How to Market to the C-Suite

Members of the C-Suite (top level executives) can be intimidating. They've got chaotic schedules and bounce from meeting to meeting planning growth strategies. You know their limited time is precious. Capturing their attention is hard and maintaining it can be downright impossible. Their approval is a coveted gem.  

The key to obtaining success in marketing for the C-Suite is identifying what role the CEO and the top executives really have in the Buyer's Journey process. Once you've identified that, you'll be able to create a marketing program designed to get the ideal person the correct information at the right time. 

When do You Swoop In? 

Within the last decade, modern technology has changed the way B2B organizations operate. So what are the new best ABM marketing strategies? Top executives don't wait for employees to solve their problems. Businesses now employ CEOs who are proactive and will do what all buyers do when faced with a problem—Google. Executives now proactively search for recommendations and solutions themselves, referencing a plethora of business-focused websites. This shift in the problem-solving process creates a window for marketers to educate and inform the CEO at points along the buying process when he/she is in the learning stage and receptive to hearing solutions. Essentially, the internet now allows you an opportunity to interact directly with the CEO and get the right information in front of her.  

The most crucial time to be marketing to the CEO is at the awareness stage when they first start searching for solutions to a corporate crisis or initiative. At this stage, roughly 80% of CEOs become involved to establish the business's strategic direction. Uneducated marketers believe the time to approach a CEO is on the final stage of the buyer's journey when they believe the decision is being settled. Unfortunately, at this point in time, their minds are usually made up, and you're too late.  

A recent Harvard Business Review Study revealed that C-Suite decision makers spend less than two percent of their time with vendors, which is roughly one hour per week. This fact raises the question of whether your marketing efforts should be directed to the C-Suite, or to an individual holding a mid-management position. 

Market to the C-Suite

Although the C-Suite has been the traditional end that all sales initiatives must go to, it's wrong to assume that's still the case. The IBM Global C-Suite Study found that CEOs are decentralizing the decision-making process, making their companies competitive and nimbler. Just because you can reach the C-Suite, doesn't mean you should. 

Developing a Strategic Buyer's Insight Report (SBIR)  

In ordered to make you marketing efforts successful, you need to understand completely which consumers you should be focusing on. To understand who your efforts should be tailored to, you need to begin an in-depth discovery and assessment process. Your final goal is to use the data you've collected to develop a Strategic Buyer's Insight Report.  

This report will fine tune your marketing strategy, including how to market to the c-suite. Basically, the report is an extensive evaluation of your industry and competition, website performance analysis, buyer's journey, and strategic buyers' insights. This report goes far beyond creating buyer personas; by the end, there's not a thing you wouldn't know about your ideal market.  

The Buyer Insight's portion of the SBIR expands your knowledge of your buyer personas and allows you to understand integral information about them like at what point they become involved in the sales process, what information they will need to make purchase decisions, and where they go to curate information. 

Related: How to Use Marketing Data to Forecast Sales 

The report answers questions about the buyer's journey, priority initiative, success factors, perceived barriers, the buying process, decision criteria, and an optimal path. You'll be able to see what the exact buyer personas are who influence buying decisions, what made the problem become a priority for the buyer, and what the buyer's expectations for success are. In addition, you'll also learn what barriers would prevent this buyer from choosing your company, and what process would make it easier for the buyer to choose you. This includes the Buyer's Journey from the point at which the search for a solution is triggered, the research performed, as well as who accessed the solutions and who had input into the decision. For each person, you need to understand his/her needs and look into what resources they consulted to learn and evaluate options. After you've read all your collected information, you'll know your customer inside out.   

Before you approach a busy C-Suite with your marketing strategies, you must have concrete data behind you to support your proposed ideas. Conducting a strategic buyer's insight report will provide you with this data. The C-Suite will respond better to the presentation of hard numbers rather than general assertions. When you do approach them, ensure you do so during the awareness stage when they're searching for solutions and, above all, make sure you're presenting to an individual who will have a big role in the decision-making process.