5 Direct Mail Tips for Marketing to Top Executives

There’s no better way to get your message into the hands of top-level executives than direct mail. But you still have to get past the gate keepers. Here are five creative ways you can be sure your message gets through to the decision makers.

Direct marketing guru and author Denny Hatch has a colorful name for executive assistants. He calls these good people, whose responsibilities include screening phone calls, sorting the mail and helping to manage the daily activities of their high-powered bosses…

“White Fang.” And these days “White Fang” has very capable assistants of his or her own in the form of caller ID, voice mail and email filters.

Let’s face it, a big part of their job is to keep us – the B-to-B Marketer and sales professional – out. But because these senior-level executives can make or break our sales and marketing efforts, it’s imperative that we find ways to get our message in. And few marketing tools are better suited for this task than direct mail. That said, I present…

Five direct mail tips for marketing to senior-level executives

  • Make Your Mail Peer-To-Peer Personal – Consider sending a personalized direct mail letter “written” by your CEO, CFO, CIO, etc. on his or her corporate stationery to his or her counterpart. Play up the commonalities both people share, the business and professional challenges they face that only someone in their position truly understands. I call it “honcho-to-honcho” marketing and it can be very effective. For example, one organization had success with a simple peer-to-peer letter bearing its CEO’s name, personal telephone number and a brief description of what the company offers.
  • Use Dimensional Mail – In the lead-generation category of the Direct Marketing Association’s 2005 Response Rate Report, dimensional mail came in a close second to telemarketing (5.28% vs. 5.53%). As a tool for producing executive-level leads I have no doubt it ranked first. Simply stated, anything uniquely packaged, any envelope with a bulge, anything mailed in a box – you can usually count on these mailers making it past the mailroom and “White Fang.” A couple of examples –
    • A company selling an enterprise level software package targeted 70 CFOs at large corporations. One group received an authentic strait-jacket with sales collateral conveying the message that, “Most CFOs don’t realize how constraining their financial software can be until it’s too late.” Another group received a full-size hammock and attached pillow. The messaging theme for this mailer was, “When making changes to accommodate your growing business needs, does your financial software leave you hanging?” The program was a huge success, helping the company produce $2 million dollars in short-term sales and additional deals later on.
    • Another marketer mailed a box. Inside the box was a silk napkin embroidered with the receiving company’s logo, a set of silverware and a menu of the sending company’s services. The offer? The company’s rep would bring a catered lunch to a scheduled appointment. Question: How might we tweak the above offer if our goal is to have the executive dine at our place of business and tour our plant or offices? How about we offer to send a limo to take the executive to and from our offices? Remember, this is the “Big Kahuna” we’re targeting. A good meeting at your place of business could be worth hundreds of thousands, maybe millions in revenues for your company. And you’ll only pay the $300 – $400 for the limo if the executive takes you up on your offer.  
  • Don’t Use Teaser Copy – In many larger companies your mail will be screened twice, once in the mailroom and again by the executive assistant. Teaser copy, copy on the envelope such as “FREE,” “Urgent” and so on, will scream “JUNK MAIL” and you probably won’t even make the first cut. Plus, even if you make it out of the mailroom you still won’t make it past “White Fang.”  
  • Use Overnight Mail – If you have the budget for it use an express service. Simply put, when it says FedEx on the package, the package gets opened. Usually right away. At the very least, the assistant will put your package on top of the executive’s mail pile. Now you’re not going to mail thousands or even hundreds of these packages at a time. The ideal strategy is to send two or three a day or a week and follow up with a phone call. But keep in mind that while getting your package noticed and opened is a major accomplishment…your copy and your offer better be interesting enough to keep the executive interested once they’ve opened it. This leads to number five.
  • Offer Useful Information – Senior-level executives are by and large information junkies and Type-A, driven people who are always on the lookout for ways to get an edge on the competition and advance their careers. So well reviewed, top-selling business books, especially on the subjects of leadership and management, make good offers for them. In addition, offering them information they can’t get anywhere else, such as a timely white paper or just released survey can be a great way to get their attention – and, a response.

It’s been reported that the typical executive gets 175 pieces of mail a week. Granted, that’s a lot. But that number is a mere fraction of the emails and voicemails they get, the majority of which they’ll never see or hear. In summary, if you’re looking to generate more response from the folks who occupy the corner offices, a well thought out, well-planned, well-written direct mail effort is one of your surest bets for success. So if direct mail isn’t part of your current game plan in targeting this highly influential group, I urge you to add it to your lead-generation playbook.

Who knows, you just may end up making “White Fang” and her boss your friends.

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