Monday, July 31, 2006

How to reach the CEO

I was talking recently with a prospective client who was keen to target CEOs. And while I tend to think of myself as the “entrepreneur” guy, in truth, I have been writing for CEOs for 25 years.

Not only the CEOs of entrepreneurial companies, but of big businesses as well. My education in journalism came at the Financial Times of Canada, the weekly business tabloid that aimed at top corporate decision-makers.

In six years I went from temporary summer replacement to managing editor (the guy who runs the newsroom). The reason? With a lot of patient coaching from terrific editors such as David Tafler, Paul Nowack, Terry Corcoran and Ron Blunn, I figured out what it takes to engage the CEO.

Here’s what I had pounded into my head every week about catching the attention of CEOs:

* Offer them an advantage. Call it a benefit if you must, but these are competitive people. They prefer solutions that do more than just help them – they want products, services and information that put them ahead of the other guys.

* Keep it relevant. You have to be as focused as they are. As soon as you appear to wander or go off track, CEOs will turn the page, change the channel, or start looking at their watch.

* Be timely. When they need you, they need you now. If you get to them a day late, you've lost the sale.

* Be specific. Don’t just say your solution can boost the bottom line. Explain quickly and exactly what your product or service does and how it will help them.

* Use clear and simple examples. Don’t expect them to connect the dots for you or reach the conclusion you want. Spell it out.

* Use humour sparingly. If they don't find it funny, they’ll think you're wasting their time. And there’s no worse sin than that.

(Click here for my tribute to Ron Blunn, one of my editors at the Times, who passed away in June at the age of 56.)

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