The Marketing Strategist:
Connecting with Executives: What Really Works?
Connecting and engaging with the C-suite with marketing that is more personalized and personal at every stage of the relationship is now a business imperative for B2B marketers.
No one pretends that this is easy. Getting it right demands a well-thought-out approach to researching and connecting with key executives in ways that resonate. The objective must be to engage with knowledge and content. You want to start a conversation and build a relationship with an executive based on the value you know you can offer, not just sell your product/solution.
B2B marketers have an ideal opportunity to get into the C-suite by offering some big thinking and innovative ideas. Senior executives need help as they grapple with the impact of the digital, connected economy on their business models. They are hunting out new ideas and looking for guidance to what can be a fundamental rethinking of their approach to market.
Here are five useful guidelines to follow to create marketing to engage the C-suite that is both personalized and personal:
- Prioritize data and insight. The amount of data marketers gather in the quest for actionable insights can be overwhelming. Increased application of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics can streamline that process. But at the executive level we need to take a more nuanced approach. Start by focusing on segments and accounts. Then research individuals and their roles, their important issues, and relationships. Concentrate on those accounts that will be instrumental in driving the business over the next few years.
- Emphasize “always on.” Personalizing content is a huge challenge. A sustained focus on core themes can make managing the sheer volume of personalized content far less daunting. Pick key issues and, rather than running 12 or 20 different campaigns a year, choose three or four thematic approaches that are literally always on, such as digital transformation solutions or the workforce of the future, for example. With personalized content, the mantra should be: less is more.
- Balance online and offline. It’s true that technology is increasingly helping to deliver personalization at scale. But too much use of technology can come across as impersonal and even mechanized, completely missing the mark. And, despite the perception that buyers spend far more time online than offline, the ITSMA How Executives Engage study finds that offline still counts and is especially important for the C-suite. During all the phases of the purchasing process, buyers spend almost the same amount of time offline as online.
- Design for personalization. In line with the ‘always on’ approach, create a framework of core content (tied to the business strategy) and modular assets from the start to facilitate customization and ensure its applicability throughout the purchasing cycle and beyond.
- Deploy co-creation to strengthen relationships. Marketing leaders emphasize co-creation of thought leadership and solutions to make those personalized connections even stronger. Clients welcome collaboration for new insights and innovation addressing their particular issues. It’s not thought leadership for clients and prospects—it’s thought leadership with clients and prospects. That is the ultimate personalization.
With the increasing involvement of the company’s most senior executives in the buying process for big ticket IT services and solutions, it is imperative for marketers to reach them with personalized, credible content. Technology can help scale personalization, but there is no substitute for human interaction. Nor are there any magic bullets: executives engage with all types of content, in all channels and formats, throughout the purchase process. The choices are going to be different for every account and for every person within the account. To keep marketing personal, you need to know your audience.
Learn more about personalization and how to connect with the C-suite by reading ITSMA’s Update, Want to Engage with the C-suite? This Time it’s Personal!, which dives deeper into the five guidelines to follow for better engagement.