For many B2B marketers, getting in front of senior decision-makers is a tough task.

These are people who would really move the needle for you if you get them to sign up for your product or service.

When marketing to the C-suite, though, you've got to do things that are different from much of your other marketing efforts.

Sure, content marketing and the like can work, but it will only get you so far—and only if you've created something that will get past the noise.

Senior decision-makers spend only 2% of their time on new suppliers—people trying to sell them stuff—a Harvard study found. That's less than an hour a week.

So how can you get the C-suite to hear your marketing message?

You first need to understand how the people in the C-suite think. They operate on a strategic level, meaning your relationships with them must provide some form of strategic insight.

This article will show you how to...

  • Create value that the C-suite truly pays attention to
  • Build trust with senior decision-makers
  • Create an independent brand to cut through the noise

Study the following five elements, and you'll be able to position your marketing in a way that builds trust with your targeted senior decision-makers.

Element 1: Focus on what the market is talking about

When developing content that provides value and a message aimed at senior decision-makers, most marketers do the same thing they do with most of their content: They take a topic related to their value proposition and try to provide how-to information.

That approach doesn't work with the C-suite because it's not directly tied to what the market is saying now. The challenges that senior executives are trying to overcome aren't being addressed by most of the content out there.

Your message needs to deliver value, and to the C-suite that value comes in the form of insights, statistics, and a logical argument for change.

Listen to what the market is talking about and find a unique angle related to your own value proposition. Then, tell a compelling story that builds a compelling need that draws your C-suite audience in.

Element 2: Use third-party endorsements

Value only goes so far. You need to appear credible in the eyes of the C-suite before they'll invite you into the boardroom.

That credibility comes from your clients and partners. In other words, the people you bring forward to "meet" the senior decision-makers you want to do business with.

When you create a message that you intend to aim at the C-suite, be sure to mix your message with the experiences and stories of your current clients. Doing so will build credibility that the C-suite can relate to.

Element 3: Challenge received wisdom

Getting the message right is only one side of the coin; to complete a successful C-suite marketing campaign, you've got to be able to establish trust quickly.

Again, the C-suite operates on a strategic level, so focus on that level when you're making a connection.

Senior decision-makers have people reporting to them on a daily basis, and therefore their actions and assumptions are rarely challenged. From their perspective, that's pretty frustrating; but for us it's a great advantage.

Acting as a connector and bringing senior executives together will help establish that level of trust. Your message should inspire discussion, even disagreement, and inspire them to leave knowing that their opinions have been confirmed or changed for the better.

Giving them an environment that allows such a collective view to form is incredibly valuable to the C-suite—and you'll be standing right in the middle of it.

Element 4: One touchpoint from start to finish

Many companies have access to various marketing resources and channels—from telemarketing to event marketing to all the way to sales. The marketing message is broken down and passed on from contact to contact.

As you've probably guessed, when marketing to the C-suite, that approach doesn't work. They build trust with the people inside an organization, not the organization itself. So when they think they're getting to know a person (building trust), only to be handed over to another, they feel not only exhausted but also slightly exploited.

Therefore, it's important that the C-suite marketing process be managed by a single contact from start to finish. From the initial introduction to the delivering of value and all the way to the appointment.

If you don't have time to build a relationship based on intimacy with someone, in the long run the C-suite likely ignore you altogether.

Element 5: Build an independent brand

I've left the most important until last. As I noted, the people in the C-suite spend only 2% of their time with vendors. The best way to get around such a hurdle is to take the above elements and wrap it all in an independent entity.

When you approach from the stance of an organization—of a seller—the C-suite will automatically have their guard up. If you position yourself as an entity that exists to deliver value, challenge assumptions and provide an environment they can do this together then that guard is dropped.

Consider our client NetSuite, which wanted to get its message in front of senior prospects to build a sales pipeline it usually wouldn't have access to. We helped the company to create The Ortus Club, which brings CXOs of high-growing software and Internet companies together to discuss various ideas and topics.

As a result, NetSuite managed to secure almost seven figures in sales opportunities from some very lucrative prospects, including the CEOs, CFOs, and COOs of some of the fastest-growing online companies in the world.

You do need one more thing…

As you might have guessed, a face-to-face element is necessary to create the kind of environment that allows you to build a sufficient level of trust. As a rule, true relationships are created in person—not just via blog posts and whitepapers.

The benefits of this six-element methodology, however, are significant. When done correctly, it can really move the needle of fast growth and revenue.

* * *

What experience have you had with marketing to the C-suite? What are your current challenges? Share with us in the comments below.

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Five Proven Elements of B2B C-Suite Marketing

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image of Tom Whatley

Tom Whatley is the founder and CEO of Grizzle, an organic growth agency that helps SaaS and technology companies build media brands with end-to-end content marketing and SEO services.

Twitter: @thetomwhatley

LinkedIn: Tom Whatley