Written by Christa Carone, CMO of Xerox Corporation

I love almost everything about my job.  But, if there is one area of constant annoyance it’s the barrage of pitches I receive from the zillions (ok, maybe it’s millions but it seems like a lot more than that) of companies that have something to sell me.  On any given day, 98 percent of the email inquiries I receive are not relevant to me as the CMO of a B2B company.  And, as a CMO, I fully appreciate the ease of email marketing and the new age approach to “spray and pray.” At Xerox, in some cases, we do it too and hope to get that percentage of a percent to respond to a massive blast.  It’s a tool in the ever expanding toolkit.

So, as I look at my inbox, I’m empathetic to all the clamoring for my attention and the requests to get a piece of our marketing budget.  (A quick aside and because I can’t help adding my own Xerox marketing plug: check out www.businessofyourbrain for a fun and satirical look at your flooded in-box.)  Many of the pitches I receive sit dormant with nothing to pique my interest. So, they’re doomed for the click on “delete.”

Then there are the very few that get me to stop for a nanosecond. Not just because they’re different, but because in that brief moment they deliver a relevant message; an insight that immediately suggests the sender knows what it’s like to be me.

Here’s an example. The other day I received a Sudoku game with my name featured on the packaging.  Attention grabbing enough for me to open the box. The material inside hit on key marketing challenges in a B2B world.  It had stopping power, personalized creative and relevant messaging.

The email from the same company followed a couple of days later, playing off the same theme and directing me to a PURL. I remembered receiving the game and was curious enough to check out the website and the rest of the pitch.  Of course, great creative should have that “cut-through” quality. But it doesn’t always have to be a flashy dimensional mailing or a personalized cross-media campaign.

What it does have to be is personally relevant, ideally to my role. Often I’ll receive a handwritten note from a vendor attached to a reprint of a story about a unique marketing insight.  I like the personal touch and find it less intrusive than the impersonal emails that have little to do with my real work.

All of us in marketing are faced with this monumental challenge of engaging with stakeholders in relevant ways.  Step one is knowing that it IS a necessity for today’s effective marketer — whether you’re a full service marketing agency or a print service provider. Step two is understanding that it IS all about engagement – initiating  and continuing the relevant conversation.  Step three  — that’s up to you.  Think about how you’re using the tools in your kit to start the discussion and keep it going in memorable and personalized ways. How can you be that one in a zillion that is not a victim of the delete key?