B2B Marketing to the C-Suite: Why Are We Doing it Wrong?

For many B2B marketers, 2013 should have been a watershed moment. It wasn’t.

Will it be different this year?

Marketers now have vast pools of data to prove their efficacy, new tools that allow them to be compelling at an inexpensive price and, perhaps most importantly, the chance to regularly connect on an intimate basis with an elusive C-suite.

But, instead of recognizing the watershed opportunity, most just look like they are drowning. A rich universe of possibilities appears to actually paralyze most B2B marketers. Too many are content to indulge in tiny, “toe dipping” experiments instead of aspiring to a meaningful evolution of their function. Typical challenges include:


  • Confusion on how to integrate traditional and emerging marketing strategies: It is human nature to rely on past choices to guide current decision-making. For marketers, that often means letting their line leaders dictate budget allotment based on past, sometimes outmoded success. Advertising plans have only a minor PPC element, new websites don’t reflect mobile user needs and web bios are typically resumes, when they could be compelling video introductions.
  • Lack of foundational knowledge: Every thought leadership strategy requires a foundational layer of information to start program planning. This includes a broad array of data points, from typical target behavior,  business sales goals and cleansed email lists, to validated POVs on customer needs. Most B2Bs are still too willing to skip some of the “block and tackling” work required to build a successful marketing program.
  • Fixation on a complete ROI solution…instead of a workable start: At first blush, you’d think that B2B marketers were thrilled to finally have access to unambiguous proof points that could show their efforts were working. So, what happened? For starters, their employers asked them to tie marketing success metrics to the bottom line of the company. (In fairness, in many cases, their employers weren’t often willing to invest the time required to tie business and marketing outcomes together.) In addition, there are now so many measurement options that it’s very easy to build a complex set of benchmarks that satisfy no one in the end. This behavior swiftly leads to a “killed by KPI” mentality.

We believe that the marketers who are finally ready to “dive in” have a chance to leapfrog hesitant competitors. So, what are the likely opportunities for savvy B2B marketers in 2014?

  • Spend money to dimensionalize target audiences: It’s time to invest in a much better understanding of how to motivate the target. We expect smart B2Bs will allot budget to stakeholder research, including persona development, customized geographic implications and typical engagement and conversion triggers. Some companies balk at gathering expensive data that isn’t immediately actionable and can be time consuming to obtain. Smart marketing leaders are beginning to see that information is a source of lasting business advantage.
  • Recognize that the race to created, branded, “owned” content should include consistent, methodical analysis of data across the entire “Paid/Owned/Earned/Shared” compass: Many B2B companies now recognize the importance of becoming brand publishers and are intentionally creating (or upgrading) a deep inventory of proprietary intellectual property. That makes sense. Though, most will take a few years to catch up to B2Cs like Coca-Cola with its famous Coca-Cola Journey magazine website. But, in their speed to adopt the brand publisher model, they often forget that effective marketing relies on correct interpretation and correlation of your marketing investment data:
  • Tackle the hard work associated with scaling a Content Marketing Program to accommodate specific geographic and stakeholder needs: Whether global or domestic, B2B companies need to develop much better storytelling and thought leadership programs for their customers. This year, smart marketing leaders will resolve to develop content that feels intimate and customized.
  • Seize the attention of the C-Suite through a bold, integrated campaign that reflects a deep understanding of their likely behavior at every stage of the sales funnel: Somewhere, at this minute, another marketing communication strategy devoted to the C-suite is being born. And, at the same time, ten similar programs are dying an undignified, unnoticed death. Why? There is no more desired target. Inevitably, that leads to a highly cluttered, undifferentiated and impenetrable market.

There is no magic bullet to attract C-suite attention. It starts and ends with hard work at every interaction juncture. But the required ingredients of a successful program include: 1) thoughtful needs and behavior research, 2) differentiated and actionable thought leadership, 3) compelling content formats, 4) methodical distribution and 5) continual measurement.

To read more on B2B marketing best practices, read my May 7th  post here: Stop Pretending You Don’t Need to Learn from Your Content Mistakes.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Utting on Flickr

Connect with Elizabeth:

Phone: 212.840.0017

Email: Elizabeth@blissintegrated.com

Twitter: @elizabethsosnow

LinkedIn: Elizabeth Sosnow