Inside search: Finding the C-suite

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CEOs and other high-ranking executives are some of the most active Internet search users at large companies, according to a study released last week by Google.

The survey, done in conjunction with Forbes Insights, gathered responses from 354 executives at US companies with annual sales of more than $1 billion. Of the senior executives interviewed for the survey, 92% said that searching online was a valuable source of business information, and more than half said they preferred to do the searching themselves, rather than delegating the work to others.

Interesting statistics, but what do they mean for direct marketers? According to Sam Sebastian, Google's head of B2B and local markets, the results show that with the right search technique, b-to-b marketers can directly target the elusive C-Suite.

“A lot of times, when we're talking to b-to-b buyers, the audience they're trying to reach is the C-suite, the decision-makers,” Sebastian said. “Their objections are, ‘This is great, but it's a consumer play,' or ‘My audience is not searching and not online.' We wanted to do research to help us convince advertisers that their customers are online searching and using social media.”

In fact, the Google study showed that 79% of interviewees use the Internet every day. C-level executives are conducting 6 or more searches a day to locate business information and are more likely to use search that frequently than lower-level executives. These executives can also be found engaging online in other ways: more than 41% are on Twitter, 53% blog regularly and 95% watch online videos.

“We can take this type of research and go back to advertisers and say, 'not only do you need to be on search because clearly that's where the C-suite is, but you have to make sure that if you have video content it's getting on YouTube and that your messages are in front of them in video as well,'” Sebastian said.

Mobile work tools like iPhones, and corner office promotions of younger execs who entered the work force with Internet access, are getting much of the credit for increased Web activity in the C-suite. Now it's up to marketers to take advantage of the audience that is being held captive at their screens.

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