How to Generate Demand from Senior Executives

J. David Green
September 18, 2018

Ever have to reach senior level executives in large companies?  It’s no easy feat. That’s why salespeople ask marketing for help with those kinds of connections.

Yadin Porter de Leon, Global Executive Content Strategist at VMware, shared this objective in two podcasts which you can listen to here and here.  He shared a story that illuminates the difficulty.

“I was talking to a CIO and asked, ‘How do you consume content? How do people reach you? Who gets your attention?’ He said, ‘You’ve got to be in my circle of trust. If by some miracle some sales person gets my phone number and gives me a call, I scream at them and tell them to get off the phone.’”

Yadin laughed. “That was one of my favorite quotes, the poor inside sales person getting screamed at by a CIO. And it makes sense, too. I have that whole philosophy, the circle of trust. There’s this very tight circle of trust, and CIOs are in the roles they’re in because they built this network of people around them.”

“They don’t need to go download white papers and get calls from reps and stuff like that; basically CIOs have those resources already there.”  CIO’s are bringing on direct reports because the CIO “likes their approach, their philosophy, their vision… CIOs have all the resources they need, whether it’s a technical resource, whether it’s a leadership council, trends, or anything else.”

Deeply Understand Your Target Audience

So how do you figure out how to get inside the circle of trust, I asked Yadin.

He said that successful marketing is about understanding what your prospects are trying to accomplish. Instead of thinking you know who your target audience is, you need to deeply understand their desires and motivations.

“I’ll give you those two perspectives, and these come from two people I highly revere: one is Clayton Christensen, father of disruptive innovation; the other’s Seth Godin, who I believe is the greatest content marketer of our time.”

Yadin started with Christensen and cited one of his articles in the Harvard Business Review titled “Marketing Malpractice: The Cause and the Cure.” .

“What makes something gateable? That goes back to Clayton Christensen’s ‘jobs to be done’ theory. ‘Jobs to be done’ means that someone is actually trying to get a job done, and there are social, emotional, economic, political components and circumstances to that job they’re trying to do.”

According to Yadin, Christensen’s “jobs to be done” theory means that everyone is really just trying to get a job done.

The “Jobs to be Done” Theory

The key, Yadin said, is understanding what that job is in a marketing context.

For Yadin’s CIO prospects, that job might be to network with other IT executives to exchange ideas about what’s really working on a wide range of issues. That’s the reason a CIO might to to an executive breakfast VMware is hosting. Understanding what’s really motivating them is the secret behind all great marketing.

Check out our blog post: Why Empathetic Marketing is the Future

Ask Why You’re Gating a Piece of Content

Yadin then quotes his other favorite marketing influence, Seth Godin about gating content.  According to Yadin, “[Seth] said, you have to be really, really specific about the things you give away for free, things that you ascribe value to. That free activity goes to communicate with the world in a way that you can’t communicate with a gated asset.”

Which is a compelling way of saying you have to build trust with your audience before asking them to give you the right to send content to them. You build this trust by giving away what sometimes feels like the best part of your work, something of real value.

Yadin then goes into the two types of audiences marketers have: subscribers and leads.

“The stuff you give away for free, those are your subscribers. That’s your trusted audience. Those are not leads. When they opt into a sales pipeline or a funnel, then they become a lead. You create the free stuff so that you can build that subscribed audience, so that you can then pull them into a funnel. You can pull them into your pipeline.”

Stop Creating Fabricated Buyer Personas

Many marketing teams develop a perceived ideal customer profile and personas with that are based on google searches and third-party data. To Yadin, this approach is the exact wrong way to go about doing things.

“The whole article about marketing malpractice goes into the reasons why you should stop doing imaginary personas and actually talk to people. Instead of creating a persona, what you’re doing is basically creating a mini-documentary about a person who would consume a piece of content, buy a product, or whatever that ‘job could be done’ is (as Clayton Christensen called it).

I love the idea of creating a mini-documentary, but what does this process look like? Yadin describes the journey of buying a mattress at Costco and how a marketing team can create this mini-documentary by asking insightful questions:

  • What kind of beds have you had previously?
  • What were the different things that you thought about when you finally purchased the mattress?
  • What concerned you in the process?
  • What made you risk-averse?
  • What are the different qualities of the mattress that are going to make you buy that specific model?
  • What’s the timeline to purchase decision?

Now swap out mattresses for your category of product and service and there’s your interview guide for developing genuine personas and a documentary.

Yadin’s Most Successful CIO Lead Gen Campaign

“The number one thing that I’m doing right now is building that [CIO] audience in order to create a research survey. You give away assets to build this audience and then one of the ways you can leverage that subscribed audience is by doing surveys.”

“For example, I did this one survey [at Druva, where he used to work] for people who were migrating data center resources to the cloud. That original research that was put together in a business asset brief, executive brief, and then distributed to all the people of course who participated, and all the people who were subscribers.  That research became our number one gated asset for months and months and months and months and months.”

Making Marketing a Profit Center

Yadin said, Killing Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose of The Content Marketing Institute focuses on how marketing can go from a cost-center to a profit center.  The book cites, among others, Terminus, who has created an entire company around account-based marketing, which is known to itself turn marketing from a cost to a profit. The book also mentions how Salesforce has used events like Dreamforce to explode their marketing efforts and attract new audiences.

Want to Learn More About Marketing to Senior Leadership?

Yadin’s full interview is brimming with actionable insights — especially if you’re a b2b marketer who is looking to generate demand from senior-level decision makers. You can listen to the both episodes with Yadin here:


Further Reading

Savannah Mudd
October 31, 2019
. 8 min read
Lainey Mebust
October 15, 2019
Lainey Mebust
October 2, 2019