Audio Version 6’30”
Your task: you are this close to achieving your dream, but to get there you need written permission from one of the biggest bands in the world. Oh and you are still at school. What do you do?
We’ll come back to that story in a moment, but first let’s talk about the size of your target market. You tend to think of marketing as something aimed at pulling in huge numbers of potential customers. Because you have to aim high and so forth.
Stalking The Decision Wizard
Often, though, your business success depends on reaching a handful of people. Maybe even just one. It’s certainly the case in B2B marketing, but even if you’re selling to consumers, there’s some super-busy distribution or finance Decision Wizard you need to reach before you can take on the world.
They’re sitting on the top level of the game, protected by knights and dragons, unattainable by anyone using conventional tools or thinking.
(Side-note: from personal experience, anyone who uses the phrase ‘we reach the decision makers’ does not do that and you should put their proposal straight in the bin.)
You can apply the same strategic thinking you’d use for a marketing campaign, just built around the habits and interests of your wizard. You can’t reach high-level people with your crappy ‘e-blast’. A personal email might get in there, if you know them. If they’re active on the socials, you might join their conversations, in a productive contribution way, wait six months until they trust you, then hit ‘em up.
If you don’t have six months, consider the power of the non-digital physical object. Now that everything’s gone digital to cut costs, tangible items become a standout tactic for almost any target market. You can imagine an under-30 office worker having a hand-addressed envelope land on their desk.
“Hmm, what are these intriguing paper items? (Has hopeful childhood memory flashback) Is it my birthday? Is it … money from Grandma?”
Extreme Niche Marketing
Sometimes it’s the way to get to the one person in the world you need. My daughter made a film for her high school major art project. She had been my little creative director apprentice since she was small, coming out on shoots and peering down the viewfinder. By age sixteen, she was critiquing my work (“that’s cheesy, Dad”).
Her film was a worthy piece, set to Radiohead’s Codex, a tune of haunting crystalline beauty. It’s rewarding when your child has good musical taste. You can use whatever music you like for school projects, there’s a general school education licence for music usage.
Then her film got selected for Art Express, an exhibition of “exemplary artworks” from around the state. This was brilliant news, but with a tricky proviso. To be exhibited, music tracks needed full artist clearance, same as if you were using them in a feature film or ad. She had three months to get it sorted or no show.
There is nothing so horrible and soul-killing as making a film based on a piece of music you love, then having to substitute some generic royalty-free track. It was Radiohead or nothing. So, how to get permission out of a massive, global band?
She emailed every official Radiohead website for weeks. Crickets. You can imagine the volume of email traffic they must get. Time was running out.
The Ancient, Forgotten Art of Postage
I suggested it was time to go old-school, with an official-looking letter, via registered post. We tracked down the name and office address of Radiohead’s manager. His business manages other acts as well, and we assumed they would receive barrowloads of demo disks and so forth each week, with a team of juniors sorting through the giant pile.
We hoped our registered package of documents might, over a few weeks, get diverted to a middle management compliance person, mistaking it for a legal document, and they might sign it by accident. Maybe.
We tracked the package to England. It landed on a Friday. (True fact and an insider joke for Radiohead tragics). On Sunday night Sydney time, daughter comes running with her laptop. She’s got an email, not from some assistant, but from Radiohead’s actual manager, basically saying: “Hi, got your request, permission granted, I’ve cc’d the record company and publisher in Australia, best of luck with it, best regards.”
My God, what a gentleman.
A 36-hour turnaround from the manager of one of the biggest bands in the world to a schoolgirl in Australia. Situation saved.
Opening The Door
Think about that when you’re trying to get through to busy people who hold the keys to some major breakthrough for your business.
Or even as a marketing tactic for a wider audience. Mail is too expensive to reach tens of thousands, unless you’re doing straight-to-the-recycle bin letterbox drops. But many of us, at least in B2B, can number our realistic prospects in the hundreds. Maybe one hundred are hot prospects.
Tangible, physical things work. Not some crappy letter that looks like a bill. Pick your top 50 prospects and send them something interesting. Perhaps a book on some subject you know they’re into*. Books come down on the correct side of the ‘is this bribery?’ compliance line and show you think they’re an intelligent person who likes to read. Or send a puzzle. A rubber duck. A single, elegantly packaged pastry cooked by Cedric Grolet, the most famous pâtissier in the world.
Depends on who you’re dealing with and the message you’re trying to get across, but try to find something they might spend some time with, rather than just glance at it then push it aside.
Avoid visual puns. No kidding there is a company that makes fake plastic feet so you can mail them out with the message “I just want to get a foot in the door”.
I honestly can’t think of a more repellent, serial killer thing to do than this. Stay classy, and if schoolkids want help from you, take the time. If Radiohead can do it, so can you. Play us out, Thom.
*Over the past year or so I’ve given about a dozen people copies of this, not because I’m trying to sell them anything but because it’s savagely funny and incredibly perceptive, you should read it.
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