The C-Suite isn’t reading your eBooks, no

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One of the bigger things that makes me gag on my latest Chipotle burrito is when I go chase some freelance clients and someone tells me their website and associated content has a ‘C-Suite audience’ or ‘appeals to the C-Suite’ or something similar.

In most cases, that’s just a flat-out lie.

Let’s start here, though, in case you’re unclear: what exactly is the C-Suite? Well, typically it refers to positions in an organization like CEO, CFO, CMO — get it? They all begin with “C,” typically meaning “chief.” In essence, the C-Suite are the primary decision-makers of each department/silo in most organizations, especially the ones driven by hierarchy — and because hierarchy isn’t going anywhere, the C-Suite by and large is here to stay.

So, oftentimes the C-Suite are the final decision-makers and arbiters of new ideas — and especially new ideas that involve spending any money on something. So if you’re pitching a product or service to a company, be it freelance copywriting (oh hey!) or some multi-million dollar vendor solution, chances are you need some buy-in/sign-off from the C-Suite, or at least the S-Level (SVPs, etc. — “S” meaning “senior” in most cases).

How do you get this buy-in from the C-Suite, though?

The C-Suite and busy: Gatekeepers

Remember this one?

That’s the essence of how the C-Suite deals with most new concepts, because:

So please, please, please — do not say with a straight face to anyone that your content is read by a C-Suite audience, or that your white papers, E-Books, and blogs are consumed by the C-Suite. They’re not.

Here’s how the game really works:

  • The C-Suite has gatekeepers
  • These are traditionally SVPs or long-tenured employees or admins
  • Those are the people that read the white papers and the blogs and the Fast Company links
  • You hit those people and maybe the stuff gets in front of someone in the C-Suite
  • It’s all about gatekeepers, though
  • Any sales advice / targeting concept for the C-Suite is all about gatekeepers, too — you’re not targeting a CFO, per se; you’re targeting the person with the CFO’s ear who can convince the harried CFO that this is a good idea/service/product

The C-Suite, priorities, and incompetence

These two elements are fairly important to remember, as well:

Add those two things up and here’s what you come to:

  • Many in the C-Suite spend time focusing on the area they “came up” through — finance, marketing, ops, etc.
  • They do this to avoid incompetence and be seen as a strong leader, even though what they’re really doing is just micro-managing
  • They’re often unclear on priorities — and especially non-CEOs
  • This happens because many CEOs are ‘trained’ to treat all their lieutenants as the most important person on the team
  • This creates confusion over which silos matter and which don’t
  • Organizational priorities end up unclear
  • Employees run around chasing their tails

With all this stuff going on at the C-Suite level — drastic attempts to avoid incompetence and define priority — coupled with the idea that management isn’t intuitive and work isn’t a logical place (it’s an emotional one), do you really think they’re reading white papers and blogs? They’re not. They’re counting beans, chasing revenue dragons, and calling all-hands meetings. Some CEOs might dive into a few blogs here and there, but it’s probably less than 2 percent — if it’s that high.

The C-Suite and the content marketing supply-demand problem

More and more, organizations are producing content — call it ‘content marketing’ or ‘inbound marketing’ or ‘what hath HubSpot wrought upon the world?’ or whatever else you want to call it.

Here’s the problem, though: the supply of content is steadily increasing. The demand for content (how much we can realistically read in a day) is basically holding constant. As such? There’s a big content marketing supply-demand problem.

A given CEO (Widgets, Inc.) in a given industry (producing widgets) in a given vertical (B2B widgets) has tons of demands on his/her time, including:

  • Meetings
  • E-Mails
  • Calls
  • Breathlessly analyzing financial metrics
  • Dressing down subordinates
  • Internal presentations
  • 3-hour ‘client’ lunches
  • Etc.

I would almost guarantee you that the marketing side of companies targeting that industry/vertical — who have probably done a persona called ‘Charlie CEO’ around this guy above — have produced about 8–10 pieces of content each geared towards our man Charlie the CEO. Let’s say there’s 10 marketing companies targeting him. That’s 80–100 pieces of content he could be reading. Look at the bullets above. You think he’s reading them?

The C-Suite doesn’t read your white papers. The gatekeepers might, but the C-Suite ain’t got time for that shit.

Is anyone truly excited to read white papers, even good ones?

I’ve written dozens, and I still gotta assume the answer is oftentimes no — especially because oftentimes, they all say the same shit.

Look, white papers and E-Books and blogs can be awesome for conveying information — heck, I’ve been blogging consistently for the better part of 2.5 years and it’s led me to new relationships, new careers, etc. It’s a big deal in my life, even if most people find this blog by searching true crime stories from 1984.

But I also understand that most marketing is really about referral, because if you’re going to make a big purchase or decision — you’re going to rely on others you trust. The rest of marketing is typically a series of tips and tricks we throw at things because we’re not sure how marketing needs to evolve.

White papers fall into that. You’d hope — hope — that C-Suite guys aren’t reading the tips and tricks content, but really reading the stuff that could drive decision-making. Again, you’d hope that’s true — but scroll up to the part about incompetence.

