Reaching senior executives has never been more important. Engaging senior executives has never been harder. Creating relevant brand experiences is the single most effective way to engage people in the c-suite.
The C-SuiteProjectCreating Effective Experiences For C-level Audiences
Reaching senior executives has never beenmore important.Engaging senior executives has never been harder.Everyone targets senior executives these days. Creating relevantAnd with good reason: when it comes downto it, the people with the power to make real, brand experiencesgame-changing decisions are in the C-suite. is the single mostSenior executives are the cornerstone of the effective way toongoing, trusted partnerships that all of us—brands, service organizations, agencies and engage peoplesuppliers—seek and need to build. in the c-suite.Targeting C-level executives isn’t a new idea.But the sheer amount of executive communicationout there is.With executives more in demand than ever, it’sharder to break through the clutter. It takes anintelligent, programmatic approach, a clearvalue proposition and a real understanding ofthis unique audience.C-suite executives are smart, successful,sometimes arrogant (usually deservedlyso). They’re over-scheduled, responsible forimpressively broad portfolios, and protectedby gatekeepers. But they’re people, too. And,just like other people, one of the most effectiveways of engaging them is to create experiencesthat are uniquely targeted to their wants, needs,interests and influence. The C-Suite Project /2
Getting to know the C-suite.It’s dangerous to over generalize, but there are per week, and only attend a few each year.a few basic truths about executives. Take-away: Breaking through and getting an1. They’re BUSY. executive’s attention requires something of realWith a company-wide portfolio, they are value, purpose and distinction.constantly jumping from one topic to another. 3. They’re HUNGRY for ideas.They make the complex and difficult decisions. A recent HBR article pointed out an interesting(The easy decisions get made by others; only irony: “The skills that help you climb to the topthe truly complicated and tough decisions are won’t suffice once you get there.” Executivestheirs.) They’re constrained by resources—both need different skills—leadership skills andmonetary and staff. They have to prioritize business acumen—that mid-level managersopportunities and allocate limited resources to simply don’t. They need to learn, to absorb,achieve their objectives. All of which makes them and to stay on top of emerging trends to beincredibly busy. successful. And they have few peers within theirTake-away: Every experience designed and organization to learn from or interact with.created for executives has to compete with a Take-away: Executives crave fresh insights,crowded landscape of demands and needs. ideas and content. They seek out opportunitiesSo be relevant. Be direct. Be quick. Be gone. to interact with true peers. If your experience2. They’re IN DEMAND. can address one of those needs,Internally and externally, executives are indemand. Internal teams and staff want answers you’ve broken through.and direction from executives. Clients andcustomers demand attention and engagement.Ecosystem partners and agencies seek businessand partnership. Some executives will receive oneto two invitations to conferences or experiences The C-Suite Project /3
Of course, just like any other audience,executives have unique perspectives,personalities and needs.Some differences are obvious: marketing 4. Image-Conscious Influencers (22%) Understanding whoexecutives have very different interests than care about how others view them. They like tofinancial executives. Yet there are other, equally “demonstrate their wealth” and influence, and you’re dealing withimportant differences of attitude and viewpoint. are opinionated and vocal. can make a hugeA recent Ipsos MediaCT survey into the 5. Local Elites (17%) difference in the style“Business Elite” segmented the executive classinto five distinct categories: are less likely to work in global enterprises. They and approach you value “status within their local community”, stay take. Take the time1. Traditional Conservatives (20%) close to home and are deeply involved withinare “risk-averse and guarded”, all about and outside of work. to really understandfinancial results, the traditional “suits” of yore executives as people.(and yes, they predominantly wear suits).2. Ambitious Trendsetters (18%)see themselves as “innovators, embracingchange and adopting the latest technology”.They’re rich, live in luxury and prideful ofinfluence and importance.3. Conscientious Leaders (22%)have “a strong moral compass, with ethicscoming before money”. Luxury per se isn’t adraw: issues and ideas are. The C-Suite Project /4
The rules of engagement (executive style)So we know our audience. The next step is Rule 3: Make it shareable. attendees will use in evaluating the experience.creating a powerful and relevant experience for Executive experiences should tap into technology Was it a valuable way to spend my time? If thethem. Here are five central rules to keep in mind as well as our primal human desire to share. answer’s yes, you’ve made your mark. If not, Executives are increasingly digital and mobile, well, you blew an opportunity – and you mightRule 1: Invite participation. tweeting away on their iPads and sharing their not get another one.Executives have a wealth of education and learnings with their wider teams (internally andexperience and they expect their voices to be sometimes externally). So provide content inheard. Their presence adds value, and they shareable ways, and create experiences that(rightfully) know it. Successful experiences encourage storytelling and sharing.invite their participation, draw them in, andget them involved. A one-way