7 min read
When it comes to making business purchasing decisions, it’s rare for just one person to be involved, in fact it’s usually multiple.
Depending on the type and size of the company, the people involved with making decisions can vary. If it’s a small business it might be the owner and finance manager or bookkeeper. At an enterprise level, there can be several decision makers from a variety of departments looking for a cross-functional solution. So who do you focus on when it comes to targeting your marketing?
A mistake we’re seeing many B2B organisations make is focusing all efforts on reaching the very top of the decision making chain – the C-level leaders of the business. And while the logic behind this makes sense on the surface – because they ultimately hold the power to say yes, or no – in reality targeting at this level makes it incredibly difficult to see traction.
Let’s take a look at why this is…
It’s pretty obvious to state that CEOs are busy folk. They simply don’t always have the time to read marketing emails, browse magazines, watch webinars, attend exhibitions etc.
One of the key responsibilities of an Executive Assistant is to protect their bosses time and schedule – which means they’re often exceptionally good at gatekeeping! So, trying to directly reach a C-level prospect who’s never heard of you can be tricky.
C-level executives are in hot demand. With every vendor and their dog trying to reach them, they have a lot of noise to contend with.
Challenges experienced at C-level are different to those elsewhere in the business. CEOs, CFOs, CIOs.. they aren’t always aware of how the problem is impacting those on the ground.
If focusing on C-suiters isn’t the best approach, what’s the answer?
Actually, It’s less what and more who.
Going back to our earlier point – there are multiple people involved in making decisions. Making a decision about a new product or service is about more than the final yes or no. It’s usually a longer term process, especially when it comes to larger deals, with different people influencing that final decision.
Practitioners, individual contributors, those in middle management roles – these are the people who are on the ground, facing the problem day-to-day. They are the ones who:
While they may not make the ultimate call on what to buy, they are the one influencing the decision.
Getting your brand in front of the ‘influencers’ mind before they get to the point that they’re taking it to the C-suite puts you in the mix early on. The ideal here is that you’re one of the proposed solutions (if not the preferred solution) featured in the business case!
So now you’re known to the influencer, what next? One option is to let the influencer do the influencing for you, and hope it lands well with the C-level decision makers and that you stand out against other solutions they’re considering.
Or you can take a more proactive and strategic approach, using what we like to call The Two-pronged Marketing Method.
The Two-pronged Marketing Method is simply where you build a level of familiarity with the C-suite prospects through your marketing, so you’re already known to them before the influencer puts you in front of them. Doing this means when the influencer brings your solution into the conversation, the C-suiters already know of your brand and they’re already feeling warm towards you.
The important thing to remember here is that how the influencer experiences the problem and values the solution is different to how it’s perceived by C-suite prospects. So your marketing needs to reflect that. When planning marketing campaigns, keeping specific activity focused on either your C-level or influencer prospects is key. Treat them as separate audiences with targeted messaging. Don’t try and ‘catch all’ with your marketing campaigns as your message will end up diluted and losing its punch.
Here are some other things to consider when marketing to C-level vs influencer prospects:
To catch the attention of your C-level prospects your marketing needs to be bold – vanilla marketing won’t cut it. Marketing is about being imaginative and creating new ways to deliver your message – nailing this will help you earn their attention.
Typically speaking, C-level contacts don’t trust marketing so it’s down to you to build this trust, for example through case studies, testimonials and content that positions you as a supplier that can get the results they need. When marketing to CEOs, don’t focus on the short term win.
Those with C-level roles in successful business are very likely to be thought leaders by nature. While there’s a lot of marketing advice out there that’s pushing people towards short form, quick to consume content, those who are (or at least aspiring to become) thought leaders, are attracted to thought leader content (like attracts like, after all!).
One of the most effective ways to engage the attention of C-level prospects through thought-leader content is to bring a different point of view to those issues that are truly unique to them.
This sounds simple. But among the biggest challenges in marketing is to focus less on your own company’s point of view and replace it with that of your target audience. When the target is CEOs, this challenge becomes paramount.
The key things CEOs are looking for are – to become more effective in their role, make their company more profitable, and identify future growth opportunities. How can you connect with your C-suite audience by honing in on one or more of these priorities through your marketing?
We’re not saying empathetic marketing isn’t important to those at C-level, it is. But C-suiters are typically more ‘business-like’ and resilient in their approach and how they react to challenges, rather than emotive. Influencers are living with the pain the problem presents, sometimes in an environment where they’ve had to battle to get others to support their drive for change. Be the one that makes them feel heard and understood.
Make it easy for them to take the case to the business to get buy-in. Think about how you can support them with pitching the solution to the board. What resources could you create that could help the influencer make the case to the C-suite? E.g assets like audits, checklists, efficiency calculator tools, enable the influencer to assess their problem and take this to the C-suite with a clear vision on where they’re at?
And get clear on what matters specifically to their C-level leaders (they’re not all cut from the same cloth, after all!) so you can really shape how you market to them.
Get clear on the process
Who’s involved in making buying decisions? What level of influence do they actually have themselves? What are the steps involved in coming to a decision? What are the stand out elements their C-suiters leaders tend to look for in preferred suppliers? The answers to these questions will be paramount to helping you connect with the right people, shape your approach and get ahead so you know what’s coming up and how you need to prepare for it.
While honing in on targeting solely C-level decision makers is still a common approach, some businesses are starting to make the shift and are seeing the value in appealing to influencers through their marketing.
Want help reinvigorating your marketing game plan so you can gain competitive advantage? Get in touch to arrange a chat with one of our marketing experts.
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