The C-Suite isn’t reading your eBooks, no

One of the bigger things that makes me gag on my latest Chipotle burrito is when I go chase some freelance clients and someone tells me their website and associated content has a ‘C-Suite audience’ or ‘appeals to the C-Suite’ or something similar.

In most cases, that’s just a flat-out lie.

Let’s start here, though, in case you’re unclear: what exactly is the C-Suite? Well, typically it refers to positions in an organization like CEO, CFO, CMO — get it? They all begin with “C,” typically meaning “chief.” In essence, the C-Suite are the primary decision-makers of each department/silo in most organizations, especially the ones driven by hierarchy — and because hierarchy isn’t going anywhere, the C-Suite by and large is here to stay.

So, oftentimes the C-Suite are the final decision-makers and arbiters of new ideas — and especially new ideas that involve spending any money on something. So if you’re pitching a product or service to a company, be it freelance copywriting (oh hey!) or some multi-million dollar vendor solution, chances are you need some buy-in/sign-off from the C-Suite, or at least the S-Level (SVPs, etc. — “S” meaning “senior” in most cases).

How do you get this buy-in from the C-Suite, though?

The C-Suite and busy: Gatekeepers

Remember this one?

That’s the essence of how the C-Suite deals with most new concepts, because:

So please, please, please — do not say with a straight face to anyone that your content is read by a C-Suite audience, or that your white papers, E-Books, and blogs are consumed by the C-Suite. They’re not.

Here’s how the game really works:

  • The C-Suite has gatekeepers
  • These are traditionally SVPs or long-tenured employees or admins
  • Those are the people that read the white papers and the blogs and the Fast Company links
  • You hit those people and maybe the stuff gets in front of someone in the C-Suite
  • It’s all about gatekeepers, though
  • Any sales advice / targeting concept for the C-Suite is all about gatekeepers, too — you’re not targeting a CFO, per se; you’re targeting the person with the CFO’s ear who can convince the harried CFO that this is a good idea/service/product

The C-Suite, priorities, and incompetence

These two elements are fairly important to remember, as well:

Add those two things up and here’s what you come to:

  • Many in the C-Suite spend time focusing on the area they “came up” through — finance, marketing, ops, etc.
  • They do this to avoid incompetence and be seen as a strong leader, even though what they’re really doing is just micro-managing
  • They’re often unclear on priorities — and especially non-CEOs
  • This happens because many CEOs are ‘trained’ to treat all their lieutenants as the most important person on the team
  • This creates confusion over which silos matter and which don’t
  • Organizational priorities end up unclear
  • Employees run around chasing their tails

With all this stuff going on at the C-Suite level — drastic attempts to avoid incompetence and define priority — coupled with the idea that management isn’t intuitive and work isn’t a logical place (it’s an emotional one), do you really think they’re reading white papers and blogs? They’re not. They’re counting beans, chasing revenue dragons, and calling all-hands meetings. Some CEOs might dive into a few blogs here and there, but it’s probably less than 2 percent — if it’s that high.

The C-Suite and the content marketing supply-demand problem

More and more, organizations are producing content — call it ‘content marketing’ or ‘inbound marketing’ or ‘what hath HubSpot wrought upon the world?’ or whatever else you want to call it.

Here’s the problem, though: the supply of content is steadily increasing. The demand for content (how much we can realistically read in a day) is basically holding constant. As such? There’s a big content marketing supply-demand problem.

A given CEO (Widgets, Inc.) in a given industry (producing widgets) in a given vertical (B2B widgets) has tons of demands on his/her time, including:

  • Meetings
  • E-Mails
  • Calls
  • Breathlessly analyzing financial metrics
  • Dressing down subordinates
  • Internal presentations
  • 3-hour ‘client’ lunches
  • Etc.

I would almost guarantee you that the marketing side of companies targeting that industry/vertical — who have probably done a persona called ‘Charlie CEO’ around this guy above — have produced about 8–10 pieces of content each geared towards our man Charlie the CEO. Let’s say there’s 10 marketing companies targeting him. That’s 80–100 pieces of content he could be reading. Look at the bullets above. You think he’s reading them?

Is anyone truly excited to read white papers, even good ones?

I’ve written dozens, and I still gotta assume the answer is oftentimes no — especially because oftentimes, they all say the same shit.

Look, white papers and E-Books and blogs can be awesome for conveying information — heck, I’ve been blogging consistently for the better part of 2.5 years and it’s led me to new relationships, new careers, etc. It’s a big deal in my life, even if most people find this blog by searching true crime stories from 1984.

But I also understand that most marketing is really about referral, because if you’re going to make a big purchase or decision — you’re going to rely on others you trust. The rest of marketing is typically a series of tips and tricks we throw at things because we’re not sure how marketing needs to evolve.

White papers fall into that. You’d hope — hope — that C-Suite guys aren’t reading the tips and tricks content, but really reading the stuff that could drive decision-making. Again, you’d hope that’s true — but scroll up to the part about incompetence.

My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.

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