Note: this article originally appeared on Content Marketing Institute on April 25, 2011. Further, it does not relate to nor is it similar to other B2B uses of the term “wedge” you may find used in the marketplace today.
The concept of content marketing is nothing new, but the forms of delivery have changed. While marketers tout the use of digital distribution because it is cost-effective, marketers can also benefit from a personalized, in-person delivery.
Let’s step back and forget about content marketing for just a moment. Instead, let’s look at the number one challenge that confronts most B2B marketers, sales managers and professionals: Getting an appointment with the decision maker in an organization where they otherwise have no connection. In fact, you may not even know who the real decision maker is.
So how do you get your foot in the door? My answer: Use a wedge.
The strategy I briefly describe here is one I have successfully practiced for a number of years and have begun to share with other business professionals. I call it the Wedge because it identifies decision makers and opens the doors of organizations where you do not have a personal means of introduction. Bear in mind, this is not a mass marketing strategy; rather, it is a focused and personalized approach to opening the doors at specific companies with which you would like to work.
Step 1: Identify your value proposition
Your value proposition is not the reason your contact should buy from you. Rather, it is the reason this person should have a 20 minute conversation with you.
Step 2: Research companies in your market and prioritize
Next, you need to build your list. My suggestion is to find about 20 companies. Let’s say you want to reach wholesale distributors of durable goods with twenty to 250 employees, headquartered in your tri-county area. How would you find them? Perhaps your company subscribes to a list service such as InfoGroup or Hoovers. If not, there are other resources available that will yield a gold mine of information for you to download and at no charge. One of the best examples I know is ReferenceUSA, which is available through many public library systems—and some offer home access with your library card.
Step 3: Identify the key decision makers
Once you have researched a list of 20 companies, prioritize the top five. For each company, it is important that you identify not one, but several executives who may have an interest in what you offer and may be able to make a decision not just to meet you but also to buy from you (I call this group the “influence circle.”). Why is this important? Quite simply, the reason people can say no so easily is because we give them that power by singling them out. By reaching out to this influence circle, WedgePower denies this.
Step 4: Verify
Contact the company by phone and verify names and positions with an administrative support person. Be sure to have your initial list on hand first. You are not calling to ask “Who does what?” but to simply verify what you have to be correct. If corrections are needed, you should get them by default. And always be so appreciative of their time and assistance.
Step 5: Write your pre-approach letter
With your value proposition in mind, craft a single letter to each member of the company’s influence circle. Each letter is addressed individually, but it indicates to the recipient that their colleagues are also receiving the same communication.
The purpose of the letter is simple: To warm your call to schedule a visit. Nothing more. However, the body of your letter must be driven by your value proposition. Remember, you must give that recipient a reason to want to visit with you. The value must be so clear that it motivates the decision maker to meet with you.
Step 6: Create your value package
Here is where content marketing can yield its tremendous power. With your letter, you need to deliver compelling content, a tangible information product that informs rather than sells. It needs to be something that can be touched and placed on the desk for the prospect and their counterparts to see. Books or other printed information products (especially ones that address a specific problem or concern, and are designed accordingly) can be tremendously valuable–provided you are the source of the information so it fuels your position and credibility. (I am often biased toward printed materials over CDs or DVDs because the latter often require too much effort to experience them.)
Step 7: Hand-deliver the packages
While low- or no-cost digital delivery is the song sung by so many, content marketers, there is no place for it here. Each package should be hand addressed and clearly marked “hand delivered.” A courier is fine, and all of the packages can go to the receptionist.
Step 8: Follow up
Isn’t this where so many of us drop the ball? Did you know that in some industries or professions it takes an average of 13 touches just to schedule an appointment? Did you know that most sales people give up after three? The reality is that prospects seldom call back. So the ball will forever remain in your court, and it’s up to you to persist until you get an answer.
What makes this strategy work?
First, it is a better return and exposure for your time, effort, and content marketing investment. Think about it: With all this effort, doesn’t it make sense to increase your odds by reaching out to more people who may want to talk with you?
Second, the process forces you to ask yourself the tough question: Why should my prospect want to give up 20 minutes of their time to meet with me? This digs deep into the core of what we do and how well we do it. It encourages us to listen more closely to our clients, a process which itself can open up many more opportunities.
Third, if your package, message or content is compelling enough and offers real value, it will get them talking among each other. Perhaps it will be in a discussion at a weekly meeting, or as simple as the president emailing a VP to give you a call and set up a meeting.
Fourth, you are far less likely to be ignored. Suppose you just sent a letter and content package to only one person who really doesn’t want to be bothered. How does that affect your odds of getting in? Now, how simply can you be ignored if this person knows you are also contacting their colleagues?
Quite simply, the Wedge is a strategy that challenges you to put your best suit on, leverage your content for all it’s worth and to question your own quality of service with a spirit that reaches for improvement and greater customer value. But more than that, it is a value-based, content marketing approach strategy that leverages internal politics in your favor. How many of us have lost out due to politics? This turns the tables around for everyone’s benefit.
Have you ever tried this approach? What were your results? Feel free to comment below.