Are you still doing an internal dance, trying to figure out how to convince your CEO to support online and inbound marketing strategies? Sometimes this problem has to do with company culture or leadership, but often it comes down to better communication and explanation.
1. Study your CEO like a must-have customer. – This starts with demographics, but moves quickly to technology experience and professional expertise. Did he come up through marketing or sales, or was it maybe operations or finance? Has he been at the company for 23 years or was he an outside hire two years ago? If it can impact how he feels about inbound marketing, its relevance for business or how he feels about your expertise as an advocate for online marketing use, then it matters. Take that information and let it inform every conversation you have with the CEO about inbound marketing, including examples you weave into presentations.
2. Forget features – Focus on benefits of inbound marketing and match them as solutions to your CEO’s problems. Remember this is his priority list, not yours. Be specific about solutions, where possible.
3. Frame inbound marketing strategies and outcomes in the specific terms your CEO cares about – whether that’s cost reduction, sales growth, a new product launch or something else. Match his language to your message, whether the context is a new blog or maybe a well-conceived Facebook strategy.
4. Use language everyone understands – If you’ve immersed yourself, like I have in inbound marketing and social media, it’s easy to forget that there’s new language in the mix. Instead of wasting CEO attention on a vocabulary lesson, translate online marketing “speak” into standard language. Later, when you’re further down the decision path, you can explain that “some people refer to these things as inbound marketing,” and explain why. Initially, strategic consensus is more important.
5. Keep it simple, relevant and repeatable – Your CEO doesn’t need to be an inbound marketing expert. Distill what’s important into a message simple enough that your CEO can not only make an appropriate decision but also repeat the message if need be to others. Complex PowerPoint slides? They don’t work for this.
6. Prepare to draw. Likely your CEO will have questions – The quickest way to understanding? Draw a diagram – on paper or a white board. I almost always diagram existing communication channels like e-newsletters, word of mouth, and emails, alongside social media platforms and blog posts, and then use that diagram to talk through when to use what, and why.
7. Create Samples – Use offline tools like PowerPoint, Adobe Creative Suite or other publishing tools to make non-interactive samples of various online platforms like Facebook, Twitter & Linkedin, including sample posts and updates. Add a blog post to illustrate how everything works together. Want to illustrate how to maximize efficiency while creating content? Take one thing that’s already in the files (CEO speech, the new company brochure, an annual report) and diagram all the ways it can be repurposed, in whole or in part, to create content that can go out through multiple online channels.
8. Pick the right messenger – It’s not always what’s said, but who says it, that matters. It’s important that the CEO knows and trusts the person presenting new ideas. If that’s not you, either work to quickly build that trust by becoming a known thought-leader on the topic of online marketing, do extra homework so that your presentation speaks for itself, and/or involve others the CEO already trusts.
9. Keep momentum building – Ask about preferences, not permission. It’s a rare CEO who will green light a new initiative based on a single meeting. Keep momentum building by clarifying the next step: Ask your CEO to chose between action and further study. For example, you might say, “We could study this more, maybe involve more people in the discussion, or I could test a few ideas and keep you posted on results before we spend lots of company resources. What’s your preference?”
10. Rethink. Re-present. Repeat. – CEOs are busy. Sometimes the problem isn’t the message or the messenger. It’s what a friend of mine calls “CEO Bandwidth.” Be patient. Your CEO could just be over-taxed with higher priorities and can’t focus enough energy on this new initiative. Yet.
What other strategies have worked for you?