How Xerox uses custom magazine to get past admin gatekeepers

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Business process and document management company Xerox Corp. last year faced two marketing challenges: standing out in the crowded IT solutions space and getting past administrative assistants who serve as gatekeepers to senior-level executives. “We were trying to break through the clutter,” said Jeannine Rossignol, VP-marketing communications, U.S. client operations at Xerox. “In our space, we sound similar to our competitors. We all talk about how we can solve problems for our customer.” So last year the company rolled out its “Get Optimistic” campaign, working with agencies Roberts Communications and Babcock & Jenkins. Xerox wanted to reorient the conversation, focusing not on problems but on clients who had solved those problems and the mindset that had helped them succeed. The company wanted those stories to serve as conversation starters for sales representatives, who were trying to build relationships with prospective clients. But marketers at the company needed to get those stories to the people who make decisions, not just their administrative assistants, Rossignol said. “Often the admin goes through their mail first,” she said. “Many direct mail pieces don't make it to executives.” Xerox took what Katrina Busch, b-to-b group account director at agency Roberts Communications, calls a “disguised demand-gen approach.” The Rochester-based agency conceptualized and developed Chief Optimist, creating a business publication with perceived value rather than a piece of sales collateral. Xerox also worked with Forbes to develop the magazine, a partnership that gave marketers access to relevant content from a trusted source. Customer stories appeared on the pages of Chief Optimist, as did tips from Xerox executives. The company produces five editions of Chief Optimist, tailoring content to serve key verticals. Xerox will publish four issues through the end of the year, sending customized print copies to top prospects and developing digital editions. The company has promoted the digital properties through email and printed cards that sales representatives distribute personally. The digital editions feature multimedia content, including video clips that accompany customer case studies. Chief Optimist content has become a critical thought-leadership lever for the “Get Optimistic” campaign, Rossignol said. The inaugural issue featured a cover story written by Bill Taylor, a co-founder of Fast Company who also speaks as part of the Xerox Focus Forward road show series. “The goal is to have insights to share, so our representatives can bring relevance to a meeting,” Rossignol said. “If a representative doesn't have a lot of information about a company before a meeting, then they can bring these insights to the table. It gives them a competitive edge.” Xerox is working to launch a European issue modeled after the North American product, Rossignol said. “[Chief Optimist content] helps give our salespeople a reason to call,” Rossignol said. “It changes the dynamic of the conversation. It's really helped open doors.” The “Get Optimistic” campaign has led to more than 1,500 sales appointments that have generated more than $1 billion in a pipeline with a 12-to-18-month sales cycle, Rossignol said.
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