If you're a C-level executive today, you know how much of your job has changed in only four short years. If you're a new CEO, you remember how the C Suite looked from afar when you weren't in it, and it probably looked a whole lot better from that vantage point than it does today. To say it's tough out there is an understatement. Cs today are so harried, pulled in so many directions and, thanks to Sarbannes-Oxley, have their fingers in virtually every piece of the pie.
And reaching the C-level executive today is a constantly changing playbook requiring a comprehensive picture of how these elite, top-tier thinkers make decisions in their business and personal lives, day to day. You can't get there with 'Cliff's Notes.'
For marketers trying to reach corporate decision-makers with their products and services, it takes messaging with keen insight, and relevant yet arresting executions to get and keep the C-level's attention. And to close the sale, it means winning their trust, not an easy task for companies in industries that have suffered from over-promise to customers and poor product and service performance. Can you blame Cs for losing faith? If you were recently burned, would you take up flame throwing?
But life goes on, and Cs need to advance their offering to keep their businesses competitive. So they will inevitably have to trust again. And, of course, everyone will want a piece of that pie. Just look at the roster of agencies vying for the business of B2B accounts. There will inevitably be some "general" agencies competing with the B2Bs to reach this "hard to reach" group. This wasn't as prevalent in years past.
For the most part, the general agencies will claim to understand business, and Cs in particular. They may conduct a few focus groups, but that's where their knowledge base generally ends. They've learned over the years how to give "good buzz," to toss around lingo and jargon and grab the prospective client's attention. But that doesn't mean they know how to create communications that will resonate with the C-level audience or place that messaging in media venues that effectively and efficiently reach them.
There's nothing traditional about this audience.
There are great inconsistencies between how this group has traditionally been perceived and who they really are, especially when it comes to what they think about their professional and their personal lives, how they spend their time, and how and where they spend their money. Nearly everything that rang true about Cs four years ago is no longer true today.
When it comes to effectively placing media to reach this group, Doremus has married traditional planning methodologies with proprietary research to challenge conventional wisdom. Going beyond developing a list of magazines that CEOs read or programs they watch on TV, Doremus has actually indexed their passions, so ads can reach their targets at times and in places when they're most receptive.
When it comes to Cs, what a difference a year makes!
Perspectives in the C Suite are always changing. That's why research needs to be ongoing. An example of this is a study that Doremus and the Financial Times conducted in 2003 with senior executives around the world. At the time, they expressed concern about the state of the economy in their individual regions, but thought the world outlook appeared more promising. Fast forward to 2004 and the same senior executives asked the same questions did a complete flip-flop, seeing the glass half full at home regarding their industry's and their own company's prospects. This optimism suggests a greater optimism in their business and willingness to get their message out to the marketplace.
Cs with families see themselves on a tightrope.
It's not all about business. In fact, Cs are constantly seeking the Holy Grail of balance between their personal and professional lives. If necessary, they will arrange their work schedules or opt to return phone calls or e-mails from home so they can be present at important events in their children's lives. As such, look to reach them in unconventional ways, far from the business workplace.
Cs don't read everything you think they read.
Conventional wisdom is that these harried executives read the whole gambit of business publications. Truth is, at best, they go to the table of contents, choose what they'd like to read and go straight to that article, skipping over the others. They would rather spend their free time reading thought leadership periodicals like The New Yorker, Scientific American and Vanity Fair or general interest pubs such as Food & Wine, Architectural Digest, Savoir, Wine Spectator and Golf Digest.
So, then, how do you reach a C?
Communications that reflect the nuances of life in the C Suite will always resonate and will always result in more effective results. Agencies worth their salt are constantly evaluating strategy, creative work and media choices to make sure what they're offering their clients is relevant, appropriate and true to the needs and lifestyle choices of this ever-dynamic audience. And that's really understanding the business of business.
Carl Anderson is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Doremus, the premier corporate and business communications agency. Doremus has been around for over 100 years helping clients develop effective business-building communications. It is the only advertising agency currently listed in the famed Guinness Book of World Records.
This article was first published on brandrepublic.com