Marketing to the C-Suite
Everyone in marketing and sales wants in to the C-Suite executive. Marketing and selling at the executive level has long been a favored business strategy. But as marketing communicators, how well do we assist sales with messaging that truly resonates at the C-level?
Marketing deliverables must support sales initiatives at multiple stages of the customer buying cycle. That’s why we create ads, glossy brochures, webcasts, white papers, and all the tactical deliverables required to move a prospect over to the sold column. But what about messaging for the C-level?
In the book, Selling to the C-Suite, co-authors Stephen Bistritz and Nicholas Read address the issue from the point of view of sales strategy. For those of us in marketing, the book is a valuable guide on how to support sales in their efforts to sell at the highest levels. The heart of the issue is that C-level executives have different priorities from others in their organization. For any proposed spending, C-level executives have multiple options. They can choose to buy your product or service; they could buy from your competitor; maybe they could achieve similar financial results by hiring more sales people or increasing staff training. The C-level perspective is not about the widget or servicing the widget, it about how for a given investment, the organization can derive most benefit – and often in the shortest amount of time.
People who make a career in sales understand this. As marketers, support for C-level engagements must be less about the widget, and more about return on investment. Next time you are asked to develop marketing support for C-level engagement, stay focused on quantifiable business impact. It’s the “elevator speech.” Hold subject matter experts responsible for laser-like focus on the issue of bottom line business impact. Far too often content-gathering conversations start here, but quickly devolve into performance details, technical specifications, and the standard Features & Benefits information that can be found on any organization’s website.
For a moment, think of yourself as having the big corner office – maybe it’s your favorite chair in a corner of the kitchen. If you receive a profit-sharing bonus, a tax refund, or a Nigerian email scam actually sends you money (OK, the last item may be a stretch), as family CEO what do you do with the available funds? You could pay bills, make some home improvements, put money down on a car, or buy a vacation… you get the idea. Business leaders make similar decisions about projects to fund or activities to support.
Make it Effective:
- Focus less on product/service and more on value
- Don’t use jargon, messages should focus on outcome level
- Enable sales to personalize the assets to individual C-level executives
- Content must be relevant, engaging, and, focused on the industry sector
- Create conversation starters: interesting data about industry trends, success stories, etc.
Such a strategy proved effective for business analytics software leader SAS. Last year, a series of thought leader events was held in about a dozen cities across North America. The events featured analytics consultant, author, and educator Tom Davenport, and focused on how companies can use analytics to drive business results. Tactical marketing support included print, an online presence, advertising, and live event support. All of the tactical deliverables focused on business outcome and value. For the SAS sales staff, the events were a great way to engage prospects and customers while building stronger relationships.
Your marketing support activities may only get one chance to assist sales in making an impact at the C-level. Keep the messaging focused on what your organization offers that can help a senior executive deliver results demanded by the board of directors. This will help establish your sales team as trusted advisors to your customers and open new opportunities for your business.