Ah, the good old days—when a company’s tech spend was confined to a handful of IT managers because, you know, it’s a tech thing.
But times have changed. Today analysts, CEOs and sales leaders are talking about how companies can no longer afford to sideline digital to the margins of the business. Digital “transformation” of a company’s core business and operations—and the costs associated with it–have risen to the top of most CEO agendas. Companies that are still confining digital initiatives to “pilots” and “innovation labs” should consider this:
- IDC FutureScape noted in its Worldwide IT Industry 2017 Predictions that over the next several years, digital transformation efforts will evolve from being a special initiative, project, or business unit to an organizational transformation into being “digital native.”
- McKinsey & Company in February 2017 chimed in, saying, “A digital reinvention requires the CEO to make tough decisions.”
- Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff—who has lately enjoyed enormous success selling huge cloud technology deals to his CEO peers—has been talking about this for more than 18 months, referring to CEOs as de facto “Chief Digital officers” who are looking to transform their companies into digital-first organizations.
And just look at this exchange that took place on a March 2017 Adobe earnings call:
“The shift of the digital transformation budget to the importance of the CEO level has really accelerated.” —Alex Zukin, Equity Research Analyst, Paper Jaffray
“You’re absolutely right.” — Shantanu Narayen, President and CEO, Adobe Systems
What does this all mean for marketers?
Well, if you’re a marketer who supports a technology sales organization, it means you’d better have a c-suite relevant toolkit at the ready. This means:
- Focusing on business outcomes as opposed to products and solutions
- Having a relevant ROI story
- Having credible customer success stories from their industry
And finally, it means understanding each individual chief executive’s business issues and being able to connect the dots back to your own products, services and solutions.
For marketing organizations that are increasingly relying on automated technology, inbound marketing tools, and social selling, this represents a real challenge. Because CXOs generally ignore automated emails, and don’t spend a lot of time on social media. They live in a world where they buy business outcomes, not products.
People buy from people and relationships matter. Which means as a marketer, you have to change course from a “one-to-many” approach to “one to one.” How can you accomplish this?
Create Collaboration around Big Deals: Marketing can provide sales with content and tools to help “swarm” an account when a huge deal is on the table.
Craft Thought Leadership Content: Most companies already do a pretty good job producing relevant thought leadership content. But they need to do a better job at telling the c-suite why the content is relevant to their business.
CXO Engagement Programs: Customer advisory boards, executive sponsorship programs, executive briefing centers and CXO events and sponsorships are all good ways to secure executive-to-executive face time.
Don’t let your sales team founder in ignorance as they reach out to today’s real tech decision makers. As a marketer, you have the power to partner with your team and deliver insights and programs that will get c-level executives in the door and closer bigger deals, faster.
Sharon Gillenwater is editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders.