Thought Leadership Resources

#102 Reach top executives indirectly -- through the advisors they trust

Does your firm need to reach the top levels within your target clients, if it’s to sell its services successfully?

It could be that your firm does large, long-term projects with budgets that can only be signed off at the highest level. Or, it’s all about helping to create strategic change, and that’s a top-level decision.

As I’ve found out in building my own business, reaching an organization’s top tier can be frustrating.

Senior people are guarded by assistants, voice mail, a never-ending schedule of meetings, and also frequent travel. They’re not likely to see your e-mails, take your calls, return your voice mails, or be at any networking events you can get into.

So, how do you demonstrate the value your firm offers, when that C-suite seems to be a fortress designed to keep your client-service professionals (CSPs) out?

Instead of storming the main gate, find another door. Sidestep your problem. Do this by developing allies among the people already known and trusted by the senior executives your CSPs need to reach. Those allies can then open the door for your CSPs.

How can your firm’s thought leadership content help to open that door? I’m glad you asked.

How “indirect” content can help get your CSPs into the C-Suite

You need to work with the fact that senior executives can’t do their work alone. They rely on a small army of business advisors – lawyers, accountants, business valuators, tax strategists, and consultants. Let’s think of these advisors, who have the ear of the CEO, as “influencers.”

Those influencers don’t work alone either. They depend on a wide array of other business professionals, and those resources can include your firm’s CSPs.

For example, many of my engineer firm clients have a “forensics” practice, in which they offer expert opinion that supports the work of lawyers making a damages claim. Or it could be that their client’s Finance group wants to put a valuation on a building for insurance purposes, and it needs a geotechnical study of the soundness of the building’s foundations. Some companies need an energy audit of their operation, to help convince the company’s bankers that a new boiler will pay off in energy cost savings.

Let’s imagine one of these “influencer” business professionals, who happens to be a lawyer. We’ll call her “Monica.” If your firm can show Monica what it can do, you have a chance for your CSPs to work with her – and also for her C-suite boss.

How can you earn Monica’s support and influence? One way is by developing content specifically for her – content that convinces her that you can help her do her job better.

I call this “indirect” content. It’s content that shows your ability to help someone – your firm’s “Monica” – succeed, so that the firm can then get her support in reaching your real target.


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What’s different about the needs of ‘influencers’?

Influencers may be different from direct purchasers in certain key areas, and your content marketing strategy needs to reflect this. Your firm’s content needs to be based around the question, “what my audience needs to know,” rather than “what I’m trying to sell them.”

So what are Monica’s concerns? Maybe:

Dependability has value: An influencer is looking for a supplier they can fully count on. No surprises. This is a characteristic of many people in an influencer–type role – they want to be able to count on your firm for solid performance. It’s even better if the performances can be documented. So, your content needs to demonstrate your reliability, possibly through case studies that show your firm’s ability to deliver. Think of cases that showed your firm’s determination to get the job done, even in the face of obstacles and tight deadlines.

In my own role supporting my direct clients (who are often in a marketing role) I make sure to find out their needs, determining things like how I keep them updated on the projects I do for the senior people in their organization. I make sure that information about any problems or challenges gets to them quickly, and by the means they prefer, maybe with a text on their phone rather than email.

Not cost sensitive: Partly because the ‘influencer’ isn’t the one paying for your firm’s service, they tend to be less concerned about cost. On a tradeoff between cost and quality, particularly quality of service, your content should edge towards the ‘quality’ end of that continuum. You might even emphasize your firm’s premium aspects – they will give comfort and reassurance to the influencer.

Be able to demonstrate due diligence: The ‘influencer’ should be able to identify clear reasons to select your company. Imagine the boost to your CSP’s chances if the influencer can say, “She’s got one of the best-read blogs in her industry, she’s published some excellent white papers, and has authored several thought-leadership articles in major trade media.” All that will give the end customer greater confidence that their interests are being considered.

I find that LinkedIn is important in this regard. Your CSP’s profile should fairly bristle with articles they’ve written, descriptions of speeches they’ve given, and Posts that show thought leadership. This way, the influencer can point colleagues and bosses to the CSP’s profile to show they’re making a safe choice.

The ultimate credential, as I’ve pointed out in Post #63, is authoring and publishing a printed book. Giving a printed book to the influencer will do a great deal towards giving that person the confidence to recommend your CSP to others in their organization.

Influencers want to look good: Now, put yourself in THEIR position. Would you rather have a customer say, “Remember that consultant you recommended? He really knew his stuff, and did a great job.” Or, “It was a total nightmare. Cleaning up his mistakes cost us some serious cash.” The influencer’s reputation is riding on the suppliers they recommend. Your content needs to reflect your firm’s reliability – possibly through videos and articles featuring both your CSP and one of their clients, talking about a project that went well.

What should “influencer” content cover?

To develop content that shows your CSP’s potential to help the influencers in their life, think first about their priorities and needs. Such as:
  • Staying up to date on industry news – maybe new regulations, laws or technologies (see my video for more on “newsjacking”)
  • Understanding trends that are affecting their companies
  • New developments in your CSP’s own professional sphere – provided, and this is essential, that those developments are going to affect your firm’s “Monica” and the company she or he serves.
  • Information that will help her do better at her job, such as your CSP’s informed opinion on products and services that will affect her (see Post #10 for more on “review” content).

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Carl Friesen

Carl is the Founder of the Thought Leadership Resources and helps business professionals gain the skills they need to build their profile as subject-matter experts and thought leaders.

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