David Fortino, SVP Audience and Product, NetLine Corporation

Marketing Beyond The C-Suite

  • C-level audiences accounted for just 5 percent of content consumed, yet 94 percent of lead gen campaigns targeted a C-level audience.
  • A review of US content consumption shows that more than half of content syndication campaigns targeted less than one-third of the active content consumers.
  • A well-thought-out strategy looks like: begin with top-of-funnel content early in the quarter, cycle to mid-funnel content, then later in the quarter cycle to late-stage content.

“To me, it’s almost criminal. To focus exclusively on the C-Suite is a big disconnect from reality”

Many marketers consider the C-Suite the holy grail of business-to-business (B2B) marketing. If they can just unlock the doors to the C-Suite and capture the attention of those top execs, the sale will be easy. After all, the C-Suite is where all the decisions are made, right? Wrong.

Data shows that today’s buying decisions are mostly collaborative, consensus-driven activities that involve groups of people with different roles in the organization, and the size of those buying groups is growing. In most cases, the major contribution of the C-Suite executive is to accept the judgement of his or her buying group before signing a contract. Yet, corporate marketing strategies persist in focusing content marketing and lead generation activities on the C-Suite. David Fortino, who has conducted a series of research and found that a much broader audience consumes the majority of lead gen content, frequently talks to his clients about the importance of addressing that larger audience. Many marketers agree that such an approach makes sense, but then they continue their C-Suite and senior executive strategy. “It’s funny and sad that we’re still having this discussion with our clients,” Fortino says. “But, the industry as a whole has yet to conclude that this broader strategy is something they need to consider.”

Fortino cites data from a recent NetLine study that focused on the information technology (IT) market segment. All of NetLine’s studies are based on its own data, collected from the world’s largest B2B content syndication lead generation network.
This study of more than 8 million leads generated in 2016 revealed the following points:
• Mid-level IT professionals, including directors, managers, and individual contributors, drove the majority of IT-specific content consumption.
• C-level audiences accounted for just 5 percent of the content consumed.
• 94 percent of campaigns targeted the C-level audience.
• Consultants represent the fastest-growing audience segment, with 40 percent growth YoY, yet only 1 percent of campaigns targeted consultants.

NetLine’s data shows similar patterns in other market segments. A review of content consumption by professionals residing in the United States across all industries shows that more than half of campaigns targeted less than one-third of active content consumers.

Despite increased reliance on content marketing for lead generation and knowing that companies typically do 80 percent to 90 percent of their research before contacting their vendors of choice, marketers still focus on the C-Suite. Why is that? Fortino says, “So many times I hear a marketing director or vice president say, ‘That’s what the chief marketing or chief executive officer has decided.’ To me, it’s almost criminal. The value marketers bring to their company is the research they do and their understanding of who the real customers are. Clearly, the C-Suite executive is not your primary customer. To focus exclusively on the C-Suite is a big disconnect from reality. More often than not, your target ‘decision maker’ is realistically an aggregate of a number of influencers who help foster the final recommendation within the organization.”

Few companies actively pursue a well-thought-out lead gen strategy beyond the C-Suite. Fortino describes one client that does. The client runs a quarterly lead gen “scrum” that begins with top-of-funnel content early in the quarter. Mid-way through, the client cycles that content out of the campaign and cycles in more mid-funnel content. Later in the quarter, the company cycles off mid-funnel content and brings in late-stage content. Then, it repeats the cycle in the next quarter. Fortino says, “They ratchet up the filters knowing that their lead volume will be lower but the lead quality will be exceptional.”

This is an excerpt from 9 Experts on Rethinking Demand Generation. The eBook was generously co-sponsored by Mighty Guides and Netline.