Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Secret to Marketing to the Line-of-Business Executive

Many technology companies have directed their marketing and sales teams to look for business beyond the traditional IT customer.  The secret to marketing to the line-of-business executive is to think like they do. Huh? Is this a secret?

Imagine you have a cute little terrier that you love dearly but who chews up everything in sight.  You fear that you will have to give the dog away if he keeps wrecking things.  As a super-busy person you rarely have time to read articles, however, one of the articles below will stop you in your tracks. Which one?
       a) Animals around Our Home
       b) Dogs: What do they do every day?
       c) Why We Love Terriers
       d) How to Stop Terriers from Destroying Your Home

You know that the answer is D.  And if each of the authors had a dog training business, which one are you most likely to contact?

Everyone gravitates toward things that they believe are made "just for me" and ignores things that are made for "someone else".  It doesn't matter if you are trying to get the attention of the Chief Marketing Officer, the Vice President of Human Resources, the head of pediatric medicine, or a  terrier owner. The more completely you enter to your customer's world, the more likely you are to be successful with them.

Do the Work
It's a matter of simple economics.  As the busy owner of the errant terrier, you do not want to waste your precious time reading articles that are of marginal value (Animals around Our Home?).  Nor are you willing to do the heavy cognitive lifting needed to mine a useful nugget from a broader purpose article (Why We Love Terriers?). 

If you want to attract and serve the line-of-business customer, then YOU (or at least someone in your company) must do the heavy cognitive lifting learning about your customer's world. YOU must spend your precious time (and money) to customize your offerings and messaging for them.  There is simply no other way.  Someone has to build the cognitive bridge between your world and your customer's. Your customer will not do it – so that leaves only you.

Avoid the "Vertical Slap"
Line-of-business customers will feel annoyed and betrayed if you evade the work of customization by using a technique that I call the "vertical slap". The "vertical slap" gets its name for the unfortunate practice of slapping a picture of a nurse on a regular, old, horizontal, campaign and claiming that you market to the healthcare vertical. 

Don't be superficial. Do the work. At least one person on the campaign team has to bring direct experience in the line-of-business focus area. Alternatively, at least one person has to acquire this deep knowledge. (HINT: in addition to understanding the line-of-business, you may also need to invest in understanding the differences between the worlds of different executive levels – for example, a CMO thinks differently than a Director for Marketing).

Don't be cheap. Spend the time and the money. You can either pay up front for customizing content and offerings – or you can pay down the line with low conversion rates.

Actually, the secret to marketing to the line-of-business executive is not a secret. It just takes work.

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