“I'm working on a marketing strategy for my account teams and am trying to choose titles to target. Should I go VP and higher?”
In a perfect world you would match a prospect's responsibilities to your marketing goals instead of focusing on titles. At a bare minimum you should understand your targeted accounts well enough to distinguish the importance of titles there.
For instance, Microsoft doesn't have any Senior Vice Presidents. This title has been replaced since around 2011 by Corporate Vice President (CVP), which is just a step down from Executive Vice President and a step up from regular Vice President. Most CVPs have decision making authority and budget control over $1B +. If in engineering or product development, they have control over 250+ employees, sometimes thousands. In the U.S. there are about 10 EVPs at Microsoft, 100 CVPs, and about 1200 VPs. You should know this information before engaging with them so you'll spend your time wisely.
Bank of America and most other big banks and financial services companies hand out VP titles like candy at a parade. A quick search on professional titles shows a fourth of their U.S. employees are VPs, while comparatively there are almost no directors (3%). You better target SVPs and AVPs to get anywhere there.
So, a quick review of the best options...
Option 1: Targeting Responsibilities
For instance, you may have a solution where you only want to target decision makers and recommenders. Or perhaps you want to cast a wider net and also include influencers. However, this information isn't easy to come by and may only be cost effective for strategic accounts or seven figure accounts.
Finding responsibilities takes good old fashioned hard work. Searching contacts individually online to see if there's information about their responsibilities is a necessity. Some examples of where to find this information:
- Company Bios
- Speaking Engagements (Profiles)
- Industry Articles
- Company Press Releases
- Social Media: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
- Company Blogs
- YouTube Interviews
Option 2: Understanding Company Specific Titles
An alternative to the deep dive analysis required by Option 1 above is to at least understand each account you are targeting well enough to know how titles are given out. The Microsoft example was given above. You should know this about all your clients and potential customers.
Some variations that you may run into:
- General Manager: At some companies this is just a manager, the most often equivalent is that of a VP
- Supervisor: You'll still find this at companies in the Midwest and in certain verticals, such as manufacturing, certain retail like supermarkets, and traditional media, e.g., newspapers, cable TV. Sometimes this is a manager-type position and sometimes it can be more like a director or senior director title.
- Head of…: This title can be all over the place. As a general rule, what follows "Head of…" is the most important thing. The broader in scope, usually the higher the position. Examples, "Head of Global Marketing" could actually be a Chief Marketing Officer. "Head of Social Media" is probably a junior position.
- Titles at Financial Services Companies: Most big banks and financial services companies hand out VP positions abundantly (See Bank of America example above).
- Titles in Old Industries: For the most part you can bet that older industries—the type you associate with Dow Jones Industrials—are more close to the vest with titles (the exception being banking). Even if a company is a relatively new company but in an old industry they probably follow the format. For example, JetBlue is a relatively new airline but still only less than 1% of its 15,000 employees listed as VP or higher. The number of actual decision makers is around a dozen.
- Titles at New Industries: New companies in new industries represent the other side of the equation. They may be top heavy in titles or even use non-traditional titles. For instance, a Senior Vice President of Business Development at a traditional company may be "Channel Dude" at a progressive company.
A marketing manager looking to quickly target decision makers at a company bought a list from a broker of VP and higher titles for her target accounts. She spent tens of thousands of dollars and came up empty. Why?
- One of her accounts was Bank of America. They have 44,000+ VPs. None of them are decision makers.
- The one person at the up-and-coming internet company who could make a decision on buying her company's product was not listed as a VP or C-Level employee or SVP, or General Manager, or anything else that seemed right. Turns out he's listed as "Marketing Dude."
- 80% of the names she bought were garbage: 25% had changed positions, 25% had false titles (they weren't actually VPs), 20% had left the company, 5% had retired and 5% are now pushing daisies.
Too busy to understand your clients? Get ready for failure.
You can read more blogs on topics such as Decoding Private Companies, How Often to Refresh Data, Matrix Organizations, Company Personalities, and more at www.orgchartcity.com. Have a suggestion? Contact us online to request a subject or to find out more information.
– David Bowman
David Bowman is the founder/president of OrgChartCity.com, an online company that provides premium-quality organizational charts on top companies in the world. Marketing, IT, HR, Legal, Supply Chain, Creative, Finance, and Sales are all examples of departments that are mapped out. Visit www.orgchartcity.com today to learn more about how to invigorate your target account marketing plans.