We’ve heard this a million times when doing marketing campaigns: appeal to human instincts. Don’t think of your prospects as monolithic automatons. So even when trying to reach that super senior executive in that big, impenetrable key account, keep in mind that he or she gets up every morning, spills coffee, gets grunted at by a teen and wonders how the neighbor drives such a nice car.
So how do your market to these humans? Let’s explore the most basic of human instincts: the desire to want things for free. I remember one warm summer day at a street fair some promotion going on where hand fans were being offered to the crowd. A piece of cardboard, emblazoned with First National Bank attached to a popsicle stick, and hundreds of people were flocking to take one. I couldn’t relate. I had a fan already: my hand attached to my arm did the same thing. We’ve seen this movie before.
But let’s step it up a level. In his 1995 bestseller, The Road Ahead, Bill Gates talked about paying people to read commercial emails. That’s the same concept: earning something for, essentially, doing little or nothing. Our time and attention are worth something to us, so we’d better get compensated. I won’t wave around a sign promoting the First National Bank unless I get a free fan.
Let’s look further at the most brain-busting phenomenon of our day: Facebook. It is closing in on a billion active users. A billion. I find myself going on Facebook every day or so to find out what some of my friends are up to. It makes us feel connected; makes us feel human. And the cost? Zero. Facebook is free. But my point is the same: give me something valuable at an absurdly low price and you will alter my behavior.
So let’s go back to the equation we’re trying to solve: how to engage senior executives. Well, what do we want from them? How about 5 minutes of their time to explain to the features and benefits of our solution. The disconnect is this: from the salesperson’s perspective the solution offers real benefit and the individual, say a CIO, must make themselves accessible in order to learn about new solutions which may benefit his or her organization. Trouble is, thousands of competing pitches are thrown at this poor person annually.
Compensating executives to engage is one logical solution. Don’t make them feel cheap by offering cash for ten minutes of their time. Many have found a way to navigate around these emotions. Have the gift come from a third party. Maybe have it be a charitable contribution. Ask them to read a brief statement and to then weigh in with their “thought leadership” feedback. Get them engaged. Appeal to their professionalism. Explain how it is in their interest to engage and participate, while you listen. And pay them for their time with a gift. If done the right way, the result will be greater openness to your underlying idea and approach.