Sometimes the most well-crafted campaigns are subtle, yet overwhelming.
In early 1999, Deloitte Consulting sought a way to extend its relationship with some existing clients. Deloitte, which consults companies on various ways to improve their businesses, wanted to leverage its knowledge of current clients' business challenges to strengthen those relationships.
However, convincing clients to expand their relationships with Deloitte seemed like a daunting and tricky task. Deloitte felt it had to adjust its marketing effort.
"We had been looking to refocus our marketing plans to better support our business strategy, as we were shifting toward a model where we had a stronger and longer-lasting relationship with a smaller number of big clients, says Mike Nethercott of Deloitte. "Therefore, we were making a conscious shift from broadband marketing activities to a more targeted effort."
Charlotte, NC-based Capital Strategies had been working with Deloitte on some aspects of its marketing effort within the telecoms consulting area. The two felt that the timing was right to begin honing in on one of its clients within the telecoms space using Capital Strategies' newly conceived precision marketing concept. The team decided to focus on BellSouth.
Working closely with Capital Strategies, Deloitte sought to first determine who were the key decision makers within the BellSouth organization, as well as how best to reach them. Deloitte also had a specific revenue goal in mind.
"We chose a target with the idea that it would earn Deloitte about $10 million in new revenue, says Capital Strategies' Jim Protzman, and they had to do it with a budget of under $75,000. "So for a while, we kept working through the questions surrounding our message, 'What do we have to say, and how should we say it?'"
The team brainstormed about how best to get out the message that Deloitte was the consultant with the best understanding of BellSouth's business.
"We considered many alternatives, says Protzman. "But the one that kept surfacing was our 'custom publishing' model. It seemed to have the highest value and highest potential for getting into the executives' brains and briefcases."
The custom publishing model is a concept under which Capital Strategies and Deloitte would produce a 30-page booklet outlining the business challenges facing Deloitte's client. The mini-book would focus on the nettlesome issues that are most likely to deprive a client's management of sleep.
"We decided to offer the client a point of view on their business, and back up that viewpoint with a rationale, says Nethercott. "Ultimately, we wanted them to know that we were thinking hard about their business, and were therefore worth having a relationship with because we have some original ideas."
The process of deciding who and what to target with the publication was perhaps the most important part of the process.
"We realized that key decision makers are found throughout the organization, and are not necessarily limited to the C-suite, says Nethercott. "At the end of the targeting process, we often have a list of at least 25 individuals whose attention we want to grab."
After the team pinpointed BellSouth's key decision makers, subsequent meetings were held in which everyone discussed what issues should make their way into the publication.
"After realizing that a company like BellSouth could be worried about thousands of issues, we basically narrowed them down to five, says Protzman.
"They were issues that would cause trouble or present a big missed opportunity if BellSouth didn't address them."
Yet there is an obvious gamble when confronting an organization with its challenges and shortcomings. "Not only do we have a good sense of what's on their mind in terms of their business, we also try to get a sense of who they are, says Protzman. "Of course, we are writing some very sensitive stuff, but we try to write in a way that executives at a certain company feel comfortable with."
The team also says a critical part of the precision marketing approach is that the customized publications favor an in-depth analysis of an organization over a more cursory bullet-point approach. The concept is designed to convince the client that Deloitte has a comprehensive understanding of the business.
The other critical - and much debated - aspect of the campaign was the subtlety of the marketing materials, which hardly make any mention of Deloitte outside two pages at the very back of the booklet, and a very tiny acknowledgment at the bottom on the front and back covers. "It's all about the client with this approach, says Protzman.
Shortly after the BellSouth publications were sent out to the company, a senior BellSouth executive was spotted by a Deloitte partner reading the booklet while sitting at his son's school play one evening. It was then that Capital Strategies and Deloitte realized they were onto something.
"The Deloitte partner approached the executive and said, 'I couldn't help but notice you're reading that book,' says Protzman. "At which point the executive said to him, 'Hey, this is great. Give me a call about this tomorrow so we can discuss this further.' It's a conversation and opportunity that would have never happened otherwise."
The BellSouth effort proved to be a remarkable success, as Deloitte has since increased its relationship with BellSouth, and seen its revenues exceed original projections.
Capital Strategies and Deloitte have worked on several precision marketing efforts since the BellSouth campaign, including booklets geared toward AOL Time Warner and Siemens. Deloitte says it is planning to increase its marketing spending on the program, while Capital Strategies has begun using the same model with other clients where the firm has experienced similar results.