With the rapidly evolving business landscape, opportunities and pressures driven by globalisation now require an international perspective, especially if we are to truly understand C-level communication activities.
As B2B marketers, we must do more than simply keep up; we must help lead the way. But what is the best way to really engage with members of the C-suite, including the likes of the CEO, CFO and CIO, and capture their imaginations?
Well, I recently spoke with a number of senior B2B associates, throughout our international network, in a bid to enhance the best practices I employ. From engaging them at a high strategic level to finding effective ways to get past their gatekeepers, here’s a review of what I learnt:
Engage at a strategic level
The fundamental secret to engaging with members of the C-suite is that it must start at a strategic level. The challenge is to explain to, and more importantly convince, the C-level that both brand and marketing investments serve to help their business strategy succeed in the long run. You will be amazed at how receptive they will be to this, as their business strategies are often created with some form of financial or personal investment, on their behalf.
C-level executives are not the hunted, they are the hunters
While members of the C-suite may be viewed as the ‘target’, it’s essential to be present wherever the C-level seeks out information if you are to have any chance whatsoever in capturing their imaginations.
However, this simply isn’t enough; we need to flip targeting around. It’s not just about finding them; they must be able to find you. It’s about switching from selling, to getting found. It’s about earning their attention, not paying for it!
Earning a place at the table
When it comes to the daunting C-level continuum of concerns, marketing and communications may not feature very highly up the list. Demonstrating the significance and benefit of good solid communications to business success is crucial for us as B2B Marketers, especially if we are to have any success in engaging with the audience.
To do this, we must demonstrate that we can help with both external and internal communications, as their success is strongly tied to the brand and to the personnel in their organisation. This also serves to elevate the status of marketing and communications in the C-suite, which is clearly in both our interest and theirs.
Peer-to-peer communication will pique their interest
The C-level is in an elite group of business executives and as with all exclusive groups in so many walks of life, members usually like mingling with one another to learn and share common experiences. Therefore, fostering this activity is important for us, and links back to the crucial aspect of selecting the best channels and content.
The C-level is hungry for fresh insights to help them formulate strategies and to implement their plans. As such, having thought-leading, new ideas is extremely important to them. We can employ tactics such as exclusive one-on-one interviews, elite focus groups, or compelling surveys to elicit their ideas and viewpoints. I’ve also found in the past that providing an incentive of a contribution to a charity can be an effective motivation for participation. However, the chance to learn from each other is a strong motivation too and shouldn’t be underestimated.
Making it personal – very personal
Everyone agrees on the importance of personalisation when communicating with the C-level. With the relatively small population of C-level executives, each and every one of them is crucial, so personalisation is essential to have any chance of engagement with the C-level.
With the rich amount of insights available, the key to communication success is unlocking as many specific, personal insights, as possible. Because such insights are not easy to come by, I always look for multiple ways to utilise them, such as those discussed in step five.
A gatekeeper may be standing in your way
Personal assistants and the like act as gatekeepers that shield, sift and sort in order for the C-level to protect their valuable time. However for us, they may provide a rather frustrating obstacle when attempting to reach the C-suite. These assistants are usually the first to see communications, so as B2B marketers we should find ways to incorporate them into the process to keep them onside. They will want to know: What is it? Who is it from? Why is it relevant?
So, it’s important to address such questions to help ensure successful C-level communication engagement. Overall, the C-level must want to engage with our communications, and ultimately never feel it is being forced upon them!
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