How to Reach C-level Executives
I'm talking about getting your direct mail letter through to senior executives in a corporation - the ones with the letter "C" in their titles. Here are just a few of the more common C-level titles:
CEO - Chief Executive Officer
COO - Chief Operating Officer
CFO - Chief Financial Officer
CMO - Marketing Officer
CIT - Chief of Information Technology
CTO - Chief Technology Officer
C-level executives, of course, are the decision-makers you want to reach if you're selling major systems or services. They're the folks with the power to make big purchase decisions or instruct the appropriate person in the organization to "check out" what you've got to offer.
Needless to say, everyone wants the ear of the C-level players. Which means that they're protected by assistants who make sure that junk mail never reaches their desks.
So what's a poor copywriter to do? What tricks can you use to make sure that your letter gets past the gatekeeper, gets opened by the senior executive, and generates the action you're asking for?
Here are some copywriting tips and techniques well worth remembering:
1. Forget about envelope teaser copy. Envelope copy screams "JUNK MAIL" and thus will be tossed out by the executive's admin. Some companies actually have internal mailroom policies stating that obvious junk mail should never be delivered to the executive's desk. This means you should avoid the junk look at all costs and use a standard #10 business envelope without any teaser copy.
2. Use overnight mail or priority mail. A better approach, if your budget permits, is to use an express service. When someone sees a FedEx package, they open it. It's as simple as that. Of course you can't afford to send a mass mailing via FedEx, but if you're mailing one or two at a time, and following up with a phone call, this is a great way to go!
3. Send a dimensional package. In the jargon of copywriters, a dimensional mailing is a package that actually has something stuffed inside it (i.e. it has three dimensions). Often, by adding an attention-getter, you can be sure your package will get opened. For example, you can enclose a book that you think the prospect might enjoy reading. Or an important report. (Forget about calculators, caps and any other junky gifts.)
4. Use the "Peer-to-peer" approach. This means you can have your letter signed by a person at your company with the same C-level title as the prospect. For example, if you want to send a letter to the Chief Financial Officer at American Widget, have it "written" by the CFO at your company. Play up the fact that both executives face the same challenges, the writer knows from personal experience what the prospect is up against, etc.
5. Start the letter the RIGHT way. And what way might that be? Well, there are a number of ways to start a letter with impact and energy. In the May 2004 edition of this column, "10 Great Ways to Start a Letter," I discussed 10 different ways to start off a letter to a network security manager offering a free brochure. You'll find a link to that, and other past columns, below.
The take-away message this month? If you're writing to C-level executives, you have to cut through the clutter, get past the gatekeeper, and make sure your letter gets read. Though it's a challenge, you can do it if you know how.
Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for companies like Bank of America, Fireman's Fund, Intel, Microsoft and many others. Levison writes direct mail sales letters, e-mail letters and ads. For a free subscription to his monthly e-mail newsletter for software marketers, visit his Web site at http://www.levison.com. He can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.