If your firm needs to reach senior-level executives – the C-suite – to present your services, it can be difficult to get a chance. Senior people are guarded by assistants, voice mail, a never-ending schedule of meetings, and 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 can marketers help their Business Development people, and their seller-doers, demonstrate the value your firm offers – particularly when that C-suite seems to be a fortress designed to keep you out? Instead of trying to storm the main gate, find another door. Do this by developing allies among the people already known and trusted by the senior executives your firm needs to reach.
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. These people depend, in turn, on other business professionals to make sure that the advice they offer is the best possible.
That’s where you come in, and here’s how.
Develop content intended specifically for those business advisors, helping them do their jobs better. Let’s call them “influencers” because of their ability to get you into the upper echelons of your ideal client organizations.
That being so, start developing content that meets their needs. Do it just as you would for any other target market. I call it “indirect content.” Your “economic buyer” -- the person who approves your firm’s invoices – is not your direct focus, but someone different. What’s more, influencers are often much easier to reach than your elusive C-suite executive.
The power of “indirect content”
This topic came up in a recent back-yard conversation with my neighbor. Here I gained insights in how content can influence purchasing decisions indirectly.
The neighbor, who I’ll call Fatima, told me about her time with a document-management company – in other words, a paper shredder. She talked about the extensive program of content marketing her company developed, about legal matters.
My response was something like, “C’mon, legal content? Why? Paper shredding is sold on the basis of cost, cost and cost, and that’s it.”
Fatima gave me a patient look. She said her company had learned that while the contract for her company’s service was often signed by an office manager, the actual decision was made behind the scenes. Most often, it was the company’s legal counsel. The lawyers got involved, she said, because of their concern about confidentiality. They wanted to be sure that company documents with medical records, credit card numbers and other confidential information were well and truly shredded, and wouldn’t be found blowing down the street.
So, Fatima’s company demonstrated its understanding of privacy issues and security, by creating content helpful to lawyers concerned with these matters. One area of focus was on new developments in the law regarding privacy.
Moreover, the paper shredding company showed that it “got the message” regarding the need for document confidentiality. It helped them stand out from the competition as being helpful to the people with the most at stake in the purchase decision.
What’s different about the content needs of ‘influencers’?
Many goods and services are sold directly – the decision is made by the end - user. Yet many other sales, such as paper shredding, are influenced by different parties – so your firm’s content strategy may need to include focus on this indirect category.
Influencers may be different from direct purchasers in certain key areas, and your content marketing strategy needs to reflect this. What are their concerns? I’m glad you asked – because it means you’re thinking in terms of “what my audience needs to know,” rather than “what I’m trying to tell them.”
Dependability has value: An influencer is looking for a supplier they can 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 its ability to deliver.
Not cost sensitive: Partly because the ‘influencer’ isn’t the one paying for your 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 premium aspects – they will give comfort and reassurance to the influencer.
Be able to demonstrate due diligence: The ‘influencer’ may need to be able to point to reasons to select your company. Imagine 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.
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 firm’s content needs to reflect your reliability – possibly through videos and articles featuring both you and one of your customers, talking about a project that went well.
Getting your ideas published in THEIR channels
I’ve talked elsewhere about the value of publishing content in media that are already relied upon and trusted by the people you want to reach. It’s the same with influencers. There is a vast array of publications for lawyers, accountants, engineers, business valuators and other professionals.
How to find these media? In many firms, there are people in those professions – in-house legal counsel and accountants in particular. Ask them how they stay in tune with their profession’s news. It could be in print media and their online equivalents, but also many professional associations maintain a website and news feed that needs a constant flow of news relevant to their readers.