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How to target C-level execs

Targeting busy C-level executives can be a big b-to-b marketing challenge. Four experts offer their top tips on getting the stamp of approval from these tough-to-reach prospects.

Chris Philip
Chief experience officer, Doremus

The C-level audience is a very desir­able one. It seems as if every marketer has them on their hit list. But with so much media clutter, a marketer’s mes­sage to the C-suite needs more than ever to stand out in smart ways.

A good place to start is by examin­ing the myths about C-level execu­tives, such as, “they don’t go online.” That might have been true five or six years ago, when most of their informa­tion still came from print. And, print is still an important way they stay informed. But the C-suite as a group is no longer technophobic. There’s a whole new generation coming up who had to learn how to be computer-savvy after they reached the workplace. These are the people in their 40s or early 50s who weren’t raised with computer technology, but are now very comfort­able using it and rely on it to get caught up with what’s going on in the world and in their professions. These are the people who follow several media chan­nels, or read the blogs about their indus­try. They are smart enough to know that you can’t run a company without a good understanding of technology.

Marketers who want to reach C-level executives need to think of them as people first and seek out ways to reach them that go beyond the traditional places, such as the golf course and The Wall Street Journal.

In today’s world, reaching a highly desirable audience such as this requires a carefully crafted, integrated mar­keting campaign that meets them at various touch points. Rarely does one media venue work effectively on its own. Direct, whether it be through digi­tal, e-mail, cover-wraps or brochures, is only one part of a successfully, well-integrated campaign that has a focused, strategic message based on a core insight. Without these parts, the whole will never produce results.

Meet the C-suite at various touchpoints with an integrated marketing campaign

Kevin Gales
Director of relationship marketing, HSR Business to Business

To standout with C-suite executives, you have to be relevant, engaging and impactful. You also have to fully understand the C-level executives’ roles, responsibilities and concerns, and pro­vide a personalized and customized offer that they can’t find elsewhere. Missing any of these areas can result in a one-way ticket to the recycle bin.

Use a dimensional mailer because they are inherently more eye-catching and hard to ignore. Generating interest for a unique package on the corner of a CFO’s desk is much easier than doing the same for a white envelope in his or her inbox. Additionally, an appropriate call to action should be provided, mak­ing it easy for the executive to transfer the information to the relevant manager.

But don’t get completely caught up in the collateral. Although important, it isn’t the most critical component of your campaign. The success of a C-level direct marketing campaign depends first on the lists you use; second, on the offer; third, on the timing; and fourth, on the creative.

One of the key differences between marketing to C-level executives and the rest of the organization can be summed up in one word: assistants. Assistants are often the first individuals to see communications, so savvy direct mar­keters should find ways to incorporate them into the process. Consider sending two pieces of collateral — one targeted to the assistant and the other to the execu­tive. If you motivate the gatekeeper, you have a much better chance of getting the executive to see your collateral.

Remember, C-suite executives’ roles and responsibilities might change depending on the size of their organiza­tions. Don’t just assume the CEO, CFO or COO is the most relevant target for your offer — going directly to the C-suite could alienate another senior-level deci­sion maker. Managers are important and should not be ignored.

To stand out with a C-suite executive, you have to get past the assistant

Steve Dapper
Founder and chairman, Hawkeye

Businesses selling enterprise products that require the approval of C-level executives often struggle to open that office door. It’s not that purchas­ing, procurement, finance and IT aren’t important. But, for businesses selling solutions that require substantial corpo­rate change, the C-level executive is a key component to closing deals.

However, C-level executives are a catch-22 — annoy them, and you could be banished from their companies for their terms (usually two to three years); or do nothing, but never get the neces­sary final approval for implementation.

Before reaching out to the C-suite, make sure you do your homework and understand your prospects’ busi­ness enough to truly know if your prod­uct will fulfill their important needs.

C-level executives have seen the world, so it is much more difficult to capture their attention. That’s why spend per touch should be substan­tially more than that of a typical pros­pect. Spending more is justified simply because there are substantially fewer C-level executives compared to your total audience. These prospects hold the power to shorten your sales cycle by exercising their executive decision to engage with your project, vs. going through multiple layers of approval.

C-level communication must be personalized and speak to each executive’s specific situation. To take personalization to a higher level, use personalized URLs. A PURL alone can drive higher inquiry rates. It can also provide a marketer with the ability to further personalize through interaction with the prospect, to drive repeat visits and to schedule meetings. And, PURL close rates are currently about five times higher than non-PURL programs.

Identify the best C-level prospects to focus on, the attributes they share and the steps it takes to get them to buy in. Using this information, you can identify new prospects with similar traits to assist in determining the ones that warrant the higher investment and personal touch.

When marketing to C-level executives, spend more, personalize and optimize

Ted Kohnen
VP of interactive marketing, Stein Rogan & Partners

How do you get your message through the clutter and into the minds of the busiest people in the world – the C-suite? For b-to-b marketers, reaching high-level executives is about engage­ment through personalization and through thought leadership initiatives. The C-suite audience is passionate about their careers, hobbies and causes. Your methods of reaching them must be as passionate and creative as they are.

How would you react if you saw a promotion with your name on it direct­ing you to a microsite that was www.yourname.com? Use hyper-personal­ization and structure your campaign to surround your target recipient with pro­motion that messages to them by name and company. Have all promotion drive to a personalized microsite to provide not only information, but an experience. Use a hyper-personalization campaign at events or conferences where your target C-level exec is sure to be and leverage it to drive a one-on-one conversation.

Getting print material past the mail­room and executive assistant has always been a challenge for direct marketers. Send a dimensional mailer — some­thing that isn’t flat, like a box or tube — that is sure to be at the top of the mail pile and elicit curiosity. Dimensionals work well because of their high impact and, more than a letter or self-mailer, they have a better chance of landing on the intended recipient’s desk. Of note, the dimensional should be compellingly relevant — not gimmicky.

The powerful word-of-mouth (WOM) medium certainly includes the CEO net­work. Often, this WOM is spurred by thought leadership — truly outstanding and provocative content packaged and distributed through direct channels, webinars, conference events, speaking engagements and so on. CEOs have always and will continue to network with other CEOs. Leveraging personal­ized and peer-to-peer marketing oppor­tunities in combination is the surest path to influencing the influential.

Hyper-personalization through creative output and delivery methods is essential

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