By Juli Durante
As an inbound marketing consultant, I often hear from new clients that they’ve had a business blog for a little while now, but they don’t feel like it’s truly effective. They may say something like “We know people are reading our blog and converting on our website, but we’re getting a lot of lower-level people reading our content, not the decision-maker. How can we blog more effectively to target the C-suite?” Indeed, reaching the always-busy executive with an increasingly cluttered inbox is no easy task. But it is possible to break through it all and get the eyeballs you really want. The following six steps comprise my favorite method and whill show you how to blog effectively for this audience:
1. Do Your Persona Research
If you’ve read some of my posts on the SmartBug blog before, you’ll know that I almost always start off by telling you to do your persona research. It’s for a good reason: The content you create for a marketing intern is going to be drastically different from what you write for a CMO, right? Even when talking about “the C-suite,” job title enough isn’t persona research. Is a CMO different from a CIO or a CEO or a CFO? They’re all organizational leaders, so they’ll likely have some things in common, but they’ll also have different points of view, opinions, and experiences about the same business problems—and that’s what your buyer personas need to capture.
As part of your persona research, be sure to conduct interviews and ask real, live humans a little bit more about:
- The blogs and news sources they read
- The last few emails they opened (that weren’t from the internal team)
- What keeps them up at night
- What they wish they had more time to do—and what keeps them from having that time
These questions will be a starting point for hot topics you’ll use in blogging and beyond.
2. Gather, and Brain-Dump, Your Ideas
When conducting persona research and writing up persona stories, I usually end up buzzing with things to write about. Because I’m so close to the point of research, those ideas are usually spot on with the needs and pain points of the persona. Because there’s so much going on in my head, I MUST brain-dump and get everything out there. I like to use some kind of digital notebook (I’m a big fan of Google Keep these days!) because I can type so much faster than I can physically write out ideas.
3. Keep Going—Brainstorm Some More Ideas
When I was in high school, I had an excellent art teacher who required that we sketch at least five versions of a composition before we could get started on our full-scale work. The rationale was this: You have something in your head, and that’s going to be your first sketch. Because you are required to create a variation, that will be your second sketch. By that point, you’re thinking more creatively and will continue pushing the idea. By the time you get to the fifth idea, you might be a little off the rails—but somewhere between the first and last, something will be a great, hidden gem.
The point of that story isn’t to let you know that I spent a huge amount of time in high school absolutely covered in paint (which I did) but, rather, to introduce a really important idea: Your first idea is a good one, but it can probably be improved upon. Perhaps it can be worked into a series. Maybe it’s really basic and high-level, but there’s an opportunity to dig deeper. Maybe you’ve just come up with six months of blog topics in an hour. The point is simple: Never run with your first idea; always push it just a little bit further to create really excellent content.
4. Write Your Content, Focusing on the Big Business Issues
Sure, there are probably some CxOs out there who are really interested in the nuts and bolts of how your product works, but a huge majority are much, much more interested in solving their actual business problems. Again, trust your persona research on this one (a CIO is likely more nitty-gritty than a CEO when it comes to choosing software), but when you write up the blog titles you so diligently brainstormed, keep your audience in mind to be truly successful.
5. Consider Content Discovery (SEO, Social, Syndication…)
Have you noticed that in a post about blogging, you’re more than 600 words in, and I haven’t mentioned keywords or SEO? When writing for the C-suite, I tend to think of it last. Sure, CEOs will spend some of their time searching for answers to their top problems, but in conducting persona research, I’ve often heard different approaches, many of which start with the idea of the executive’s “network.” That means that organic search might not be the way your post gets the most traction with the C-suite. Whoa. At the same time, I’m not recommending you throw your keyword strategy out the window. It’s still an important part of practicing inbound marketing and having your content be found! Just take some time to think through your persona, especially the persona’s watering holes, to get the message across to the greatest audience. Some considerations:
- Can you syndicate your blog post to a third-party site—even publish excerpts on LinkedIn Pulse or Medium—to bring more success?
- Who from your company will share the message? An executive? Does he or she have a robust network? What about social groups? Forums or other sites outside of the “big” social sites?
- Are you engaging in any account-based marketing for which this new content might make sense?
- What will the promotional email for this blog look like? Is the title juicy enough to get opens and clicks?
- What else do you know about this persona and how it consumes content?
6. Measure Results
So, you’ve put your post out there into the world—were you successful at meeting your target audience? How do you know? As one key indicator, look at where the traffic to that post came in from: Did your CEO share the article, and did his network click through at a high rate? Is there an exclusive CxO group on LinkedIn where this performed well? Within certain verticals, perhaps? Did your post’s call to action generate a lot of new leads that meet the criteria for the executive persona? On the other side of the coin, did your post kind of flop? Consider if tweaking the title and introduction will make the content more powerful when reaching an executive—remember: Tie it back to those personas and never forget about the “big message” and business realities.