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Mailing to the Elusive C-Suite


In B2B high tech direct marketing — of which we have done a ton of campaigns as B Direct and prior when we all worked at Direct Results Group — you're often selling a very high ticket solution, ten or hundreds of thousands of dollars or even more. Sending an email or postcard just doesn't feel sufficient. You need to make sure the medium matches the message. Or, in this case, the money.

At the same time, there are other challenges. You may need to reach a decision-maker or influencer in the C-suite (CEO, COO, CMO, CFO, CTO, etc...). She or he is strapped for time, bombarded by marketing, and focusing on other important things — not your marketing piece. Chances are, she or he has an assistant or "gatekeeper," who has been asked to sort out (and throw out) the dreaded "junk mail." At the same time, you'll be hard-pressed to reach them through other traditional means. Email? Don't bother. Print ads? Maybe, but you'd better have a big budget (a full-page in Fortune magazine costs $188,500). We had some success placing illuminated airport ads at major business hubs, and sponsorships of upscale events can be helpful too.

Still, we typically fall back on direct mail. Specifically, high-impact 3-dimensional mail. But, even that tried-and-true tactic needs a good deal of strategic thinking.

First of all, you have to make sure your package gets noticed and opened. We do this in a couple of ways. We typically recommend sending an email teaser "A package is coming your way; watch for it." We often recommend sending it Priority or Express Mail, or FedEx. This makes the package seem urgent and important, and it enables us to track deliverability. We very carefully check and re-check and re-check once again the list we're using. To this VIP audience, you definitely don't want to send a package with a misspelled name or out-of-date title.

An aside ... A list we worked on recently not only had typos, it had dead people. (This generated irresistible references to The Sixth Sense: "I see dead people.") Besides making your campaign more succesful, you don't want to waste money (as much as $25 or more per piece) sending something to someone who is ... um ... no longer in a position to buy.

So, what do you send?

The gift item needs to be personal, smart and classy. It should not be self-serving (if the silver Tiffany frame you send has your logo on it, Ms. CEO and Mr. CFO won't want it; in fact, they'll be annoyed that you took an otherwise lovely gift item and spoiled it). The item should help communicate that you understand the pressures they're under and the challenges they face.

A book about their industry, changing customer needs, or upcoming trends is always a thoughtful and intelligent gift. Work with the publisher to get each copy autographed to make it even more personal and special. And, if you choose a book by a renowned author or business leader, you're implying an endorsement by a respected third party.

Or, create your own beautiful coffee table book that dramatizes what your product or solution does. In other words, don't show an engineer using software that helps him restore historical sites. Hire an amazing photographer and showcase the sites themselves.

Send an experience rather than a thing. (Or, send a thing that alludes to the experience you're offering.) We once designed a package that included a scale model of the Concord on a satin flight pillow because qualified prospects were invited to see our client's system in use at a site in Paris.

A 1, 2 punch concept can work well — if you select the right 2-part gift. A remote control Ferrari without the remote control (schedule a demo and they receive it). A golf club cover without the high-end golf club. A handsome leather tablet case without the tablet. You get the idea. Granted, some savvy (and disillusioned) prospects may scoff at these tactics. But, in our experience, they still work.

If you have a more moderate budget, make up for it with creativity. Think of something nostalgic, maybe. We ran a very successful C-level campaign that included a Magic 8 Ball (remember those?). And, food — unusual, upscale — can work too.

There's not much that a C-level executive needs or wants (after all, they can probably buy anything you can send them). So, another tactic is to send an item produced by or related to a nonprofit. Offer to make a donation in their or their company's name if they meet with you. This way, they have extra emotional pressure to do so. (A little guilt can go a long way.)

Don't waste your (and your audience's time) sending something they already have, could easily have, or just don't want. And, make sure the connection between what you send and what you're offering (the purpose, features, and benefits of your product or solution) jibe.

Once you've sent your 3-D mail package, follow-up with an email chaser and then a phone call. A standard rule of thumb is that you should attempt to call at least 7 times or so. If you still don't get through, send a personalized note (handwritten even) to make sure they received the package and encourage them to take the next step.

Working on C-level direct marketing can be challenging, but it can be a lot of fun too. Even as we type, the Bs are happily eating their way through the extra Godiva chocolates leftover from a C-level campaign that mailed yesterday.

Mailing to the C-suite and be so "sweet."




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