Why Executive Communication Fails
2.2 hours a day. That’s the average time people spend on social media each day. As if executives aren’t busy enough with all their responsibilities, this adds to their jam-packed days and makes it even more challenging for us to reach them. Your messaging has eight seconds to capture an executive’s attention. Miss the mark and you’ve not only wasted their time but also created a negative impression. You probably won’t get the chance to recover.
Unfortunately, many Sales and Marketing professionals today don’t communicate well at this critical level. Instead of giving executives the information they want, they share what they want executives to know about them.
Executives don’t care about you, your products, or your services. Quit talking about yourself and make it about them—their wants and their needs. Start connecting your messages to the business issues that matter most to executives. Come with insight instead of data. According to research from SiriusDecisions, executive buyers value business and industry insight four times more than traditional product knowledge. When you take the time to analyze the client’s situation and data and draw conclusions, you can produce the valuable, actionable insights clients desire. According to Brent Dykes, contributor at Forbes, it is important to consider alignment, context, relevance, specificity, novelty, and clarity when determining how actionable your data insights are. Anything you talk about needs to be expressed in terms of how you can affect their business in clear, measurable terms or in relation to how you can help them drive revenue, improve margins, gain market share, or reduce churn. If you miss this essential component, all the creative coolness in the world won’t save you. Everything else is just fluff. Clients want to see action and results.
How to Fix It
Let’s break down the essentials on how to make this happen. First, you need to determine who your messaging should speak to. That sounds easy, but it isn’t. In the world of complex solutions, there are several people your messaging needs to speak to. Multiple decision makers and influencers are involved. An average complex solution could involve six different titles.
Make this your mantra:
Right Target: What titles are commonly involved in making decisions and who are the key influencers? Each of these titles will have different concerns and your message will need to be tailored to accommodate these.
Right Message: Exactly what are you going to say to them? They don’t have time and won’t bother to figure out your intent unless it’s short, sweet, and plays to their interests. It needs to communicate what you can do for them, and it needs to be expressed in business language. Utilize tools like TweetDeck to stay in the know about industry news, company messaging, and executive communication. Talk to clients regularly to hear their business needs in their own words. Then, use that verbiage in further conversations with them. Most important, uncover what is important to them and address in a way that resonates with them and provides value. Test your message internally with titles similar to your targets. You have one shot—don’t miss.
Right Media: John Hall, also a contributor at Forbes, notes choosing the right media for executive communication ultimately comes down to the audience, budget, and message. As you consider those factors, think about what form your message will take. While using multiple outlets is best, leverage the appropriate media for that buyer profile. Make sure you are being consistent. How many times have you seen messaging sent to the field but undermined by the website? Your advertising, PR, website, social media, and sales support materials MUST have the same messaging for the appropriate targets. Choosing the right medium for your message is different for everyone and for every product. Sometimes it is a matter of trial and error. Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of VaynerMedia, suggests the medium is something your audience chooses for you.
“When trying to figure out which medium or platform is right for you, I actually think that it’s not about what you decide at all — it’s about the customer,” Vaynerchuk said. “I had never been the star of a video in my life until I recorded my first episode of ‘Wine Library TV.’ I didn’t choose for that to be my medium because it’s not about choosing. It’s about going into all of the mediums and then letting the market choose which one you’re best at.”
Finally, the goal of your message needs to be considered. Are you trying to sell something directly to the target? Are you working to open doors? Are you pre-conditioning? You need to capture attention and be clear on the intent.
Once you’ve determined the objectives of the messaging, the mantra of “Right Target, Right Message, and Right Media” is a great gut-check to keep you on the right trajectory and ensure your executive communication messaging hits the mark every time.
Personal Challenge: List the media outlets you use to stay on top of industry and client news. Evaluate how you are using them (or not using them). Explore what features you can add or other outlets to dial-in how you stay on top of things. Take the time to make it easier to present value to your clients.