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Marketing to Time–Poor, Senior Executives

When one of our clients, Oracle, tasked us to reach 40 ‘time poor’ prospects in oil and gas, we took a pretty unusual approach – and it worked. So what made the difference?

As a B2B tech marketing strategist, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is “How can we reach and influence this audience…and they have no awareness of us and they are difficult to reach…etc?”

There’s no one right answer, obviously – otherwise everyone would be doing it (and then it wouldn’t work anymore). But I can share some important takeaways from a high–impact campaign that went spectacularly right.

Leaders in the American oil and gas industries are some of the busiest, hardest–to–reach executives in the world. We recognised that online wouldn’t work, so we focused on the desktop. But to truly make an impact there, we needed to try something extraordinary.

Research told us senior oil and gas execs are spending more time reviewing video, but we still needed a standout delivery method. So we considered taking the screen to them, in a personalised pack.

With a specially crafted suite of content tailored to the individual, we set about creating a TV–style news show for each industry. Then we put the shows on small, self–playing video packs with personalised messaging. The sales team were poised to followup… the rest, as they say, is history.

The result was 33 new, qualified leads, a flurry of immediate meetings and a sales pipeline of over £1 million.

So… where did it all go right? Why did we choose that approach? And what does it say about marketing to the C–Suite?

For us, the big learning points were:

Be Committed

It’s important to be single–minded in your targeting. Know exactly who you want to reach, and don’t be distracted. This is harder than it sounds: yes, the number of recipients is relatively small, but they’re senior – so you can’t compromise on quality. At this level, you only get one chance.

Yes, the cost per prospect is higher, so it can take an iron nerve to commit fully to a campaign when the stakes get high – from the agency and the client. Whatever credit we take for the campaign, at least as much must go to Oracle for backing the plan.

Make it Personal

The upside of very precise targeting is that you know exactly who you’re talking to.
Earn their precious time; speak to the individual, not the crowd.

Trust Your Research

Since you know who you’re targeting, you have an opportunity to do your homework – but you need to be disciplined about acting on the results, as the truth might be counter–intuitive. Work closely with the sales team. Get their buy–in: you need it.

For example, one thing our research told us very clearly was that email was not the way to reach our desired audience this time – hence the investment in the content and the innovative video solution.

Say One Thing, Clearly.

Even when you’ve got their attention, you won’t have it for long. So think long and hard about the one thing you need the prospect to take away from this interaction.

Our card–based news show was a shade over five minutes. Relatively long, and deliberately so: the central, overarching message – “we are an expert in your sector, and understand the issues that keep you awake at night” – was implied from the outset.

You don’t need to tell the prospect everything; so decide how much information is enough. (And be ruthless about it. Your audience will.)

Be Different

Don’t kid yourself: you’re not the only one trying to get this executive’s attention. The more valuable the prospect, the harder your competitors will be trying to get onto the radar. The noise level must be unbelievable.

The fact is, the time–poor executive has to simply screen out most marketing messages (no pun intended!), just to get the day job done.

So ask yourself: what’s going to be different about you? The point is to be relevant and appropriate as well as original.

When different works, it really works.

One surprise benefit from our video–in–a–card campaign was the way executives who received a mailer spontaneously started to share it with their colleagues in the C–Suite. We’d not only grabbed their attention, we’d created a watercooler moment; and, with it, a valuable second audience.

Yes, senior executives are incredibly busy, and understandably tired of the usual dull, irrelevant marketing materials. But they’re people, like anyone else. The secret is to reach them where they are, and delight them.

(P.S. This blog was written before the video–in–a–card campaign was nominated for the B2B Marketing Award for Best use of Direct Mail.)