There has been much written and debated about the state of the B2B buyers’ journey and how it has changed. But has it really? Yes and no. It’s true that a cross-functional buying committee made up of an increasing number of stakeholders still drives the procurement of major products and services. And much of the decision-making continues to be done without a lot of input from vendors or providers until late in the game. What’s different is that the C-Suite is driving more of the research and vendor selection stages of the buyers’ journey than in the past. Influencing them from the bottom up may no longer be as effective. Modern buying centers require a top-down approach. Here’s a look at why.
The landscape is complicated. We’ve identified upwards of twenty C-Suite titles in use today and the list is growing. Some functional areas are so big or mission-critical they require multiple CxOs (think Technology or Sales). Some countries have titles and roles unique to them along with imperatives and attitudes on technology, society, and the environment that may vary. Understanding cultural distinctions are key.
Shift happens. The C-Suite participates heavily in decisions that drive growth, operational improvement, innovation, and value-creation. They are the primary influencers, executive sponsors, SMEs, and shadow stakeholders that must agree and align on problems and solutions. That’s certainly the case with digital transformation and cloud-related decisions, which include both technology and business process components. Executives are looking to sponsor initiatives that support better ways to work and deliver value at their organizations. Because priorities tend to change often and dramatically, vendors and providers must be able to pivot with them.
It’s a Suite. While CxOs have primary oversight and responsibility for specific functions within the organization, they cannot operate with complete independence or autonomy. The C-Suite is expected to function together as a team answering to the CEO, the board and, in some cases, each other. But alignment at the executive level takes work. An important part of the dynamic is to understand the state of internal alliances and relationships. The power map is constantly in play which is a big factor in decision-making outcomes.
Risky business. It’s more about not being wrong than being right. C-Suiters are accountable for core decisions that impact a significant number of people, which can make some risk averse and skeptical – especially in the enterprise. As such, CxOs are usually looking to educate themselves on what drives improvement and performance from unbiased sources. Reaching them is a challenge. They are protected by staff that often serve as gatekeepers.
The proof is social. CxOs are usually operating in a state of pre-awareness. Which means they strive to stay in the know on a range of topics and seek out validation from peers and industry experts on an ongoing basis. These executives are considered SMEs and thought leaders in their respective spaces. They are not looking to be marketed or sold to by vendors; they want to form and build strategic relationships with partners that share a vision. That is one of the reasons why CxOs value and look for relevant thought leadership and research.
It’s a matter of preference. Content and messaging should be on point and thoughtful with these buyers. Time-starved CxOs require depth behind data and insights in as few words as possible. But sometimes less is less. Especially for technology executives, for example, when it involves important factors like security and integration that demand more in-depth treatment. Reaching CxOs requires finding the right balance to meet their specific needs.
A day in the life of a modern executive involves navigating myriad complexities associated with their functional area, organization, and the market at large. Decision-making often requires considering such pressing issues as ensuring inclusion, safety, productivity, opportunity versus risk, and the overall well-being of the people in their departments. That – coupled with several global health, political, and sustainability concerns – can make for a pretty overwhelming decision environment.
The C-Suite has taken center stage. For those trying to strike the right tone, up-level messaging and engagement or deliver richer thought leadership aimed at this executive level audience, consider creating or expanding your buyer personas to guide these efforts. Personas are foundational for any number of marketing and sales enablement programs, so be thorough and objective. That means investing the time to learn about what they care about, how they define value, and what they perceive as risk. The C-Suite has changed the buyers’ journey and generalities won’t cut it!
Jenny is a digital content strategist, who leads customer-centric engagements that focus on understanding B2B buying behaviors and developing custom roadmaps.
Her expertise is creating buyer personas and mapping digital content journeys to assess the multi-channel user experience. She helps clients operationalize plans across workstreams and identifies processes to create efficiencies in marketing operations. Jenny also has extensive time under her belt developing and managing customer advocacy programs and community building.
She has helped a diverse group of organizations including Cisco, VMware, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, BMO Harris, Capital One and many others become more customer-centric.