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Business Observer Thursday, May 18, 2006 16 years ago

Lasday: Stay on target

Getting to the buyer takes longer, but once you get in, it's a path to profits.
by: Adam Hughes Staff Writer

Lou Lasday: Stay on target

Have you noticed that finding the right person to target for your corporate marketing is more difficult than it use to be? It doesn't matter if you are a Gulf Coast law firm, community bank, developer, Realtor, accountant or other professional services enterprise. It seems that as we all grow, the number of people involved in making a high level expenditure seems to fill up a boardroom.

According to Sirius Decisions, a major national sales data research firm, "In 2005, three more people on average were involved in making a major corporate purchasing decision than in 2001."

The challenge is to find that "direct target channel" and be a lot more intelligent about traveling throughout the corporate village.

Getting to 'Yes'

People who are managers in the organization use to make the decisions, but now, the final decision has moved to a higher level. According to Allison Enright, a distinguished research analysis with the American Marketing Association, "Mid managers may still interview the professional contenders, gather the facts, review the proposal, meet your people, check your references, and make the recommendation to the boss." He in turn may report to the boss of the boss; perhaps the board.

More Red Tape

The reasons for the increased red tape are familiar to enterprises everywhere. They include declining time and resources, a desire to limit responsibility and risk, along with more complicated problems to solve. Solutions to business problems seem much more complicated and often more expensive, according to experts. At the same time, beware of over gathering new contact information. The idea is not to try to build the biggest list possible, but rather the more relevant list, knowing competitors who offer a similar product or solution, and who they are selling. Your challenge then, is to find a contact point that's both responsible and receptive.

For Gulf Coast professional service organizations, the lengthy marketing process allows time to develop relationships and have the opportunity to delve deeply into the prospect's needs. Then, your custom-tailored presentation will be on-time, on-target, on-budget.

You have a selling process to follow. The buyer has a buying process. The relationship process runs through the center. You'll quickly recognize the champions on your quest – users with purchasing authority. Then there are the influencers – persons without buying authority but with significant input such as middle managers or executive assistants. Their quiet nod of approval will be critical to your success. Because of the "corporate village" buying approach we've identified, you'll also face Information gatherers who make a lifestyle of reaching out for details, although they also lack buying authority. Gatekeepers at all levels may be casually receptive or may automatically try to lock you out. You'll quickly identify the actors and since you have the "staring role", you'll know that a relationship with the entire cast is desirable.

Elusive Titles

Don't make the mistake in relying too much on staff titles. Every company is structured differently, and outsiders can't make assumptions about who has decision-making authority. It may be best to fixate on function. If you understand your customer's buying process, you are going to define which function you need to target.

Pinning down a formula for successful initial call-ins to your corporate prospect is not easy but there is a method to this marketing madness. Get your message to the right people by doing your initial market research and by surveying your segment of the corporate village. You'll get internal referrals. Use them but try not to loose the possible long term value of ascending mid-level referring agents. Entice their interest. Educate them to your brand advantage. Answer their need. If you spend your time wisely walking through the corporate village and you win your first standing ovation, you'll be in the winner's camp. Your service will excel and you'll have the confidence of the corporate village elders. Next time around, that buying committee may come down to a committee of one – your newest loyal customer.

Lou Lasday, an independent marketing adviser residing on Longboat Key, creates action-oriented strategic marketing Initiatives for Gulf Coast emerging companies. A career direct response executive, he has been a general partner of a major national marketing communications firm and regional president of the American Marketing Association. Mr. Lasday can be reached at [email protected]

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