How to Influence the C-Suite With Thought Leadership Content

November 9, 2020

Woman smiling alone in a meeting room

There’s an age-old saying in sales that goes like this: Get to power. It’s based on the idea that unless you’re working directly with someone who has the authority to make or sway the buying decision, your effort is simply too likely to be wasted. 

The need to get to power may seem obvious to any non-salesperson, but it’s harder than it sounds. Executives by and large don’t answer the phone. Nor do they return voicemails or emails from people they don’t know. When each day is mostly filled with rejection, it can be comforting to have a conversation with someone, anyone, who’s willing to listen. And when that happens, it’s easy for salespeople to convince themselves that they’ve made meaningful progress, even when there’s no evidence to suggest that they’re on a “path to power.” 

Too often, what ends up happening is the salesperson over-values the relationship and clings to that single thread. After weeks or months of activity, the salesperson eventually realizes they’ve been spinning their wheels the whole time. 

For B2B marketers, it’s easy to fall into a similar trap. We naturally get excited whenever the dashboard lights up. And although we may not be reaching the current occupants of the C-suite, there’s value in reaching tomorrow’s executives, increasing share of voice, or building a groundswell of support. For these reasons, not engaging directly with power isn’t usually seen as a cardinal sin like it is in sales. 

But maybe it should be. If the most senior buying committee member hasn’t heard of your brand and doesn’t know what you stand for, are you really putting your organization in a good position to compete? 

For most B2B marketers, it’s wise to ensure both sides of the equation – brand and demand – include a strategy specific to the C-suite. And when it comes to tactics capable of moving executives, thought leadership is the clear leader. 

Joint research from LinkedIn and Edelman continues to reveal just how valuable thought leadership is when it comes to driving brand recognition, demand, and trust among executives:

  • 88% of decision makers agree that thought leadership is effective at enhancing their perceptions of an organization
  • 47% of C-suite executives say they shared contact information after reading thought leadership
  • 61% of C-suite executives say they’re more willing to pay a premium to work with an organization that has articulated a clear vision

Granted, most B2B marketers are already creating messages meant for the C-suite. So what’s the problem? It’s a matter of reach and resonance, with each affecting the other. Thought leadership can be hard to execute. 

Thought Leadership for Executives: Making Sure You’re Making an Impact

From a marketer’s standpoint, getting to power essentially means two things:

  1. Making sure the message gets to key executives
  2. Making sure key executives get the message and trust the messenger 

Let’s tackle these in order. 

Reaching the Right People in the C-suite

How does thought leadership content find its way to decision makers? According to LinkedIn’s research with Edelman:

  • 47% is found through discovery, meaning the decision maker found the content through their LinkedIn feed, through a web search, a social search, etc.
  • 32% is pushed via forwards from colleagues, conferences, or opted in sources
  • 18% is amplified via paid or earned channels

While a strategic focus on any one of these delivery methods can drive reach among executive decision makers, the surest approach will usually employ some combination of all three. 

To know whether you really are reaching the right people, and to determine which approaches should be prioritized, turn to your data. LinkedIn’s Reporting and Analytics capabilities offer one-of-a-kind insight into who’s following your LinkedIn Page. The demographics provided also allow you to see which types of professionals are engaging with your messages (organic and paid). These insights represent a potential goldmine for fine-tuning both your targeting and your messaging.  

Lastly, if you have a page or pages on your website created specifically for your executive audience, consider Retargeting that page’s visitors. This can allow you to continue to reach that valuable audience on LinkedIn and other trusted sites. 

Making Sure Your Thought Leadership Content Resonates with Key Executives

Drawing once again from LinkedIn and Edelman’s research, our survey found three key areas where marketers can enhance perceptions of their organization among executives:

  • Delivering real value
  • Being engaging
  • Being easy to find

Now, all that may be true, but it’s not exactly practical advice. For that, we worked with Edelman to create the thought leadership flywheel – a model which includes six ways to win with thought leadership:

  1. Capitalizing on white space is about finding opportunities for your brand to own and lead timely conversations.
  2. Being relevant involves strengthening your thought leadership by closely mapping it to customer needs.
  3. Executive decision makers want to know where their industry is going, and by setting a vision, you can be the one to show them.
  4. Earning trust is essential when it comes to continually driving thought leadership engagement.
  5. Because executives are incredibly busy, being concise can be a good way to entice key decision makers to include you in their journey.
  6. And because thought leadership can’t be accurately valued without attribution, measuring progress is a must

Wondering where or how to get started? Check out this five-step process for creating your thought leadership content strategy.  

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