Demand Generation for the C-Suite: How to Hit the Right Spot

Blog Post Originally Published in BtoB Magazine

Marketers are constantly under pressure to prove value by bringing in leads for sales. This in turn creates a vicious cycle where marketers will cast a wide net in hopes of bringing in as many hand-raisers as possible. It’s not always a win-win, as oftentimes those don’t turn out to be quality leads. Today, it’s a different ballgame: We need to shift to a more targeted accounts-based approach, which means creating content and messaging to support the many buyers and influencers throughout the buying process—especially C-suite. Let’s face it— the holy grail of marketing is to get to the influencers— the C-suite—who have the ultimate say in how an organization invests its dollars.

I recently spoke on a panel titled Demand Gen for the C-Suite, sponsored by Loop Demand, alongside C. Edward Brice (@cedwardbrice), senior VP-worldwide marketing at Lumension Security.  I’ve summarized some of the interesting tips from that panel in a two-part Q&A blog series with Ed. Here’s part one:

Why is it important to target the C-suite in your demand-generation efforts?

Brice: Let me first say that my point of view comes from what we observe in the buying process as an IT security software company. I believe that the C-suite is more involved in the operational side of the business than in the past—and maybe even more than what has been traditionally perceived. I suppose there could be a few C-level executives locked away in the mahogany halls of the ivory tower somewhere, kept away from all the dysfunction of the day, but I haven’t encountered that in my own environment or in our customers’ environments. I find that most C-level leaders are either searching for answers to operational problems or researching best practices, strategic issues and emerging trends.

The C-level isn’t going to take a cold call or enthusiastically sit through a sales-oriented or product-centered webcast, so make sure your demand gen efforts are holistic by developing content across key topics that these individuals will find relevant, and deliver that content through appropriate channels.

How does this differ from your traditional demand-generation marketing campaigns?

Brice: Here’s an example: In our annual program planning, we identify key problems or scenarios. Then, we develop content, which is based on the context of a buyer’s journey, that’s designed to help drive inquiries and convert those inquiries into opportunities to support our sales cycle. We don’t intentionally target C-level folks with these messages, because they really aren’t our primary target audience. We then have thought leadership topics that we consider the industry’s hot topics, and we develop content related to these topics, which may be targeted to C-level roles. The objective with this content is to educate and to deliver our point of view on these hot topics, and to provide recommendations for company execs to consider in developing a strategy.

CEOs and other C-level executives are guarded by many gatekeepers. How can you pierce those corporate shells and get to the right people?

Brice: A few years back, Sirius Decisions did an interesting study that identified three major roles that a C-level leader plays across a buying cycle: Champion (guides the buying process); ratifier (validates and signs the PO); and influencer (advises throughout the buying process). I think in most cases it may be more effective to focus on producing relevant content across a buyer’s journey than spending 100 percent of your effort on trying to reach the C-level. It’s likely that they are part of the process anyway, but may or may not be driving the process. There are times, of course, where you’re trying to educate the market on a very new and innovative strategy, and that might require a more C-level-targeted approach.

In my next blog, I will write about content marketing for the C-suite.

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Quit Blogging And Go With…Facebook?

Blog Post Originally Published in BtoB Magazine

Wayne Usie (@waynejusie), SVP of Retail at JDA Software, recently shared a USA Today article with me titled, “More Companies Quite Blogging, Go With Facebook Instead,” by Roger Yu. According to the article, more companies are replacing blogs with nimbler tools requiring less time and resources, such as Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.

Why? Nora Ganim Barnes, professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, stated in the article: “Blogging requires more investment. You need content regularly. And you need to think about the risk of blogging, accepting comments, liability issues, defamation.”

This article raises an interesting question: Should companies quit blogging and just go with a nimbler tool because it’s less risky and requires less time and resources? Anything related to social media is risky; it’s not just limited to blogs. That is why you should have social media and blogging policies in place.

Corporate blogs fail when companies don’t understand why the blog exists as part of their brand extension. They fail because their content is there solely to promote their products and services. Why would people read your blog if they can just visit your website for that kind of information? Blogs should be written for the reader – to educate and inform as well as to gather insight from the readers. Here are my recommendations for building a successful blog:

Establish Intent

Establish your intent first. Is it to build thought leadership and expertise in the industry? Is it to educate your customers and prospects and help them improve their performance? Is it to articulate industry issues and help your readers address fundamental challenges?

Then Go All-In

Commitment is key. When you start a corporate blog, you need a long-term strategy to carry out the intent in every piece of content you produce – but it takes commitment from the top down and dedicating proper resources to feed the content engine. Further, you should always have a plan to regularly promote your blog internally and externally – across LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google +.

Unique Content is King

Companies invest a lot of time in whitepapers, webinars, videos, bylined articles and podcasts. When you create different content for all of these marketing initiatives, you spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel. Develop a content marketing strategy – and use the blog as a way to launch some of these topics to a more in-depth piece such as a whitepaper, webinar, etc. (Check out Altimeter Group’s blog for a great example.) Always be thinking: How can I create one piece of great content and optimize and repurpose?

Blogger Buddy Program

Develop a blogger buddy program where you identify your key bloggers who will be contributing content on a regular basis and pair them up with folks on your marketing or social media team. Establish goals and metrics for the bloggers so they understand the cadence for your blog and the frequency for posting content.

