Like the unicorn, whose horn was said to cure illnesses and neutralize poison, the C-level executive is a mythical creature, though long hunted by IT sales rep looking for a cure to their late-quarter sales slump. But, as Forrester Research points out in a recent report, “…no such role as a C-level executive exists."  There are chief executive officers, chief financial officers, chief operating officers, chief technology officers, chief security officers, etc., but no generic “C-level executive.”

Yet I shudder to think how many times I’ve blindly nodded and said “yes” when a client asked for a white paper for the “C-level” executive, meaning it was supposed to focus more on business than on technology. In today’s attention-short world, we as consumers – and C-level execs as busy people – don’t have the time to listen to generic pitches that don’t speak to their specific needs. That’s one reason only 15% of executives find sales calls useful and up to their expectations.

Tailoring the sales pitch, and your marketing content, to the different flavors of C-level prospects takes time and effort. You need to understand the problems they face, the buzzwords and acronyms they use, their measures for success, and then translate your marketing jargon into terms they can understand. This customization is worth it if, having gone to the trouble and expense of getting their attention, you want to keep it and make your pitch.

But how about if you’re selling to a smaller organization where everyone wears many hats, or in which titles are meaningless, like “chief satisfaction officer?) Turn the process around and write your collateral in one or several versions that will attract the eyes you want. Hoping to find the CFO? Talk about capital and operational expenses and return on investment. Looking for the CSO? Talk more about compliance, audits, separation of duties and whatever alphabet soup of regulations they must meet.

Then – and this is the important step – track which folks on your email list or which visitors to your site read which versions of your material. Following up with other messaging focused on their needs will confirm their identity to you, and even give you insights into their specific wants, needs and purchase timetables.

Does this take time and money? Yes. But not as much as you’re wasting sending the same tired message – or the same tired salesperson – into the lair of the mythical C-level exec.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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