The C-suite is the most commonly-cited target audience group for any tech B2B content marketing campaign. That’s the dream – a decision maker reads some content you have put out and tells their teams to investigate your solution. The challenge is getting these decision makers to pay attention in the first place.
Pitching content to the C-suite is an art unto itself. Do it right, and the purchase cycle is significantly shortened: you move to the RFP stage quickly and getting buy-in becomes much simpler. But do it wrong and you’re back to the drawing board with awareness, credibility and sometimes even reputation to rebuild.
Identify your target audience
Before we get into looking at how to engage the C-suite, one note of caution – think about whether your content really needs to reach the C-suite, or are you just targeting this notoriously hard-to-reach group on autopilot? Most tech B2B companies want to elevate their positioning within the prospect organisation and engage in high-level dialogue with the people making the decisions. In fact, the CXO is the most frequently targeted audience in marketing campaigns. However, this is not always the right thing to do. In the case of most tech B2B decisions that streamline operations/ operating expenses, the C-suite is likely to play more of an influencer role at best. Think about it – will Jeff Bezos of Amazon really be interested in hands-on involvement with that analytics software, or will he be more likely to expect his experts to make those informed recommendations for him?
However, technology that is transformational to revenue growth or has a high ticket value is likely to receive the attention of the C-suite at the end of the purchase process. If you’re certain that the CXO is the most appropriate audience for your content, let’s go ahead and discuss the right principles of communication.
The most fundamental principle of marketing is that content must be tailored to the needs and preferences of the audience. So, what are the characteristics of a C-suite audience?
- They’re strapped for time
- They’re multitasking
- Their attention is hotly competed for
- They’re pragmatic
- They are good at making decisions on the fly
At Isoline we’ve always been fond of a good acronym so let’s create one that summarises the key principles of CEO communications: SCAN.
Strategic – Your content needs to address the knowledge gaps that decision makers are seeking to fill. Senior decision makers appreciate and thrive on information that helps them make better decisions. Do your research carefully to uncover what keeps them up at night, and the knowledge gaps they need to fill. One great way to do this is by understanding what your information niche is and providing deep, strategic information in this area. Ensure that your content provides value that others do not, and you will be rewarded with attention. At Isoline, for example, we focus our content on helping tech B2B content marketers do their jobs better.
Concise – We all know that CXOs are strapped for time. They expect you to have done the heavy lifting – the research, analysis and distillation of content, so that you can present only the value-added information and not all the data that went before it. One of the biggest marketing mistakes is when companies throw in every available data point they have just to prove that the recommendation is credible. For a CXO audience, conciseness and clarity are all-important. They have got rapid information absorption and decision-making down to a T. So rather than targeting this audience with white papers or webinars, think of bite-sized form factors that can easily be consumed from a mobile screen, such as visual content like 1-pagers and infographics.
Attention-grabbing – With so many competitors for their attention, ensure that your email subject lines, ABM headlines, presentations or virtual events grab the attention of your audience. Are you offering time or a meeting with a key influencer or expert? Is it just a powerful visual or creative? Ensure your emails are compelling and stand out. Create a story that brings your concepts alive in the minds of your audience. The importance of storytelling cannot be overstated here, as stories connect the dots and are easy to understand. Here are some tips on creating that perfect story for your CEO audience.
New – It’s a mistake to think that B2B decision makers don’t want to be contacted by marketers and outside experts – they do. ‘Selling to the C-Suite’, a book by Nicholas A.C. Read and Dr. Stephen J. Bistritz, interviewed hundreds of executives, and found that they are not opposed to marketing. They do want to be contacted because they thrive on “fresh ideas from outside of their companies.” One decision maker is quoted as saying that marketers “better be prepared to tell him things he can’t get from his own people.” A great source for this type of information is often your own experts and proprietary systems.
Cutting through the clutter and grabbing the attention of your target audience isn’t really that complex: all it needs is adherence to some of the most fundamental principles of marketing: simple, insightful, evocative, bold, and presented from the perspective of the audience. Keep it SCAN-ready and your content is more likely to be well received by B2B decision makers.