How to Strategically Market to the C-suite

C-suiters hold the keys to the kingdom for many B2B businesses—and therein lies the problem: everyone wants their business, but many are having trouble getting through.

Part of the problem is that C-suite executives are like the rest of us. They’re increasingly tuning out traditional marketing messages and methods. They fast-forward through commercials and click past online ads. They’re so bombarded by messaging—at home, on their commute, at the office, on their smartphones—that they’re just not listening anymore.

And, C-suiters also have unique qualities that make them tough targets for marketing. First and foremost, they’re protected by gatekeepers. Fortune 500 CXOs typically employ an army of assistants and schedulers dedicated to filtering out unwanted phone calls, visitors, emails and publications. Their days are also scheduled down to the nano-second, with little free time to even glance at whatever it is you’re offering.

So the C-suite can be tough to reach. But, it isn’t an impregnable fortress—the key to getting inside is strategic connections, relevant content and deliberate contact.

Identifying and Creating Connections:

According to an IDC report, 73 percent of executives prefer to work with sales professionals referred to them by a mutual connection. Further, the Sales Benchmark Index reports that 84 percent of B2B decision-makers kick off their buying processes with referrals. With this in mind, develop a list of target executives/companies and then leverage your connections/relationships for a referral before calling or emailing.

If you don’t have a connection to the right C-suite executive, use LinkedIn to find and create it. A Quartz survey of more than 1,300 global C-suite executives found that executives regularly use social media, especially LinkedIn, and the same IDC report found that 75 percent of B2B buyers and 84 percent of C-suite executives surveyed use social media to make purchasing decisions. LinkedIn is the premier platform for building business relationships because the platform gives you the unique ability to uncover new, strategic connections by leveraging existing relationships within your own network.

Developing Content:

Even at the highest ranks of a corporation, the need for information is acute. And executives didn’t get to where they are by making decisions in a bubble. The same Quartz survey found that they are very responsive to content from sources they perceive as experts in their industries, especially exclusive data and analysis.

Further, according to a Forbes report, 75 percent of the executives said they watch work-related videos on business-related websites at least weekly, 65 percent have visited a vendor’s website after watching a video and over 50 percent of senior executives receive and share work-related and sales videos with colleagues at least weekly.

To capture the attention of the C-suiters, you need to develop content and delivery mechanisms that will cut through the clutter, get past the gatekeepers and grab the attention of the recipient.

The content you develop should educate executives about any external trend that threatens their status quo and present your service or product as an undetected opportunity. Loss aversion is a powerful persuasion method—it drives urgency. People will work twice as hard to avoid a loss as they will to gain something. Executives become driven with urgency when you show them how their current status quo is no longer viable and that your solution is the key to solving their problem.

One unique, but effective, delivery mechanism of this content is to develop a video and embed it into a video brochure that is mailed to executive. This marketing option has been highly effective with several of our clients in raising brand awareness and generating sales. Due to the novelty and impact of video embedded in a brochure, it often goes viral in the office—the executive showing it to dozens of people after receiving it, extending the reach of the collateral.

Making Contact:

It’s unlikely that C-suite executives are going to approach you, so instead, you need to be proactive and approach them.

In addition to contacting an executive following a referral or following up after sending them an impactful piece of collateral, an effective way to get on an executive’s radar is attending the same forum or conference. Nothing beats a live conversation to inform an executive of a problem that they face and explain how your solution solves it.

Further, at its core, selling is about trust. The person who’s buying from you needs to trust you—trust that you’re an expert and that you’ll deliver on your promise. One of the best ways to do this is to have that executive watch you speak at one of these forums or conferences. Chances are good that there will be other executives in the room that are facing the same problem, so speaking presents an opportunity to broaden your sales targets.

In Summary:

It’s a new world for companies, and it’s more competitive than ever before. The sense of urgency to change or risk losing both margins and market share has never been greater. As a result, marketing and selling to the C-suite is more challenging than ever as CXOs themselves face greater complexity and uncertainty. However, they must either adapt or get left behind. By making and leveraging strategic connections, developing and sending relevant and impactful content, and orchestrating deliberate contact, you can make sure you help drive their evolution.

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