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The Importance of Executive Relationships October 8, 2009

Posted by Mike Gospe in Customer Advisory Boards, Integrated Marketing.
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In his article, CIO Tells Us How to Sell to CIOs, Sridhar Ramanathan interviews Walt Thinfen, CIO of Visioneer.  This article is a timely reminder about the importance of customer relationships built on an understanding of the customer’s world.  Especially in this difficult economy, marketers and sales people can fall into the trap of myopic short-term thinking centered on making the quarterly number.  It’s easy to lose sight of the customer and the problems they are trying to solve. 

One excerpt that I really like is the following:

Vendors do, of course, need to do all the usual things like webinars, trade shows, datasheets, whitepapers, analyst briefings, etc. But I actually find the most valuable ones are opportunities to speak with fellow CIOs whether it’s on the golf course or in customer reference calls. I never turn down “lunch and learns” and events where I can have quality time with a peer.

There are two key elements interwoven into this quote from Walt.

  1. Reading between the lines suggests that when all the features and benefits become commoditized, the executive relationship will become the only true differentiator.  This is where and why customer forums and Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) become so important. 
  2. While the traditional “push” marketing tactics (like webinars, datasheets, etc) will continue to be important, they are not sufficient for successfully engaging CIO prospects.  Marketing teams need to consider “push” marketing tactics that make relevant content (information & experiences) available to CIOs in places where CIOs look.   Consider that in today’s Internet-based, social media-infused marketplace, 90% of the average sales cycle does NOT involve a sales rep!

Bottom line: the tough economy is causing marketers everywhere to rethink their approach in order to balance push and pull marketing tactics.  And, in the center of the marketing plan needs to be recognition and respect for the executive relationship.