By Tom Pisello published June 21, 2011

Selling to Mahogany Row? Roll Out Web Carpet for C-level Executives

Are you trying to sell to the C-level suite? According to the latest survey of senior executives from SiriusDecisions, you’ll want to focus on specific digital content marketing strategies to engage and connect with these busy execs. In short, you’ll want to roll out the “web carpet” not only with the message but also with the medium.

Leading sales and marketing firm SiriusDecisions surveyed over 300 senior executives for its “2011 B-to-B Buyer’s Journey.”  The survey’s findings yield great insights into the buying journey of decision-makers, and show how to roll out the web carpet content strategies to successfully connect, engage and  sell content to “mahogany row.”

Top findings

1. There are three major roles assumed by senior executives, the survey reveals, and they are involved more than ever in key purchasing decisions:

  • 42% play the role of champions, those key sponsors who guide the buying process.
  • 25% serve as ratifiers, who validate, justify and approve the purchase.
  • 16% act as influencers, who provide advice throughout the buying journey.

2. Information overload is a reality that marketers need to understand if they’re to get through to inundated execs:

Over 30% of senior execs responded that e-mail was the most effective way to reach them, followed by telephone campaigns, direct mail campaigns, and then finally, the web.

3. Based on their role in the decision process, senior executives reported distinct preferences for the research resources they most often consult to make informed buying decisions:

  • Champions — the predominant role assumed by senior executives — favored search (26%), followed closely by industry peers (23%). Other research resources reported were industry analysts (20%), work colleagues (20%), and social media (11%).
  • Ratifiers use work colleagues (25%), search (22%), industry peers (21%), industry analysts (21%), and social media (again at 11%).
  • Influencers were much like ratifiers in their preferences, reporting work colleagues (25%) and search (24%) as their primary research resources, followed by industry peers (20%), industry analysts (20%), and finally social media (11%).

Based on this feedback, engaging with industry influencers and executive peer groups, conducting a targeted search engine optimization (SEO) campaign, and engaging with analysts are key to on-line success in connecting with decision-makers.

4. As the C-level buyers have become more cost-benefit focused, ROI has emerged as the most important consideration in their purchasing decisions (a condition Alinean terms Frugalnomics):

  • For most executives playing the dominant role of champions, “money saved” retained its status as the most important ROI calculation factor, with 43% reporting cost-savings as their priority.
  • Secondary priorities were “competitive impact” (31%) and “time saved” (10%).

5. Executives expressed that while engaging with sales professionals is a good way to keep up with their industry, they are making their sales decisions later in the buying cycle:

  • Your marketing needs to provide more than self-serving content to facilitate the buyer’s journey. You also need to bring relevance and value to the sales engagement.
  • Without the right value-added benchmarks, diagnostics, analytics and consultative content, sales professionals will continue to be invited later, missing out on the ability to influence priorities and key decisions.

Facilitating the buyer’s journey

Understanding the senior execs buyer’s journey is vital to rolling out the web carpet so you can connect and engage Mahogany Row decision makers with the content they care most about.

As part of the research, Sirius Decisions confirmed an adjacent / overall strategy of aligning content marketing strategies and tactics to “facilitating the buyer’s journey.” This consists of mapping the content marketing to the right persona with the right assets, delivered via the right channels.

For example, here’s how to map key assets in a typical facilitation of the buyer’s journey:

The bottom line

Senior executives are involved more than ever in buying decisions, and they are  more empowered, skeptical and frugal stakeholders than ever before. It is important to understand the role they play and the characteristics of this role in order to align the proper sales and marketing strategy.

This includes:

 

Source: Marketing and Selling on Mahogany Row, SiriusDecisions John Neeson & Alden Cushman, May 5, 2011.

Author: Tom Pisello

Tom Pisello, the ROI guy, has built his 25-year career helping companies to get more business value from their IT and business investments. Tom’s latest endeavor, Alinean (a CMI benefactor), was founded in 2001 to develop SaaS software for changing the way B2B sellers reach frugal buyers with interactive white papers, assessment, ROI and TCO tools. You can read Tom's blog, see related research and best practices or follow him on Twitter @tpisello.

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    Great analysis

  • Rocketcp08

    Yes however, the author seems to have missed that a multi channel approach at the C level will be most effective rather than relying on a web only strategy. Unless you can only afford one, why ignore voice or off line (DM). With technologies such as personalization, video and QR that are blurring the traditional lines between marketing and sales channels, why settle for only one?

    • Tom Pisello

      Not sure I was promoting web only with the content items listed, however, the mix for executives should be more on-line as survey after survey indicates that they do their own research on-line vs. via other mediums.

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