The key to reaching anyone in the business sphere is understanding a business’s interests. Creating content that connects with an audience means finding ways to match those interests and distributing it where they are likely to see it.
For C-level execs, traditional marketing efforts fall short. “We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in,” said Craig Davis, former head of creative at J. Walter Thompson, one of the world’s largest marketing communications companies.
Execs are making high-level decisions with significant consequences, including their reputation. For consumers, a bad purchase decision means they won’t buy it again. For C-level folks, a bad decision might hurt their career or company.
Because of that, C-level executives rely more on their peers and colleagues. They tend to eschew sale pieces and seek out expert opinions from people they trust. Great content provides relevant information that furthers the conversation.
Executives seek out multiple sources for information, in order to get a broad view of topics and validate their own ideas. Therefore, they often seek out viewpoints that challenge their own thinking.
Here are six ways to create content that connects with C-level executives:
- Address knowledge seekers.
- Create credible content.
- Show original thinking.
- Be succinct.
- Connect content to value.
- Focus on strategy.
1. Address knowledge seekers.
C-level execs tend to be well-read; they seek out information online to stay on top of trends and things that will impact their business. As a group, they pride themselves on being ahead of the curve, so they are constantly seeking out information that can benefit them.
Creating content that addresses current, new, and emerging trends is a good place to start. Relevant topics with relevant keywords can help your content get seen and read. Case studies, research, and credible reviews will get attention if it is deemed to be credible.
2. Create credible content.
Without credibility, nothing you say will matter. It’s not as simple as telling people what you want to say; you have to be able to back up what you’re saying with facts.
If you are already recognized as a thought-leader in your field or have years of experience, you may already have the credibility to get people to listen. If not, you’ll need to work a little harder to gain that trust.
You can “borrow” credibility from others. Quoting industry leaders, speakers, and conversations you’ve had with thought-leaders can help to establish your reputation.
Back up your thoughts and ideas with research. While anecdotal stories can help draw your reader in, it’s the facts that demonstrate why the story matters.
Use research, studies, figures, facts, and examples to support your thesis.
3. Show original thinking.
Summarizing industry news articles and providing some relevant context, or building on ideas with original thought, can be a good strategy. Execs may want to read that 28-page whitepaper on a trending topic, but they are more likely to read a 500-word summary before deciding to invest the time to read it all.
However, you can’t just recycle what has been published somewhere else and change the wording. You need to focus on ideas that will be thought-provoking. Showing how conventional wisdom is wrong will get more attention than yet another article about how it’s right.
C-level executives are focused on outcomes. You need to move beyond conventional thinking and push the boundaries. Fresh approaches and fresh ideas are fuel for C-level executives.
Avoid tired content. Showcase provocative content with innovative ideas.
4. Be succinct.
Deliver ideas succinctly, with specific and actionable information, ideas, and strategies.
Your C-level audience is time-starved. If you are providing in-depth content, you may want to start with a quick summary of what you will detail later on in the article or whitepaper. Consider a numbered or bulleted list of the key topics toward the start of your content. This gives users the gist of what you will say and helps them decide whether they want to take the time to digest all of it. If they only have time to skim through it, these points may help them pinpoint the specific insights they want to take in.
5. Connect content to value.
Salespeople often make the mistake of extolling the features of their products, instead of the benefits. As Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
When creating content, make sure you don’t fall into that trap. You need to capture an executive’s attention first, and then quickly show them why it’s worth their time to read on. Nobody wants to take a deep dive into the technical aspects until they know how the product or service will benefit them.
Be sure to avoid the sales pitch. Anything that smacks of a veiled attempt to sell your product or service will turn executives away. While you can – and should – provide contact information and a call to action with your content, the content itself needs to be of value.
David Beebe, former head of content for Marriott, describes it like this: “Content marketing is really like a first date. If all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second date.”
6. Focus on strategy.
The content marketing pieces you create should focus more on strategy and less on tactics. Remember that readers at the level you are targeting are focused on the big picture. They have direct reports that worry about the details and tactics of how to achieve specific outcomes.
Big ideas connect. You have to sell them on the value of the idea before they will invest the time to think about the tactics needed to achieve them.
Putting It Into Action
Creating content that will connect with industry leaders can be complex and time-consuming. Consider hiring a content writing team that has the time to do the research and can optimize your efforts. Even if you have those original ideas yourself, there’s still a lot of work to be done in enhancing your message and backing it up with facts to enhance your credibility.
Finally, your content only connects if the right people see it. Where and how you distribute it can be just as important as what you have to say.