Influencing the Right People Is Crucial

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As direct marketers, it's our job to inspire action. We use all the tools at our disposal to get the target to respond. In business-to-business DM, the objective is more complex. We must find the right people within the target organizations - not just their titles, but their names - and get them to respond to our message.

BTB list strategies and tactics have been centered on getting the right names and titles and ensuring they are up to date. The questions of psychology and relevance often get pushed down the priority list because we spend so much time on who's at which desk doing what.

Targeting needs to do more than that. It must be a tool to leverage your message into the right hands at the right moment. The following explores a few of the creative methods we've used to get our clients' messages into the right hands, in the most persuasive way possible.

Catch them in a web of influence. Using list, offer and creative, we generally can identify, entice and attract the target audience. The trouble is often in identifying exactly whom our target audience should be. You can't know for sure who the decision maker will end up being in every situation.

To overcome this uncertainty, some send mail to several titles in the same organization, hoping to increase their chances of hitting the right person. It's a good strategy, but though it may increase the likelihood of getting the message to the right person, it's still a guessing game and it always has been. But it doesn't need to be if you create a web of influence around your prospect.

A web of influence means you use insecurities, fears and politics to make your target realize it's riskier to freeze you out than to let you in. Sound like fun? Here's how it works.

You'll be playing a psychological game using existing relationships that your prospect already experiences daily at the workplace. The play of these relationships is of paramount importance to your prospect.

You speak to your main target and three or four others in the organization. In addressing them, use language that makes clear that a web of people are linked to your message. This way, you engage their insecurity and desire to be connected, safe and in the loop.

By saying there is a web of well-selected individuals in the target company, you create one. Once the web exists, its members are more likely to respond to your offer and give you the "in." And that is all you wanted in the first place.

How relevance opens doors. Even if you get all your list data lined up perfectly and you send a message to all the right people, you still can fail. If that message is not quite right, or if it comes from Sammy down in the mailroom, you're still wasting all your fine targeting research and strategizing on a message that won't be acted on. We don't just need to be heard, we need to inspire action.

We have seen how surprisingly persuasive a very simple and inexpensive delivery of the right message to the right person can be even at the highest levels of an organization.

To generate leads from C-level officers, you need a strategy that speaks directly to corporate decision makers cost-effectively and without a lot of show. For such an objective, you might immediately suggest a high-end package, maybe even a dimensional one. But what if you need to keep package costs down - way down?

The idea is to send a real-looking letter directly from a C-level officer to the C-level officers at other corporations. The key to access isn't a fancy package. It is just the opposite. It's a simple package with the right message to the targeted audience.

The letter must speak to the receiving executive on a high level, dealing with issues that he or she will be worried about: keeping the company moving, innovation and cost in the relevant field. It must respect the recipient's time with brevity and an easy-to-understand call to action that can be taken immediately. Frequently, the executive will pass the information along to human resources or benefits administration staff for further action.

However the response is made, if it has the authority of an officer of the corporation behind it, a response is far more likely to result in a sale. As our access to list information changes with new technologies and new regulations, direct marketers should devise new tactics and strategies that make the most of what's available. The challenges go way beyond the length of your list.


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