Marketing to Chief Executives

image_freedigitalphotos-ceo sitting on chairCorporate executives wield tremendous buying clout and, increasingly, are directly involved in high-stakes purchasing decisions early in the selection process. According to a recent study by Chief Executive Group, 3 out of 4 BtoB CEOs are more engaged in major investment decisions.

Why are executives recommending brands at the beginning of new investment initiatives? According to the study, CEOs have adapted to accelerating changes in the world economy and monitor and shoulder the responsibility for the outcome of major purchasing decisions.

Most strikingly, companies have only a 15% chance of winning business if a CEO hasn’t heard of your brand. Whether your firm sells IT, telecommunications, financial and insurance services and business services to the corporate market, sellers must establish and build their brands with chief executives.

Fortunately, CEOs open to ideas from credible outside sources. This provides abundant opportunities for familiarizing CEOs with your brand while shaping their thinking early in the decision making process. Marketers who reach CEOs enjoy shorter sales cycles and fewer bureaucratic hurdles by speaking to ultimate decision-makers.

Thought Leadership Branding

As a corporate seller, you must shun self-promotion in favor of creating value for prospects throughout the sales process. This means leveraging your expertise via thought leadership to educate, advise and solve problems for CEOs about major issues facing their organizations.

CEOs are looking for companies that articulate and deliver measurable business results. Effectively building your company’s CEO-level brand reputation entails following principles:

• Total focus on benefits for the CEO – not your company

• Provide a unique point of view on issues crucial to the CEO

• Build for speed so your content makes a good impression fast

• Pursue face-to-face opportunities at conferences and roundtables

• Leverage the power of text effectively in white papers and email

• Develop social media strategies aligned with CEOs’ growing usage

Content Marketing to Chief Executives

Marketers must understand CEO media habits and develop content marketing that reaches and influences executives in meaningful ways.

This means taking time to consider both the substance and manner in which your content is delivered.

A couple of examples from the recent Chief Executive Group report are worth considering.

Print is not dead. Many marketers assume that online channels provide the most opportunities for thought leadership and content marketing.

However, a survey from Ipsos MediaCT reveals that America’s most influential business leaders are incorporating digital media into their lifestyles, but they have not abandoned traditional media with 87% executives still utilizing print.

“The Business Elite are using digital to help them pool relevant information from numerous sources,” says James Torr director at Ipsos MediaCT. “However, instead of replacing traditional media, digital supplements their use of print and television.”

Thought leadership events. CEOs overwhelming prefer live, face-to-face opportunities to network and learn from other chief executives. Some companies are creating executive events that brings CEOs together for conversation and knowledge sharing thereby positioning their brands as a true benefit providers.

Thought leadership events do not require huge attendance to be successful. It’s more important to attract the right quality people to generate excellent conversation and substantive one-on-one interaction.

As you develop your thought leadership strategy, try to see the world through the eyes of a CEO: resonate with their challenges, look for opportunities, develop an understanding of their competitive landscape.

Focus on making a difference, not making a sale. Think like a journalist and provide value without spin. Develop articles, reports, talks and blog posts that address pressing marketplace issues and how CEOs can address these three months, six months, a year down the road.

Help CEOs keep abreast of market changes with prescriptive content. For example, a healthcare consultant could develop an e-book explaining five strategies for navigating health care reform.  It’s simple, it’s prescriptive, and it’s a top-of-mind issue that many CEOs worry about every day.

Ultimately, trust opens the door. CEOs have ongoing pressure to perform. They want seek brands that can help them. To engage CEOs, you have to think on their terms and go where they go. Thought leadership appeals to corporate decision makers’ need for relevant, useful information and helps you stand out from a crowd of cold callers.