or spa water and then treating it with complex charts of chemicals.
Step 4: Putting the Product Narrative Together
Now that you have the three pieces of the narrative and the words, it’s time to put it all together. To start, you don’t need to use everything you came up with. The exercise is meant to get you thinking of how a product narrative can come together.
If you do this as a group, which I highly recommend, have everyone share their answers and come up with a composite. That’s the way we did the final product narrative so the Sutro Smart Monitor, which is below:
The Sutro Smart Monitor is the simple, safe, and seamless way to measure, monitor and get recommendations on how to treat your pool or spa water. With Sutro, you can rest easy that your pool or spa will be ready to use when you want to use it. Love your pool (or spa) again with Sutro.
As you can see, the product narrative is a couple of sentences that drive home what the Sutro Smart Monitor solves for the customer. If you own a pool and spa, chances are, this product narrative will resonate with you.
Now that we have an understanding of a product narrative, the next step to develop rockstar pragmatic marketing collateral is to use the product narrative to be the common touchpoint for all the collateral we need to write. Before we can write any of the marketing collateral, let’s take a look at Pragmatic Marketing and how it’s framework can make it a lot easier to write clear, concise, and compelling collateral.
Pragmatic Marketing Defined
The framework for Pragmatic Marketing was developed in 1993 as a way to “provide a standard language for your entire product team and a blueprint of the key activities needed to bring profitable, problem-oriented products to market.”
The beauty of the framework is distilled into these 12 rules, which along with the product narrative, we’ll use to create marketing collateral.
- An outside-in approach increases the likelihood of product success.
- The answer to most of your questions is not in the building.
- We are all pragmatic marketers.
- If the product team doesn’t do its job, other departments will fill the void.
- The building is full of product experts. Your company needs market experts.
- Win/loss should be done by someone not involved in that sales effort.
- Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant.
- Only build solutions for problems that are urgent, pervasive and that the market will pay to solve.
- Positioning focuses on the problems you solve.
- Create a separate positioning document whenever the personas’ problems are different.
- Name the product after positioning is finished.
- Positioning drives execution.
As you can see, it really is a pragmatic approach that relies on data and customer feedback to build the best product. Rules 8-12 are the ones that will be the most helpful in crafting marketing collateral and must be finished first or iterated on during collateral development.
What is Marketing Collateral
Marketing collateral is a collection of media used to support the sales of your products or services. It’s all the support materials that enable your team to sell your product or service. The most important thing to remember about marketing collateral is that it needs to be on-brand, on-message, and on-style or the customer will quickly get confused.
Pragmatic marketing collateral adds an additional layer of problem-focused insights that make creating collateral much easier to keep consistent. If the product narrative captures what the product is, then the collateral developed from it will fulfill the needs of all groups within your company.
Types of Marketing Collateral
There are lots and lots of collateral that needs to be generated for a product before and during a product launch.
- Sell Sheets or One Sheets: A sell sheet or one sheet is a simple tool that showcases the benefits of your idea in a succinct and compelling way. It’s usually a single sheet — thus the name
- Brochures: an informative paper document that can be folded into a template, pamphlet or leaflet. A brochure can also be a set of related unfolded papers put into a pocket folder or packet.
- Landing Pages: a single web page that appears in response to clicking on a search engine optimized search result or an online advertisement. It’s sole focus is on the product and nothing else.
- Explainer Videos: Image a brochure as a video and you get the sense of an explainer video. Usually, they are done in a series.
- Testimonials: There is nothing better than direct feedback from happy customers. Even better if they parrot back your product narrative in their own words.
- Ebooks: these are nice ways to dig deeper into a topic or problem that your product fixes.
- Email Campaigns: Email is still one of the best ways to engage with customers. Having a pre-defined autoresponder series or set of welcome emails makes customers feel important.
- Whitepapers: expand upon a brochure in a more formal way and goes into additional details on how the product fixes the problem.
- Case Studies: actual customer results using the product. These are more in-depth than a testimonial.
- Press Kit: All the materials a reporter or blogger would need to write about the product including product shots, company executive bios, headshots, logos, etc.
- Social Media + Advertising Style Guide: it’s important that any social media or advertising (especially online) about your product have a consistent look and feel or customers will get confused. A style guide will ensure that the right font, pictures, descriptions, etc are used.
I’m sure I missed a few but these are the major ones to consider and develop as part of your overall marketing collateral plan. If you use the problem-focused pragmatic marketing framework along with your product narrative, chances are you’ll create clear, concise, and compelling marketing collateral that will make it easy for your potential customers to want your product.
Pragmatic Marketing Collateral Must be Consistent
The hallmark of great collateral is that it ticks and ties together seamlessly. Whatever piece of collateral a customer interacts with, they will see, hear, touch, and feel the product narrative coming through. That is an important part of the pre-buying experience and when done right, it will make customers delighted and want to share how great your product solved their problem.