Within business-to-business direct marketing, more often than not, the “customer” you are trying to influence is not an individual at all. Instead, it’s much more likely a group of people or committee that includes each a decision-maker and multiple decision-influencers.
One of the many advantages of database marketing and the particular advertising medium of direct email is that they allow you to tailor your format, offer and selling messages to your audience(s). In this manner, you can create a number of interrelated and reinforcing mailings to pay attention to one or both of these targets.
With this in mind, here are some tips for increasing your success in selling to a customer-by-committee:
o When creating lead generation and follow-up mailings, remember most business mailings are screened once, twice or even more before reaching your targeted audience. Write and design mailings being mindful of this.
o Plan and budget for a series of mailings to each of your customer-by-committee members. Too often, marketers budget for “single hit” mailings that turn out to be expensive failures through no fault of their own. Timing and multiple exposures are important in reaching these audiences. The more “considered” the purchase, the longer the sales cycle. You’ve got to stay in front of your customer through repetitive contacts – whether that’s in the mail, by phone or in person.
o Whenever possible, mail to people by name and title. Utilizing the person’s name makes him or her feel more important and makes the mailing show up more personal. Using the title assists the in-office mail screener re-route your mailing if the individual addressed has moved on to another job.
um Don’t necessarily use the same sending format and size for reaching all your targeted audiences. While a monarch-size, closed-faced envelope may be necessary to reach the president or CEO, it may be equally effective to use a less expensive, less personal format to reach the dozens of decision-influencers.
o Make sure to tell your customer-by-committee that you’re communicating with others within their organization. Ideally, you want to get them speaking with each other–so give them reasons to be engaged in discussions about your service or product.
o Make your decision-influencers really feel important. While these people don’t sign the contract or purchase order, they can be your biggest advocate, your own internal salesperson. Give them a dab on the back. Let them know you value their opinions. Give them a special 800 number to call, and think of other ways to nurture their assistance.
o When communicating with these various audiences, make sure you anticipate – and address – their individual purchasing objections. Don’t assume that cost is always the main objection for everyone.
o Regardless of how many mailings you send in your sales series, always give a cause and method for responding. Use these types of opportunities to collect valuable data to increase your customer or prospect database. This data can then be used to tailor future offers, messages, plus ultimately, close the sale.
o When the available database or the e-mail lists can’t help you reach all the important people whether they’re decision-makers or even influencers – ask for help. Inquire the individual you’re mailing to pass together your enclosed information to the correct person or people. Say “thank you” on the spot. You may even want to include a separate envelope with a routing slip and sales message tailored towards the audience that will receive it.
u When doing a lead generation mailing, make sure to ask (on the reply cards or fax-back reply) for the names and titles of others who may be interested and involved in the buying choice. Enter this into your database and make sure you’re communicating with these people in certain fashion.
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o One size will not fit all when selling to a customer-by-committee. Even though it may seem like a lot of work (and expense) to write different versions of the same letter, there’s a big pay-off. I once had written over 20 versions of the exact same letter for a lead generation or followup program. In this case, it was for a software program company selling a multi-million money product to large hospitals. While one person ultimately signed the contract, many departments and people within these departments influenced the final buying decision. I communicated with each of them repeatedly over a period of months.
o As with notice copy, vary your offer to match the needs and concerns of your audience. While the final decision-maker may be interested in having a payback calculated, others are more likely to be interested in day-to-day benefits such as protection, convenience and time-savings. Tailor your offer to your targets.
o Final, don’t limit your thinking about selling to customers-by-committee to business-to-business sales only. The larger–the more “considered” the customer purchase – the more likely it also shall be made by a committee (i. e., family vacations, college choices, investments, automobiles, or the purchase of a home or real estate). Apply these same principles. You’ll like the results.