8:29 AM April 4, 2017
In every business or organization, higher management plays a significant role (and in many cases the only role) in the decision-making process. Everyone – from employees, partners, suppliers and even customers – look upwards to the C-Level pedestal for guidance and decisions that will steer the business or institution.
In most cases, the decision-making process involves almost every facet of the business – aspects that could eventually spell success or failure of their enterprise. It is for this very reason why C-Level management is wary of every proposed improvement, enhancement or other similar project presented – particularly those that could create a significant change in the business.
This scenario applies to Digital Marketing as well, particularly Social Media Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), relatively new concepts for hardened business executives who may not have the native inclination of digital processes and solutions – or at least not yet. Many worthy members from this C-Level club may have already achieved significant business triumphs, conquests and achievements and have yet to realize the value and profitable potential digital marketing can offer.
So if you’re looking to get your SEO proposal an approving nod from upper c-level management, you better bring your armor and be prepared for anything that may be thrown our way. The following provides practical but valuable insights on how you can enhance your convincing prowess, streamline your presentation, and boost your chances of having C-Level Executives buy in for SEO.
- Empathy – Get Into the Mind of a CEO
To help a person believe in what you are saying, you have to understand how this person thinks and what’s important to them, otherwise you will find yourself struggling with a hard sell – most likely ending up with no interest and a failed meeting. You need to look into the mind of C-Level Executives to effectively convince them that SEO is what their business needs. Here are some things you need to understand about CEO’s.
- CEOs value time. Their days are filled with meetings, phone calls, and closed door meetings – so they have very little time for non-essentials
- CEOs make the hard decisions on a daily basis. They don’t want to make decisions on items not worth their time – only game changers
- CEOs are decision makers and not problem solvers. If a problem is presented, they also want solutions and alternatives presented – and they get to decide which solution is most viable and most likely to be a win for the business
- CEOs want the next big thing in terms of profitability, cost reduction, competitiveness, and innovation – everything that will make the business grow
- CEOs do not want unproven concepts or vague results. They want what is tangible real world solutions that work
- CEOs rely on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to gauge if the business performance is successful or not. They want measurable results confirmed by verifiable statistics and monitored data
To think like a CEO, you need to be taking all these items into consideration before making your presentation for SEO. If your proposal is in line with how they think and what they want to hear – you would most likely get buy in.
- Present SEO in a Language they Will Understand
One of the many pitfalls of SEO consultants or digital marketers in selling SEO to C-Level Executives is their tendency to use technical jargon in an attempt to dazzle their audience with how much they know. Avoid using acronyms and terms non-techies won’t understand. One quick example is to say “Search Engine Optimization” and not “SEO”. CEOs don’t have the time nor the interest for technological showboating. They want – and will only listen to – something they can understand and easily see having a benefit to the business as a whole.
- Help Them Understand the Importance of Search
C-Level Executives know what search engines are and have had their share of Googling information. They may not understand the importance of search for their businesses however, thinking that prospective customers should just type in the name of their companies and presto – their website appears.
They may not understand that most people – including leads and prospects – don’t search for information about products and services by company name. They need to understand how people use search terms and how critical it is to appear at the top of page 1 in the search results.
- Present SEO as a Problem Solver
Businesses of all sizes struggle in many ways – generating fresh leads, acquiring new customers, getting good brand exposure and recognition, and generating more sales. C-Level Executives are concerned with finding solutions to these problems and issues. Get their attention by presenting SEO as a problem solver – here are a few examples to start with:
- When they are ready to buy, 90% of buyers will take the initiative of looking for the right supplier – and this will start with a web search
- Create a big impact on your lead generation efforts through SEO, according to 57% of B2B marketers
- As much as 85% of B2B buyers prefer companies that use social networks to present information
- Generate as much as 67% more B2B leads by creating and maintaining your own company blog
- Show why meta data in the titles and description fields benefit the company in search.
- Use Data to Present SEO Performance
Source: Search Engine Watch
C-Level Executives are not easily dazzled by trends and hype. They want real data, particularly those that directly impact their profitability, competitiveness and brand awareness. They want real data such as comScore, eMarketer, Forrester, Nielsen, Pew Research Center and other reputable industry sources.
Present your SEO plan with real data, presenting how SEO can directly impact the business. The chart presented above from Hubspot which highlights SEO as a top channel for turning leads into customers is a good example. Present SEO with real, tangible and measurable data that is inline with the company’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and business goals.
- Provide a Definite Timeframe
C-Level Executives usually go for projects that are presented with clear deliverables married to a definite timeframe. They like quick results within a short timeframe, but would also go for longterm and longer lasting results if they understood the benefots. The key here is to deliver according to the timeframe you set.
CEO’s need to understand however, that SEO will have a larger and more lasting impact after a considerable amount of time. One great analogy is to explain SEO like investing in long term growth, which is only achieved over time. The more you invest for the longer the time period, the better the chances of long term and lasting payoff. However, Short term results can be achieved with the use of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising and Paid Social Media advertising, which can be used in combination with organic Search Engine Optimization strategies. It might be wise to start with a blended solution campaign so there’s some quick returns to go along with the longterm.
- Stay Within a Reasonable Budget
Source: Search Engine Watch
An article from Search Engine Watch highlights organic search as the most under-funded digital marketing strategy. The article based this conclusion on data sourced from comScore and Forrester, indicating that organic search, which generate up to 92% of search clicks, only receives a pitiful 11% of the budget.
The reason for this is attributed to the fact that many CEOs are yet to understand the importance of SEO for their companies, thinking of it as a costly endeavor that won’t deliver the results they want. Marketingsherpa however, highlights that as much as 57% of the marketers they surveyed use SEO because of the lower costs incurred while delivering higher returns from their investments.
- Identify Measurable Results
Remember CEOs want results that are measurable. They want results based on milestones and other measurable indices that they deem relevant to the business. Mike Volpe of HubSpot presented a list of important metrics that many C-Level Executives would want to see. You need to present your SEO proposal in a manner that shows how it can improve on these metrics, and you will most likely get a thumbs up.
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
- Marketing % of Customer Acquisition Cost (M%-CAC)
- Ratio of Customer Lifetime Value to CAC (LTV:CAC)
- Time to Payback CAC
- Marketing Originated Customer %
- Marketing Influenced Customer %
- Set Achievable Success Parameters
As I mentioned earlier, C-Level Executives want to hear about KPIs and other success parameters that they can use to gauge the performance of the business and gain insights to help them make critical decisions. For example, SEO is deemed the top ROI-generating investment of enterprise marketers. Some parameters can include overall web traffic, number of leads generated, increased sales and profit, returning visitors, referrals and decreased bounce rates.
- Present Your SEO Plan Professionally
Finally, you should take your time and prepare well, so you present your SEO proposal in a professional presentation that is clear, precise, and direct to the point. Make sure that you highlight the important keywords that C-Levels would like to hear. The more they get comfortable with what they see and hear, the more they would likely buy in to your proposal.
Make sure that you also set a properly scheduled meeting. Remember, time is of the very essence for C-Level executives. If possible you should give your presentation in a boardroom or equivalent meeting room that will give it a more professional, and important, atmosphere – something C-Level Executives are very comfortable with.
Wrapping things up, it’s important to remember that C-Level Executives are not your ordinary prospects that you could simply talk to about SEO over a coffee or lunch in a cafeteria. You will need not only careful planning and preparation, but also greater effort and insight towards understanding what these C-Level Executives want to see and hear in a manner that they are familiar and comfortable with. I hoped this helps you sell your SEO campaign and should you need help, feel free to reach out to us.