Bloggers should represent a wide spectrum of your business so that you can create content across a broad range of topics that will interest your readers. Then, educate them on blogging best practices, content strategy and ways to engage with the readers. This program is successful because you’re working closely with your bloggers to develop content strategy, plus you can feed them information on industry news and topics that people are talking about. Invite them to respond or comment on that topic to keep the conversation flowing.

Integrate

Your success also hinges on your ability to integrate your blog program with PR, marketing and communications. Silos don’t work in today’s world. It’s about integrating your blog content with what the rest of the marketing team is doing, campaigns they’re driving, webinars they are promoting. Work closely with your marketing team on the content development and strategy to support your key topics, campaigns, messages, etc.

Also, work closely with your PR team to help drive visibility and coverage. Remember, if you have the right content strategy, PR can pitch to the media and blogger communities to reuse that content or commentary to gain additional coverage. Why create a separate byline when reporters and bloggers can work off of the blog content?

Scott Monty, head of social media at Ford Motor Company said it best in the article when he stated, “Still, engaging blogs can serve crucial marketing goals – especially executives out to establish expertise in their industry.” I believe blogs can serve crucial marketing and corporate goals if done right. What do you think? Do you agree that blogging is dead and companies should move on?

PR Embargo: Dead or Alive? Or, Does it Matter?

Death to PR Embargo

In a recent post by Tech Crunch titled, “The Last has Fallen: The Embargo is Dead,” the tech publication announced that it is killing one of the most sacrosanct of journalism practices — the honoring of PR embargoes. And it’s not just Tech Crunch; it’s other high-profile publications like the Wall Street Journal. This comes after several publications have broken with the tradition of honoring the embargo and have published news prior to the set date/time.

According to Bay Newser, the reason why more publications are not upholding PR embargoes is PR agencies. As they face mounting pressures to show ROI, they’re spamming every news outlet on their target list to get as much coverage as they can. The problem is they’re doing this without a clear strategy.  Every PR professional should know by now that sending out a blind e-mail with the news announcement and the embargo date doesn’t really help earn you quality coverage or increase the volume of coverage.

 On the flip side, news publications are also facing pressure to publish the news first — especially when it comes to major announcements. As my colleague Stephanie Conner with Active Voice would say, the embargo was put in place to combat that so companies can get their news placements across more channels and keep reporters interested — you’re leveling the playing field.

My take is this: It’s really nobody’s fault. It’s just another sign of the times. Now companies are using other mediums, such as blogs and Twitter, to create momentum and buzz around their company or product announcement prior to releasing it via traditional news wires.

I’ve been in the technology space for quite some time and have witnessed firsthand how things have changed. Not only in terms of embargoes, but the types of news that capture a writer’s attention as well. In 2004 when I started at Lumension, then PatchLink, it was all about product news. Our news coverage relied on our products and their new capabilities and enhancements. Since 2007, I’ve seen a slow shift with fewer journalists covering product-specific news.

You also have to remember news is global, making embargoes seem a bit outdated. Don’t get me wrong – there are journalists who still honor the embargo – especially in the UK marketing. While they might honor this old tradition, the news will hit the U.S. first before it gets to the UK or other global markets.

Whether or not you like it, things are changing fast. I don’t believe embargoes are dead, but they are going by the wayside, slowly but surely. Whether you have an embargo in place or not, the quality of the content, strategy and, most importantly, the content, is what will get you maximum results. This is where I remind PR professionals that they need to adapt and evolve. A couple of things to keep in mind as you see more and more publications say NO to embargoes:

  • Determine your news and angle for the release
  • Identify your target audience, and prioritize your target list.
  • Communicate with journalists to gauge what their expectations of an embargo.
  • Never just pitch a product unless you’re Google or Apple. Whether you have an embargo or not, the chance of you getting coverage is greatly dependent on the angle of the news.
  • Get a customer or analyst to back up your story.
  • Get multi-media rich. Use video or written blogs, podcasts and whitepapers. This way, you have a multi-level message.
  • Drive a poll. Use a Twtpoll or LinkedIn poll to gauge the community’s take on the product/pain/challenges and create your own news hook prior to the launch.
  • Consider product slideshows. Do a five- to seven-slide PowerPoint slideshow with strong graphics that publications can run.

We recently launched our Lumension® Risk Manager. It’s a Compliance and IT Risk Management Solution to help simplify compliance complexities and help reduce overall total cost of ownership. The old-school thinking would have been to just write up a news release and send it out under an embargo to our target list. While we were focused on the product, I developed a strategy around creating content that showed how our product addresses issues that businesses face today. Here’s what we did:

  • Pre-buzz building exercise that included a blog series:
    • Blog Q&A with two leading industry analysts on key challenges and how the market demands were shifting
    • Blog Q&A with a customer who was testing the product.
    • Twtpoll – Run a poll on Twtpoll and LinkedIn and use the results as a news hook
    • Whitepaper – developed a whitepaper titled “5 Ways to Reduce Your Audit Tax Burden”
    • Video – interviewed our company experts on this topic about these issues

By having rich content available prior to the launch and an integrated approach with other marketing tactics, we created buzz around this product launch, and we included the multi-media links within the release. We earned 15 total pieces of standalone coverage and two pieces of product news coverage. A majority of our coverage centered on key issues and trends and how our product really helps solved those issues.

I leave you with this quote by Ted Levitt: “Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress.”

Make a difference. Don’t be a sitting duck. Leverage innovative thinking and spark a new approach to driving coverage.