presentation of Rule 4: Create a community.company information is a waste of the executive This audience craves peer-to-peer connection,audience’s time—and yours. Participation with and shared experiences are the most effectivethis audience means high-level discussion, case way to create those relationships. Execsstudies or moderated debate, not a game show want (and expect) to be in an audience withset on stage. other C-level participants with whom they will have plenty of time to network, learn, andRule 2: Build it specifically for them. form alliances to grow their businesses. Don’tAlways important, user-focus is especially shortchange them by limiting networking timeimportant with executive experiences, which (or space). And do what you can to facilitatemust be relevant and customized. Even at scale, conversations before and after thewhen your audience is 3,000 C-level executives, experience, too.each attendee should derive real value, be ableto shape the experience to meet their interests Rule 5: Add value.and needs, and feel taken care of. And although Above all, the experience needs to provide realcontent is king, executives expect to be treated value to the executives. It’s how you’ll cut throughreally, really well—so make it happen. in the first place, and also the central metric The C-Suite Project /5
Big C, little C.What begins with C?When talking about this audience, we talk • Informative content shares new information • It must be amazingly executed. An executiveabout C-levels, CXOs, or the C-Suite. And when (often under NDA), new research results, experience should be superlatively wellcreating valuable brand experiences for them, new facts and truths. executed. It must be crisply, elegantly produced,we look at three other Cs: content, context with seamless logistics. After all, execs are • Entertaining content strengthens relationshipsand conversations. often too busy to be encumbered with their own and can provide star-power or “I was there” schedules and details, so make their experienceContent bragging rights. simple to navigate and beyond buttoned up.For the C-level audience, content is everything. • Inspiring content helps busy executives get ConversationThe content drives the relevance and value of energized and excited about the possibilities Finally, the way to engage the C-level audiencethe experience. And it differentiates your brand and opportunities before them. is not to sell. It’s to converse and to facilitateand your experience. So don’t be tempted to Context great conversations for the audience. And inrecycle (or “edit”) existing content for a C-level The context of the experience is critical. It is the many cases, it’s not even conversations withaudience. We’ve all been part of a meeting the brand. Often the role of the brand is to bewhere a mid-level presenter flails in front of environment we create to surround the content the cocktail host – to ensure all your guests arean executive—presenting too much detail or and interaction; the world we create to house having great conversations amongst themselves.getting into intricacies the executive just doesn’t our experience. • Conversations with true peers.care about. Executives expect tailored content, • It must be true to the brand. The environmentdelivered quickly and straightforwardly, must reflect the brands’ character and • Conversations with luminaries.in actionable ways. personality. In many ways a C-level experience • Conversations with brand leaders.Creating exec-relevant content is a skill, and it is the essential expression of the brand. • Conversations with subject matter experts.can come in many different flavors: • It must be tailored to the audience. With a All in a relevant, intimate environment you demanding, busy audience, our experience must• Insightful content provides new analysis and created especially for that purpose. be tailored to their needs. Sessions should beinsights into trends and the state of the industry. short, and all experiences white-glove. It should feel intimate and personalized, engaging execs both as professionals and as people. The C-Suite Project /6
An executive summary (naturally)1. You have to know who you’re targeting, and C-level audiences represent a tiny sliver of thetailor your experience accordingly. potential audience base for any given brand, yet their influence and importance is paramount.2. You have to hit your three C’s—presenting Brands have recognized the importance ofyour tailored content in a powerful context that this audience, but many are using the samefosters the right conversations. strategies and approaches and not rethinking3. And you have to know what it is you’re and revitalizing their strategies.actually trying to accomplish. Yes, executives are unique. But they are people,The ultimate purpose of any experience will too. And effective experiences impact them, justshape how everything gets applied. An as experiences can change the behavior andexperience designed to nurture relationships beliefs of other audiences.will look very different from one looking to The bottom line? The C-Suite isn’t as far away asaccelerate sales with existing clients. The best you think. Executives are hungry for ideas, andprograms are often singularly focused on an the door is open for those providing real value.objective. They may hit many different notes, but You just need to create relevant experiences asthey focus on doing one thing exceptionally well. unique as they are.Savvy brands balance this laser focus with abroader, year-long engagement strategy forkey C-level executives comprised of numeroustouchpoints. One-off activities are integrated intoan overall C-level engagement strategy,which may include in-person experiences,on-going community engagement, and a mixof social, networking and thoughtleadership content. The C-Suite Project /7