Dumbing Marketing Up for the C-Level

Hugh Taylor


c-level exec reading content
C-Level Exec image via Shutterstock

Many times, when I work with enterprise technology clients on white papers, I get asked to distill content down into a C-Level “Executive Brief.” The client wants to give the full paper to the technology decision-maker while offering the busy CEO or CIO a digest that is easy to understand. It’s a good strategy. C-Levels are extremely important influencers of technology purchases and an important persona to consider when developing content. The challenge is to craft a brief that will have the desired impact.

The risk that marketers face with executive briefs is the “dumbing down” phenomenon, where a subtle value proposition is mashed into brain-dead, buzzword-rich pablum. C-Levels, we are told, need things bite-sized. They need simple, big ideas.

Don’t believe everything you hear…

Too often, C-Level content is simplified to the point of meaninglessness or thrown together with vague strategy language that doesn’t move the prospect down the funnel.  If you were selling cloud computing services to the C-Level, for instance, you might mistakenly say something like, “Enable agile strategies for digital transformation…”   It sounds good, but it has no specific meaning.  As marketers, we can all do better.

We are doing C-Levels a big disservice when we dumb things down for them. We tend to forget what it takes for someone to ascend to the C-Level. C-Levels tend to be highly driven and very talented at multi-tasking and holding important concepts that connect across many people in their heads. We should not interpret their lack of time and attention span as a lack of interest in the topic or lack of ability grasp complex ideas. The challenge is to package our thinking into a form that will resonate with the C-Level and drive the desired sales outcome.

So, what would be ideal C-Level content about cloud computing? I recently had this conversation with a client. I suggested we package a few succinct ideas into a piece that could be read to a CEO or CIO while walking to his or her car. I called this the “walk me to the car” school of C-Level communication.

Communicating your messages to the C-Level

While walking them to the car, we should be able to conduct the following Q&A:

Q: What are the three most important things I need to know about cloud computing?

A: 1) It’s evolving and growing more sophisticated than it was even a year ago; 2) There’s an avalanche of hype about it, but a lot of the hype is true, or at least rooted in corporate reality; and 3) Cloud is more than a technology. It represents a different approach to IT on many levels.

Q: Can you give me two good reasons to do it?

A: Yes. 1) You can use the cloud to push out operational initiatives and M&A projects faster than can be done with existing IT; and 2) The cloud helps you reduce capital expenditures on IT infrastructure and data centers.

Q: What are two things that I ought to worry about with the cloud?

A: 1) You’ll have execution challenges, leading to unexpected costs and delays; and 2) It’s possible that we’ll underestimate the people and organizational aspects of the making a move to the cloud.

Q: What is the takeaway idea for me in all of this?

A: If we do it right, cloud computing represents an organizational shift to a new way of doing IT – it’s a lot more than deciding to place data on servers that you don’t own.

This approach involves “dumbing up” cloud marketing content for a smart CEO/CIO. Instead of flinging forgettable chaff at the C-level, we can offer a few tangible, memorable ideas to keep in mind until the buying decision lands on his or her desk.  If we can plant the right ideas in their head by dumbing our material up, we will have a better chance of getting their all-important nod in the purchase process.

dumbing up for the c-level blog Hugh TaylorHugh Taylor, is the President of Taylor Communications, a firm specializing in long form content for technology companies and the author of the book B2B Technology Marketing. You can follow Hugh on LinkedIn.

content development, content marketing, effective messaging, marketing to C-Level, marketing to CIOs, marketing to senior IT, persona-based content development

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