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Is your content marketing right for executives?

Is your content marketing right for executives? Roanne Neuwirth

So you have a content marketing strategy in place, and it's going pretty well. Should you consider going big time and extending your efforts to reach the C-suite? Well, maybe, but not without some careful consideration first. The potential risks -- and rewards -- are equally big, and that all-important first impression is critical. There's not a lot of patience for second chances with this audience.

The rewards of connecting with the C-suite are immeasurable. Executives have a way of cutting through red tape and accelerating sales cycles. Their loyalty to your brand or company often translates into new business through referrals and incremental sales. In short, they are an elite type of influencer -- and a highly coveted one at that.

The challenge is this audience is different, and the content that works with other buyers is not going to cut it with this group. So what type of content can break through to the elusive C-suite? Here are some tips to consider for each component of your outreach.

The right hook

Get to know the most pressing priorities and concerns of this audience before you put a finger to your keyboard. This requires staying apprised of the fast-evolving landscape of business challenges relevant to your specific audience of executives and their businesses. For B2B marketers, a series of executive customer interviews provides a good directional baseline and can help ensure you are hitting on areas of importance.

There's no time to consume stale content -- and with a 24-hour continuous news cycle, it's even more challenging to latch onto news as it happens. Make sure the value of the content you share adds a new perspective to this executive's day.

A substantive message

Executives aren't interested in reading promotional messages or information about features. Make sure your story is strategic -- that it's framed up with a focus on solving real business problems, like increasing the bottom line, not on new technologies or product attributes. Innovative examples that address those problems are welcome fodder for conversation.

Stick with what you know and substantiate it with hard facts. Focus on topics relevant to your core business strengths that the executive is likely to associate with your company or brand. Stretching too far off topic may actually risk your credibility. Referencing studies or other data sources helps build credibility quickly, and it doesn't have to be your own data -- you can partner with universities, research firms, or industry associations.

A tip: If you're considering pursuing proprietary research, ask yourself how this information will help your customers -- or better yet, involve them in the effort.

Executives value advice and insights from those they consider their true peers. Create opportunities for your customers to network with one another, whether through content that contains their stories and ideas or opportunities beyond such as Customer Advisory Boards or customer communities -- these types of interactions can be invaluable for you and your customers.

Stand out

Surprise them
Executives like to be surprised and intrigued with ideas they might not have thought of yet -- push the envelope on business challenges. These need to be relevant to the strategic issues that are top of mind to them and present new information or ideas that they didn't just read themselves.

Respect their time
Be brief -- summarize and use bullet points and be sure the frequency of your outreach is consistent. Ideally they will be looking forward to hearing what you have to share next.

Start strong and stay the course

As with any new relationship, it takes time to get to know each other, to develop trust and hopefully an ongoing dialog. I can't stress enough the importance of spending the time up-front to truly know what matters most to your executive customers. When you decide to extend your content marketing efforts to the executive level, you can't afford to rely on assumptions. It's worth the investment of your time to have real conversations and uncover what matters most (in the end, the payoff is a stronger customer relationship) from the top down -- and a new level of loyalty.

Roanne is Senior Vice President of Farland Group, a C-level customer engagement and marketing consultancy. For more than 20 years, she's helped companies including IBM, Wells Fargo, GTE Sprint and Chevron develop stronger B2B customer relationships...

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