Looking to Engage Executives? First, Understand What They Want

A lot of marketers spend a great deal of time chasing an executive audience, and they often find this group to be elusive. Executives are a challenging audience to gain the attention of, but because of their clout and buying power, it is well worth cracking the code on executive engagement. (See this related post on why executive engagement matters for more on the benefits.)

Executives are different from other audiences, and it helps to understand what executives are looking for when they engage with vendors and others.

From our work interviewing hundreds of C-level executives every year, we have extracted the key elements that define the C-suite difference.


As the table highlights, their relentless schedules and need to sell and defend decisions make them very focused on outcomes and clear paths to value for the time invested. This group relies even more heavily than others on the advice and perspective of their true peers and those they perceive to be authentic experts. And they really don’t want to be pitched.

So what does this mean for marketers and companies trying to connect with the C-suite? As you think about translating what executives value into marketing programs and content, consider these elements.

They want to convene with peers and experts.

Executives seek the opportunity to connect with true peers and credible experts in trusted, confidential settings where they have the opportunity to learn and build relationships.

They want actionable and timely information on issues that matter.

Executives want to gain insight and ideas they can quickly take action on, on up-to-the minute topics relevant to their business, role and current challenges. If it doesn’t address those hot spots, they will move on.

They want hard facts and credibility behind the information.

Executives find value in ideas and observations based on data; peer-based insights and stories add to the credibility of the data collected. Sales presentations won’t make the cut.

They want to hear more than the common wisdom and top-of-mind trends.

Executives seek intriguing, surprising or useful ideas that highlight opportunities tied to their greatest business challenges or provide a provocative vision for the future. Run-of-the mill observations will fall on deaf ears.

They want to get to the heart of the matter quickly.

Executives have demanding schedules and little time and need to get to value quickly. Deliver your ideas in formats and forums designed to zero in on the most meaningful and actionable—and leave the long papers, the multi-day events and the weighty presentations for other audiences.

They want strategic discussions, not tactical conversations.

Executives care about how they can solve business problems and enhance revenue and profit. They are not interested in hearing about technologies and products. Focus on the bottom line and the business outcomes when engaging executives; leave those frameworks and stack diagrams for another time.

These things are not always easy to do and they require taking a different approach than when marketing to other audiences. But once you can make the shift, you will start to really see the value of engaging this group.

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