Do you work at a Taiwanese B2B company? If so, which department holds the most sway in your organization? Probably most of you were saying 'Sales'. Although this is often the case in B2B companies globally it has been my experience that it is even more so for Taiwanese ones. The Sales Department is king, all hail the Sales Department!
Joking aside, there is good reasons why Salespeople are so important in B2B companies. Compared to B2C it is often a job that requires a lot of personal contact, the sales process is usually much longer, and the products tend to be more complex. Also, the customer relationship tends to last longer than B2B - more relationship based and less transactional.
All this leads us to the result that Taiwanese companies spend a lot on their sales departments. They invest on their initial training, on their on-going salaries and benefits, on sending them to trade shows, and hundreds of other things. My question is: what sort of tools are you giving them to sell with? If you are investing this much money in them and yet only giving them a so-so catalog to support them with, doesn't that seem foolish?
However, you may feel that spending more is also a waste. This would be true if you don't really know what you want to accomplish with it or what it can do for you. Your first step should be to discuss what you hope to get out of your catalog, as Clay Christenson says, what 'job' do you want your catalog to accomplish?
I've found that a good catalog can be especially good at accomplishing two tasks:
1. It can tell a story without you. It represents your company when you're not around.
2. It can act as a prop for when you are around. It helps support what you are saying at that moment and acts as a reminder for when you are finished.
What are some key components of a great catalog?
1. It tells a story, not just throwing things on paper
2. It satisfies different types of thinkers - they may already know what they want. They may not.
3. Building on this, it can segment your customers by both industrial usage or product categories. You need to adapt to the way that your customer thinks, not the other way around.
4. It focuses on providing them a solution, not just a product.
5. It explains some key industry parameters - showing that you're the expert. Anyone can list out products, it takes more knowledge to summarize what are the important things to look for.
6. Case studies are good - this shows that you know what you're doing, that you have the experience of providing a solution to your customers.
Design is used to get your message across, not as an end in itself. What I mean is that things such as icons, the right fonts, and the right colors, all help make the catalog easier to read and the reader can spend their energy and concentration getting to the message rather than getting lost in detail. Icons can be a good way to quickly get recurring features and benefits across quickly. The right colors can also create mental shortcuts for your audience. All these things reinforce the profession image of your firm by association.
So how do you get started on creating a new or improved catalog for your company? Here are a few steps to consider.
Our firm, Geber, does this for our clients but some of these steps you can do on your own as well:
1. Gather the old catalogs and ask your people what has been worked and what do they think hasn't.
2. Get some feedback from your customers and distributors about what they think.
3. Collect some of your competitors' catalogs but also consider looking at some from companies outside of your industry for a different perspective.
4. FAB Analysis. We then go through a short workshop with our clients to discuss and analyze the 'Features - Advantages - Benefits' of their products and services. As many of our clients are engineers this is a great activity to get at a better marketing- and customer-oriented perspective and create more audience focused content.
5. Think about what content is more broadly used and which is more specific or industry focused. The content that is more specific may be better as individual DMs while the catalog can be broader.