How do you market to the C-Suite?

Mid adult manager talking while having presentation with his team in the office. The view is through glass.

Senior-level executives can be difficult to sell. They are busy and preoccupied. And they know how to say no. You don’t get to the top by approving every idea or pitch. C-suite executives must be able to make judgments and protect their time quickly.

This can be daunting for a marketer. It would be best if you first got past several levels of gatekeepers to gain an audience with a chief officer who is limited in time. Then you need to grab their attention and convince them that your offer is worthwhile.

It is a complex and delicate process that leaves room for error. This is why so many marketers fail to hit the mark. However, success is possible!

This is what you need to know to understand the brass ring and market to the C-suite efficiently.

Market to the C-Suite

Before you book a team meeting and start building a strategy, it is important to evaluate whether the investment is worth it. In my many conversations and meetings with marketing professionals, I have heard them say that marketing to the C-suite is a wasteful endeavour. They’re partly correct, though.

It can be not easy to market to the C-suite. If you target directors, mid-level managers or individual contributors, the same strategies and tactics will work. ABM is required to reach high-ranking executives in most cases. If you are not willing to spend the effort to target senior leaders and engage them, your energy could be better spent building closer relationships with those who report to you.

However, there are some things that you will need to do if you decide to market to the C-suite.

Three Mistakes Marketers Make when Marketing to the C-Suite

Some organizations are extremely successful in marketing to the C-suite. Others fail. What is holding them back? These are the top three reasons why marketers fail to win over chief executives:

They don’t respect their time.

Everyone we know is busy.

Imagine that you are not only working to meet your daily life but also have investors urging you to achieve your lofty revenue goals. Your department’s performance or, in the case of a CEO, the whole company, is your responsibility. If something goes wrong, you know it will be your head. You are simultaneously bombarded by calls, emails and advertisements from hundreds of vendors vying for your time and money.

You might be able to see that anyone who fails to understand the packed calendar of a senior leader (or worse, ignores their time constraints) will not get very far.

They don’t do their homework.

Marketing 101 is knowing your audience. You have to go a step further when dealing with the c-suite. It is not enough to have a generalized view of their problems and make assumptions. It is important to get to know their pain points.

You only have a few seconds to get their attention. Asking a question that you don’t know the answer to or asking them about their industry background will cost you your chance.

They fail to communicate their value.

Lower-level decision-makers might be interested to see a list of features and benefits or technical aspects of your product or services. However, c-level executives only care about the result. Concentrate your message on the value proposition and reduce the language as much as possible.

Five C-Suite Marketing Tips

Now you understand the importance of respecting senior-level executives’ time. Do your research and be clear about your value. Let’s now discuss some strategies and tactics you can employ as part of this effort.

You can go where they hang out.

It would help if you did your research to discover where your target chief executive is spending their time.

Are they members of professional networks or associations? Look for ways to get a foothold within these spaces if they are. Sponsoring an event or hosting a session at leadership conferences are two examples.

Are they on LinkedIn? Do they have a LinkedIn profile? If so, make sure to take the time to look at their profile. You can also follow them and interact with their posts.

Learn their roles.

There are many different roles for chief officers depending on the size of an organization, industry, or company. Some are hands-on coaches, while others take a more strategic role and delegate the day-to-day decision-making to their VPs or directors.

You can better target your messages to specific problems and pain points by understanding their role and responsibilities.

Be open about why you are the right fit.

Transparency is key. Transparency is key.

If you have worked with other companies in the same industry, let them know. Share the story of how you helped another client overcome similar challenges.

Also, let them know why you are capable.

Give them something free.

Executives in the C-suite are drowning in content and don’t need another blog post full of rehashed facts. Instead, tell them something new, preferably something they won’t find elsewhere.

An industry report based on internal research or insights can be a great way for them to pay attention, especially if it tells a compelling tale.

One of the tech companies that generated most of their revenue was through media sales; I worked once for them. Marketing to CMOs was part of my job. They are often resistant to traditional marketing strategies.

Instead of bombarding them with blog posts that they don’t have the time to read, we gave them early VIP access to our highly anticipated annual reports (including an exclusive webinar for executives). They felt special and could use the valuable insights we provided immediately. This helped us build trust and establish meaningful relationships.

Keep in mind the buying committee.

No good c-level executive makes decisions in a vacuum. They will often relegate the decision to a director, VP or manager at the mid-level. You must win over the buying team.

Give them all the information they need, explain why your product/service will improve their lives, and offer support whenever you can. A team of internal champions is often the best way to get to the top.

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