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Simplify, Simplify

Explaining “Content Marketing” to Your CEO

In his writings about the time he spent at Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau once said:

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”

To which Ralph Waldo Emerson replied:

“One ‘Simplify’ would have sufficed.”

It can be difficult to explain new processes to senior executives who aren’t deeply educated about the nuances of something as abstract as “Content Marketing”.

But you, as B2B marketing leaders, must move your practice forward. Consider these statistics:

  • 89% of marketers do not believe their digital marketing efforts are working

  • DemandBase and Wakefield Research

  • Only 11% of B2B organizations said they were very effective with their demand generation programs

  • Annuitas

  • 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing. But just 36% say they are effective at it.


Senior Executives often have simplistic views of what marketers “should” be doing…as evidenced by comments we often hear from our CEO customers, such as:

  • “We have to start blogging – our competitors are!”

  • “We need an ‘Explainer Video’ to tell our customers what we can do for them!”

  • “We need a White Paper to describe the problems we solve!”

CEOs see what’s happening in the market and their competitors’ positioning moves. But they typically don’t have the time or background to have a really crisp notion of what their marketing teams should be doing on a day to day basis.

So how do we make this concept more digestible for the CEO, and gain consensus on the approach? It’s actually quite easy. Follow the same philosophy you would if you were deploying a Content Marketing process:

  1. Understand your customer (the CEO),

  2. Create content that helps him or her frame their challenge,

  3. Nurture them along with educational content, and

  4. Create the impetus for a decision.

In short – If we solve our customers’ problems... we’ll solve our own.®

So here’s what most CEOs care about:

  1. Growth – Whether the measure is top line, bottom line, market share or customer share…it’s guaranteed to be some variation or combination of the above. (Hint: Web traffic, open rates, click through rate, CPM, etc. are not on their Growth Radar)

  2. Sustainability – Sustainability in terms of the business they run, that is. In addition to growth, the CEO focuses much energy on things such as operational soundness, succession planning, cash flow, executive talent, etc.

  3. Growth – Did I mention growth? Growth can come from a variety of sources: existing customers, new customers, new markets or new products. (Hint: It’s also the job of marketing to figure out where to focus!)

This is the CEO’s “operating reality” – and if the language you use to describe your project doesn’t resonate with them in terms they understand, your project will not be approved. If you can’t differentiate this expenditure from other competing project proposals, your project will not be approved. And if you can’t substantiate your claims (that this project will produce higher growth, better cash flow etc.), then your project won’t be approved.

So treat your CEO like a potential customer and create the content that you need to engage the target audience, nurture them through their recognition of needs, and convert the conversation to a live project.

For more information about why marketing teams fail to drive meaningful results, download this Issue Brief.

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