If you've been in marketing for a while, you know the best way to capture someone's attention is to write directly to them as "you." The idea is to establish a one-on-one communication where you discuss how your product will meet your prospective client's needs.
But it's important to recognize that the "you" whom you've been writing to for the past few years has changed as radically as the economic landscape.
The New "You" May not Have Budget
If your prospect is on a January-to-December fiscal year, their new 2009 budget begins now. If you offer a product or service that saves money, you need to bottom-line those savings, so that you can find a place in that budget now -- before it gets cut again later in the year.
If your prospect has a July-to-June fiscal year, get in there while they still have budget. Yes, they've probably revised their numbers downward, but their budget is likely to be bigger now than in July 2009.
If you're sending out a B2B (define) e-mail about your product, play up those savings on a Post-it note graphic or in a sidebar. Create an interactive calculator and include customer reviews about savings.
The New "You" Is Likely to Be Worried, Busier and Distracted
My clients in the B2B world have been working their tails off since September trying to develop their own new internal strategies to respond to new economic realities. They're not interested in new vendors, new solutions, and new products -- they're keeping their heads down and just trying to power through this rough patch.
That means you're going to have to work harder to reach them by e-mail. If you notice a drop-off in the readership of your e-mails, try "hitch-hiking" on the e-newsletters and online publications that they are more likely to be reading. Work out cooperative arrangements with your media partners to place ads, articles, etc., in industry publications. Revisit your own e-mail content to make sure you're offering real value -- in bite-sized chunks that harried prospects can absorb.
The New "You" May no Longer Be Authorized to Buy
Purchasing might be kicked up to a higher management level -- or to a centralized purchasing department. How will you know? Consider a survey to find out what your prospect is allowed to purchase and to capture the names of authorized purchasers.
The New "You" May Need to Justify Decisions With More Evidence
Be sure to give your prospects all the proof points they need to develop a strong business case for your product. Add third-party endorsements such as the logos of the Better Business Bureau or J.D. Power and Associates to your e-mails. Highlight favorable media coverage you've received. Pile on the white papers and demos.
The New "You" Might not Even Be There Much Longer
The key to selling is to establish yourself deeply within a prospective customer's company. You must be in touch with many, many people -- not just your contact person. Otherwise, if your contact is laid off, you're outside the corporate firewall with no entry.
Create viral programs to sign up multiple colleagues to your e-newsletters. Create a special e-newsletter for the position at the next level up -- or the next level down -- from your day-to-day go-to person. For example, if you talk to information technology managers now, create a special chief information officer e-newsletter to talk to their boss. Or create a help desk e-newsletter that the IT manager can forward to their staff.
The New "You" Is You -- and the People You Know
Listen hard to what your friends and work colleagues are going through at their companies to find out what attitudes are changing, what expenses are being cut, and how people are responding.
I know from my circle of acquaintances that travel expenses are being slashed to the bone, yet new IT systems are still being put into place. Corporate intrigue is on the rise as people jockey for position -- and career survival. And even at my own desktop, I'm making changes -- unsubscribing from any company's e-mails that would tempt me to spend unnecessarily.
It's a new world. So pay attention -- and use your imagination and your experience to use the low-cost marketing tool of e-mail to plan a new response.
Let Karen know what new trends you're seeing -- and new ideas you're trying -- in the brand-new world we are all finding ourselves in.
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Karen Gedney, an award-winning creative director and copywriter, shared her insights as a ClickZ Experts contributor from 2000 through 2009. She was known for her successful track record of achieving high e-mail response rates for Fortune 1000 companies and leading organizations. She died Nov. 16, 2010.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT