Friday, July 30, 2010

Selling into the Digital C-Suite : What prompts a search?

Still drawing from the Forbes Insights report...

What prompts an executive to start a search? More than 70% said it is the result of something they read on line; 66% through WOM (something a colleague said) and 64% said it is the result of something they read in a newspaper or magazine.

And what do they use - Google, Yahoo or Live Search, which isn't surprising. What is noteworthy is the value executives place on search, and how it is a solid part of day-to-day corporate activities. When asked what on line and off line sources they valued, nine out of 10 executives (87%) rated general search engines as very valuable (4 or 5 on 5-point scale). Next was colleague guidance (77%), personal networks (65%), links from on-line content (58%), subscription search engines (54%)and guidance from outside advisors (53%).

And it's not just that they place value on searches --- it's the frequency they use it. 60% said they conduct at last six work-related searches a day, and 20% conducting more than 20. Generation PC and Generation Netscape (see first blog in series) definitely use search tools for deeper dives into information at a greater level than Generation Wang.

Executives also consider searches as a conduit to other on-line material... and will follow a trail to get the right information... following a path driven by search results, content, and advertising.

Meaning - every link needs to support the objective - otherwise you will lose your executive. "As expected, executives are more likely to click links from content than from ads, but the less intrusive the ad, the more likely they are to follow the link."

86% click on linked words from web articles and content (occasionally to frequently); 58% click on paid lists in search engine results, 53% click on website banner ads and 37% click on pop-up or other interruptive ads from websites. (Source: Forbes Insights - the Rise of the Digital C-Suite)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Selling into the Digital C-Suite : Suggested steps to follow in your planning…

As with anything, planning is important and details are even more important. Here is a basic outline of the type of steps you should take to put together a well thought out plan of who, what, when, where, how, and why.

1. Create a profile of your ideal customer. Do yourself a favor – create a profile page that has fields for all of the areas of focus. This becomes your template. Target 5-10 companies that meet the criteria. Include location, industry, size, geography, business duration, type of business, etc. The level of detail will determine the level of intimacy you gain in understanding your customer or prospect, and increasing the likelihood of providing value. Consider corporate culture, industry trends and industry position, competitors and customers or target market. The more you know, the more you will be able to increase your diagnostics capability.

2. Engage in research on the 5-10 targets beginning with website and its contents, go to press releases to see what activity has taken place recently and in the past, contracts or new business, events, goals/objectives, key initiatives, markets, primary offerings, info on the executives, competitors and financial trends. Use search engines to see what is “out there” on the companies you’ve selected. Look at executive profiles – their individual charters and goals – how long they have been with the company, previous assignments … and even what they are known for.

3. Now look at your service/product and answer why you see an alignment between the target and their needs and your offering. If it isn’t clear to you – it surely won’t be to them. Now you can develop a strong value proposition you can present to the prospect. Be prepared to answer specifically how this company will benefit and the type of results they will get. The more specific you are – the greater your credibility. As I mentioned in other writings – C-Level executives could care less about your products or services. Their focus is all about whether something contributes to achieving their desired business outcomes – forget the sales pitch.

4. Look for contact information across multiple sources to reach into the organization. LinkedIn is a great source for finding executives of companies, and if you don’t know them or they are outside of your network, look for an introduction or send what is called an “InMail”. Prepare talking points that you want to present in written and verbal formats. Include that you’ve conducted considerable research on their company and would like to share an idea about how they can achieve a specific objective (based on your research on them – that will mean something of significance). If the company is local to you, it might be easier to invite the executive or person of interest out for lunch, than to get a brief meeting to share the concept. This is where intuition is important.

5. Don’t underestimate the value of executive assistants (EA) in your plan. If you decide to make a cold-call, you can ask for the EA and state your case, also requesting an email to provide additional information. If the executive has an EA, very often they become a valued and important member of the executive’s team. Additionally, you may want to look deeper into the organization – and see if you can connect with the executive’s direct reports who might be interested in not only the results – but the actual product and/or service. If you can make them look good – that is a golden key.

6. Remember the "C"-level executive does not want to hear about your products. They are prepared to hear how you can help their business be more profitable, get a competitive advantage, reduce costs, increase productivity, enter new markets, maximize use of existing technologies, increase sales, address customer retention and loyalty, etc.

Selling into the Digital C-Suite : Getting in with the information they seek!

According to Huthwaite’s “Selling to the C-Suite” CLEs place significant value on diagnostic capabilities than hearing about products, services and solutions. That means forget about doing “a pitch” --- reserve that for lower level reports in the tactical sense. However, if you can truly identify a problem or obstacle that is preventing a CLE from achieving results --- that is golden.

Here’s where it gets interesting – the CLE’s direct reports are actually key to gaining access and insight. Those at the VP and Director levels. If you have a client program --- this is the time to use it. If you don't, give us a call and we'll help you develop one. You don't have to drop a lot of money into effective customer programs - you just have to know what will work, why and consistently use it as part of your branding and marketing.

I worked for a company that had a very effective Customer Visit Program. Our account executives would invite prospects in for a meeting. We had a Customer Conference Room that was only used for client/prospect meetings, that had an adjoining breakout rooms for food & refreshments. (Message being - if you are bringing clients into your facility - make sure that you appropriate an area that is always neat, organized and clean.) The AE would work closely with the program manager to develop an agenda, technical support, presentations, handouts, engineers (if needed for the meeting) etc., and even lining up the appropriate level of executive to meet with the client. This an environment that lets the client/prospect know the value you place on the meeting with them, and the type of information you are looking for. “Since CLE’s schedules are so jammed and tightly guarded, everything that you can learn about their problems, challenges and the impact of not changing should be done, if possible, in advance of a meeting.” (Source: Huthwaite).

While this may all read nicely, you are probably asking “What’s my point of entry?” At the TechTarget Online ROI Summit ’09 West, a panel of CIOs provided insight and perspectives on a) how they search for information, and b) how their purchase decisions are made, that complemented a Google/TechTarget Behavioral Research Project mapping search terms to content types at each stage of the buying process.

If you Google “phases of buying cycle” you will get an assortment of attractive graphics and charts. Take your pick. What is important is understanding that your client goes through phases prior to making a purchase decision/commitment to adopt a course of action --- and you need to understand where and when is the best time for you to gain access and entry in order to reach the C-Level Executive – and influence the decision making process.

The phases are pretty basic: a) Realizing or becoming aware of a problem, or obstacle; b) deciding to do something about it, c) gather information on potential solutions and present recommendations, d) evaluate & eliminate, e) selection/commitment/purchase, d) results and follow-up. Some buying cycles have more phases, some less… but follow the basics. Now depending on the subject – the CLE may be involved at the awareness/recognition and selection/commitment/purchase phases.

So what kind of information do executives look for? In the Forbes Insights report, executives were asked what areas of focus were most critical to their role. The top concerns - 53% competitor analysis, 41% customer trends, 39% corporate development (i.e. M&A), compliance/legal, 26%. Bottom line – knowing about their competitors and knowing about their customers/prospects are the two most important areas of focus.

However, priorities change if you look at the functional role. If in Finance - 63% competitor analysis, 44% corporate development, 33% compliance/legal. If in IT - 59% technology trends, 58% competitor analysis and 16% corporate development. If in Sales/Marketing - 76% customer trends, 60% competitor analysis, 40% marketing trends and strategies.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Selling into the Digital C-Suite : It's not about you... it's all about them!

So how does this new digital age of marketing affect your messaging to who you want to reach. First – let’s clarify who we are talking about.

When we are talking about the C-Suite --- we are including: CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, CLO, President and "close-to C-level executives" (C2CLE) like EVP Sales, SVP Marketing, SVP HR, Divisional President, etc.

The C-Suite and close-to-C-Executives are hyper-focused on improving results and employing strategies that will result in corporate growth, increase of market share, challenge & surpass competitors, acquire new customers, increase loyalty and retention, bolster margins, decrease costs, manage risks, increase shareholder value, attract and retain skilled workforce, and improve productivity. (Ref. Huthwaite, 2007)

Your message or product has got to talk to one of those areas of focus and propose a solution that the executive can apply to their current situation and/or problem.

Now, in this new digital age - executives are more likely to manage their own research, subscriptions, articles of interest, etc., as opposed to delegating a manager or assistant to do it for them – and your materials and messaging will have to be relevant to their area of focus and concern. They will not waste time trying to figure out how or if your service/product is a fit … that’s up to you to show them.

It's important that your marketing be an integration of traditional and new medias, because your "door in" may not be the C-Level Executive (CLE)... but the "Close to C-Level Executive" (C2CLE) or their direct reports and they use it all almost intuitively! That means if you are using keywords --- the phrases and/or words need to be in the language of the executive to even show up on their radar.

So let's do a quick review of who are you creating content for. Can they see themselves in the solution or benefit you are positioning? Remember they don't want to hear about your product ... they want to hear about answers to problems and needs and solutions. Do you understand the difference between the selling cycle and buying cycle --- and do you know where your prospect is within it. If you can’t answer these questions, or you don’t clearly know how your solution or service can improve, increase, reduce, expand, aka *answer* the client’s need – then get started right now.

There are even different “use” practices, according to Forbes, based on the *Generations* (see previous blog).

1. How often do you access the internet for business intelligence?
Daily - 81% under 50, 62% over 50.
Several times a week - 14% under 50, 24% over 50
Weekly - 2% under 50, 8% over 50.

2. Those who see value in internet tools, such as:
Search engines - 66% under 50, 58% over 50
Subscription search engines – 44% under 50, 17% over 50
Links from websites, blogs or other online content – 40% under 50, 16% over 50
Guidance from contacts in online communities – 30% under 50, 6% over 50

3. Accessing information different ways (% that claim daily use on online tool):

View work related videos online on business related websites -
33% under 50, 11% over 50

Use web-enabled mobile device to search for or read content related to work -
31% under 50, 9% over 50

Network professionally in an online community -
28% under 50, 6% over 50

It is essential that you know who you are trying to reach - and the best source to reach them, using the language that means something to them.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Forbes Insights : The Rise of the Digital C-Suite

How well do you know your audience - are they Generation Wang, Generation PC, or Generation Netscape? Unless you understand your market and the sources they use for information gathering, you may be missing out on how to market and establish a dialogue with the C-Level Executive you want to talk to.

According to Forbes, the following is a general profile of established and emerging C-Level Executives and how they use media today.

"Generation Wang - This group is made of executives who entered the job market prior to 1980. These over-50s advanced in their careers with a terminal on their desks, but may still be equally or more comfortable with non-digital forms of communication. Not having been raised in the PC age, they are digital immigrants, conversant in computing while thinking in their native analog tongue.

Generation PC are those whose career starts coincided with the rise of the PC in the early/mid-1980s, Generation PC members are the digital settlers of the corporate world. Generation PC came of business age with word processors, spreadsheets, and desktop presentation software, and it was the first group to
send email, build Web pages, employ search engines, and see business move to the Internet. Now that its members are 40-50 years old, they are an increasingly dominant force in the C-suite.

Generation Netscape is the generation whose careers began with the growth of the Internet in the 1990s, Generation Netscape is the most Internet-savvy group. The under 40s don’t know an office without email or home pages, and they are the most willing to leverage the newest wave of Web-centric tools and experiment with emerging technologies. Members of this group are entering upper executive ranks and will be a growing influence on the C-suite."

Right now, a generational change is taking place that is transforming how executives use the internet on a day-to-day basis. Executives who started their careers with the advent of the desktop computer, are now assuming leadership positions. Research shows that they are more likely to see a greater value in Internet technologies - and gather information from different sources, including video and mobile devices. Integrated marketing is essential --- and having a solid understanding of the practices your audience employs. This isn’t about age, this is about who uses what type of media to retrieve information that they are interested in.

They consider the Internet a primary source of information leading colleagues, professional networks, and the traditional mediums of print, TV, radio, conferences and trade shows. And here is a distinct difference - members of the C-suite actually do the research themselves. Today, it is more likely that an executive prefers to do the research.

So what does that mean to you? That means your marketing and messaging has got to be produced so that it speaks to them – one size will not fit all --- and even more important --- show and demonstrate you understand their business, their challenges and have solutions or recommendations that they can envision or apply to their specific business objectives.

If Forbes feels this is significant enough to do a study on, then perhaps you need to look at your marketing, messaging and channels to see whether they will ever reach your target audience.

For more information call 619-337-3710

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mass Data Management (MDM) needs top notch project managers

IT Business Edge published a white paper that identifies that MDM is in the newly adoptedstage... and while many companies have started to look into it... and others already have implemented it, it is something we definitely can market to because (as evidenced in the white paper) there are problems. System Integrators are claiming to be experienced in the actual project planning and implementation – and coming up short. For companies who are trying to work with existing talent base, and provide superior "learning tools and techniques" to increase the value of their current project management team --- I urge you to visit

The Project in Practice whitepaper, by IT Business Edge is 57 pages long and worth the read --- but the message inside the message is that Project Management - or the lack of PM skills, can cost a company dearly. Is this something you are willing risk? What if you could find a site that could face your challenges --- at different levels, in different scenarios, with expert assistance at the click of the mouse... and that is cost effective because you control the level of membership? The site exists, and it is at