How to take on your CEO and win

We’ve all been there, right? You know that you need to freshen up your brand and give your messaging and tone of voice a good once over, but you face an uphill battle to convince your CEO or Leadership team.

“Why should we move away from a corporate style of doing stuff? We’re a business so we need to sound like a business” or words to that effect is what you’ll often be met with.

We understand and sympathise with you if you’re caught in this position. It can be really hard to critique your company Founder/CEO’s proverbial ‘baby’, especially when you really need to shake things up. And you quite rightly don’t want to unintentionally piss off the person who could make your life very difficult (if they were so inclined).

It’s a scenario we regularly see in businesses of all sizes.

For instance, we recently had a chinwag with an in-house marketer who was struggling to translate an overly complex and boring (with a capital B) brain dump from their CEO into something that customers in the real-world cared about. The main challenge was convincing the Senior Team that just because they “get it” and the people directly around them “get it”, doesn’t mean that anyone else is instantly going to “get it”.

 

Start with why

 

Sound familiar? In B2B land so many businesses fall into the trap of using words and phrases that are technically accurate, while forgetting that their audience, no matter the sector, product or niche, are human.

As we’ve been there, done that and written the value prop ourselves as client-side marketers (as well as for our clients) we thought we’d share some of our quick tips and tricks to help you  ‘manage up’ and get your CEO on side, rid your marketing of meaningless buzzwords, and set you on the path to presenting a face to market that customers actually want to work with.

 

REMINDER: YOUR BUYERS ARE HUMAN TOO…

Yes, we understand that the intended audience of your products / services will hopefully have a decent level of technical understanding, but that doesn’t mean you have to talk to them like robots.

 

humans not robots

 

Good marketing should tell stories, and it’s very hard to convey any sort of compelling message using words and phrases that don’t mean anything without interesting context.

As Simon Sinek would say ‘start with why’. We’d encourage you to ‘finish with why’ too.

Why should your prospects care? Why do their problems/challenges need solving? Why are you an answer for them? Why can you add more value solving their problems than your competitors? Answer these questions in a conversational tone and you’ll be much closer to something people will care about.

Also, if your boss still isn’t convinced to ‘dumb’ down those techie terms, just remind them that even Google is built to understand human language and phrasing. Its SEO framework is built on NLP (Natural Language Processing) which prefers and ranks ‘humanised’ content over and above buzzword-filled spammy copy.

 

GET SOME UNBIASED OPINIONS…

Run the messaging you’ve got now (the boring stuff) by a few unbiased people in your network whose opinion you can trust – old contacts, ex-colleagues, or ideally existing customers. They don’t necessarily have to be in the industry and it’s more useful if they’re not.

Ask them to give you an honest assessment of what they do or don’t understand in the messaging and then ask them to explain what your company / product does back to you. If their explanation doesn’t make sense or accurately present what you’re doing as a business, then your messaging isn’t doing its job.

 

 

Star rating

 

Do this enough times, with enough people and you’ll start to build a great picture of what is and isn’t working that you can then use to convince your higher ups. It’s often the case that input from an objective, 3rd party is listened to more. So arm yourself with a diverse range of opinions.

 

PLAY BUZZWORD BINGO…

If your messaging reads like a who’s who from the buzzword business dictionary it’s time to rethink.

Off the top of our heads, some words which add zero value to your copy (zilch, nada…) that we see every day are:

 

B2B Marketing Buzzword Bingo Card

 

 

Feel free to use this buzzword bingo card for yourself. Pick out any instance of these words in your copy and think about how you could replace them with words that actually say something meaningful.

Instead of game-changing, describe what single biggest USP the product will bring to your intended user. How does it change the game? For example, if it will save them considerable time, contextualise how much time. If it will streamline their workflow by cutting out 3 extra processes, say that!

If your team are all legitimately experts, don’t just label their generic ‘expertise’. Describe how their specific skill set will add value to your clients’ and help solve their real-world challenges.

And, stop saying utilise… just say ‘use’.

 

PROPOSE A BETTER WAY…

Rather than openly critique your CEOs / Founders / Sales Director much-loved pitch and just tear it apart, instead come to the table with ideas of what might work better, and why – maybe based on the feedback you’ve collected and the buzzword bingo you played. See how we help you?

 

Hard to please CEO

 

Take some time to craft alternative messaging. You don’t have to come with a fully formed messaging structure, value proposition and masses of content though. It’s important that you don’t, actually. Leave some gaps and have areas left to decide so your leadership team can still have input into (and therefore ownership of) the new style of communicating.

Ask them how they would describe what the company does to their friends and family for example. And keep on challenging what they say with a polite “why?” or a “what does that really mean?” Note down all the key words & phrases that are used (that a human would say, not a robot) and feed these in.

 

If you’re a marketer stuck in a rut with your proposition, or bored to tears of your “unique, tailored, proprietary solution”, then get in touch. We’d love to help you spin up something new that will wow your CEO and bring your B2B brand kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.

 




1 comment

Kim September 4, 2020

Wow! Great blog. If you ever want to do a guest lecture at the University of Bath, we’d be lucky to have you.




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