If getting the personal touch right takes a lot of work, creating compelling C-level content is no picnic either.
All three presentations from November’s Sales & Marketing Forum linked back to this challenge in different ways. I’ve picked out a few here:
Content marketing for the C-level.
Content marketing is still a buzzword, despite numerous commentators pointing out that it’s not exactly a new phenomenon (see Dave Stevens’ enjoyably provocative intro to the topic at this year’s B2B marketing conference).
But providing a regular stream of interesting and useful stuff for the c-level audience can open doors, and raise credibility. That said, marketers face stiff competition – and not necessarily from other marketers. For strategic business topics, it’s hard to beat the likes of The Economist, the Harvard Business Review and the Financial Times.
For all the talk of marketers becoming publishers we can’t hope to match the majority of their output – but we should at least understand the kind of quality that’s required at this level.
To see an example of that kind of ambition and scale, just take a look at IBM’s Global C-Suite study. Andrew Grill joined us from IBM to share some of the latest results:
For the last ten years they’ve been running studies that act as a barometer of executive opinions and priorities around the world. This year’s study covers the entire C-suite, through 4183 interviews in 70 countries. The main theme that emerged is The Customer Activated Enterprise, captured in the nice infographic above.
Produce less, produce better
Of course, it doesn’t have to always be quite this grand. A good piece of advice I heard recently from a journalist turned content marketer was to produce less but produce better. And work out ways of making it last.
In doing so, marketers need to sniff out those angles where their organisation can say something different – the thought leadership territory they can realistically own. Focus on a particular job function, or a particular industry issue. Then invest the time and money to create something original and useful there.
Who do you lean on for content?
A clever part of IBM’s work is the collaborative element.
In the process of creating the content, they also strengthen the existing relationships with their customers and generate high level discussions about their pain points. With care, and the right senior backing, this trick can be repeated in all manner of B2B scenarios.
Identifying and then managing the best thought leaders within your organisation is key. Your own time-poor senior executives are often your most interesting spokespeople and skilled content advisors. Supplement them intelligently with the right mix of genuine high profile industry experts, customer opinions and economic commentators and you’re on the way to creating something worthwhile.
But there are plenty of marketers trying to pull off the trick. So without rigorous content planning and understanding up front, your efforts could disappear into the general background noise.
Frequency and rhythm
Prestige and credibility come with longevity. The B2B world is littered with the corpses of exec engagement programmes that never got beyond the first couple of canapé-fests. These same defunct programmes are then apparently reincarnated after a year or two, duplicating the same effort and fanfare that was expended the first time around. Surely it’s best to stick with a good one a think long term?
Also, there’s really nothing worse than those people who only come to make small talk with you when they want something…
Or just get to the point with an intelligent meeting request…
Hasse Iwarsson, UK & Ireland MD for Canon, offered up a more direct approach. A campaign with all the firepower of the senior executive team behind it, but focused on generating individual meetings.
In this case success depended on a killer conversation starter – something that would really get to the point and show a meeting would be worth the time. Something that challenged their status quo – but shows you’ve probably thought through the risks and benefits of change for them.
So the Aiming Higher campaign structured content around each target organisation’s annual report, picking out the areas where Canon could make a demonstrable difference. (The kind of marketing support that seems fit for the challenger sale, in fact)
This still required a considerable amount of rigour. It depended on taking the time to really understand the prospect’s issues, and being able to read between the lines of their annual reports to tap into the issues affecting that individual.
Whichever way you do it, invest time and thought.
In Canon’s case the marketing collateral helped set up meetings by being both pain-point focused but also provocative. It worked because of the combination of intelligence and senior commitment.
IBM’s great content marketing (and other, smaller programmes too) attracts a senior audience because it teaches them something different. This can come from original research, a senior peer group or other assorted original thinkers.
But whichever way you do it, a real C-level audience will see through half-baked marketing quickly, so don’t be tempted to cut too many corners…