Way back when I was working with one of my very first B2B clients, the CEO’s agency introduced me to the concept of a VITO (Very Important Top Officer) campaign. It was a great addition to my marketing arsenal, and I pull it out when I have a client who is targeting a manageable number of senior-level individuals.

VITO is a direct marketing/sales hybrid intended to help you get your foot in the door with the senior decision maker at a target customer. One of the keys to a successful VITO campaign is that your outreach is done by someone at your company who is perceived to be a peer to the person you’re reaching out to.

Besides the peer-to-peer aspect, there are several key elements of a standard VITO campaign:

  1. You research the person and the company.
  2. You send a brief, personalized letter to your target. Ideally there is a personal connection that you have identified in your research that you can reference, like a shared alumni connection. 
  3. Your letter includes a specific time span during which you’ll be following up by phone

Instead of the standard VITO campaign, I recommend that my clients follow a modified, less intense approach (let’s call it VITOesque), in which there are two key additional steps: 

4. Include a memorable item that is ideally related to your services and customized with your company’s logo.

5. Pack the whole shebang (letter included) in a nice box and FedEx the package to your recipient. That way you know exactly when they will receive it, and your letter is more likely to make it through any assistant filtering the target’s mail.

A few years back, one of my clients wanted to reach brand managers at consumer products companies so we implemented a modified VITOesque campaign. We did a large, but carefully paced, mailing because we wanted to be sure that the sales team could personally follow up within several days of the packages’ arrival. 

What to send? My client specialized in putting toys and other items into cereal boxes, and one of their projects involved a very notable branded item dropped into boxes of a well-known cereal brand. We decided to send the targeted brand managers an actual box of the cereal with the item inside. This meant sending all of my client’s employees out to stores to buy up lots and lots of the promotional boxes!

Knowing the brand teams typically sit together, we decided to create buzz by sending boxes to all of the brand managers at a company at one time versus the traditional personalization and one-at-a-time VITO approach. This meant that we had to ensure that the sales team could make a large number of phone calls immediately after the package delivery. We started with some of the smaller consumer products companies to make sure we got our logistics ironed out before tackling some of the bigger ones.

The letter we sent said: 

Enclosed is the latest automated in-pack sampling promotion executed by COMPANY NAME: Item description here! This is an extremely cost-effective sampling tactic and clients who have worked with us have been able to distribute 2x – 4x more samples using our turnkey automated process.

Cereal boxes are just one example, but automated in-pack sampling can be executed across a broad range of packaged goods, including pet food, personal care and snack foods. Using this technology would enable you to reach your target consumers more efficiently, by placing samples inside products whose users have similar demographics to yours.

At COMPANY NAME, we’ve successfully executed sampling projects within a company’s own brands and with outside partners. In fact, we work with leading CPG companies, like COMPANY X, to plan and execute package-based promotions directly on plant lines without disrupting production.

I will reach out to you in a few days to explore how working with COMPANY NAME could help strengthen your brand promotions overall and your sampling effort specifically.

The program was very successful and it ultimately helped my client add Procter & Gamble to its client roster!

You can read more about the “real” VITO on the official website or check out this handy blog post that summarizes the approach.