24 June 2021
Senior customers have oodles of valuable information inside their heads. The trick is finding the means to access it. A while ago we devised a way of engaging C-level executives in discussions around industry and technology topics. Offering intellectual gains in exchange for their scholarly inputs, it aims to create and cement long-lasting relationships. Based largely around workshops and events, the idea lost momentum when COVID-19 appeared on the scene. With the arrival of the next normal in all but name, now might be the time to kick-start a similar programme in your company.
Rolling events calendar
Occupying the fertile space between marketing and PR, the C-level Exchange is intended to create and leverage senior relationships between suppliers and their client companies. In short, it sets out to offer an environment in which board members and direct reports can share and generate ideas and best practices.
Using physical and virtual media to simulate the hybrid business world in which we now live and work, C-level Exchange events will stimulate industry-agnostic interactive discussions between peers from different organisations. The programme will be run intra-regionally to avoid timezone problems, with English as the lingua franca. Main events will be two-monthly (i.e., six per annum) with topic areas published in a rolling four-month calendar.
Assuring a worthwhile experience
The recruitment process will commence with an emailed C-level Exchange communication to supplier’s senior managers, marketing, and salespeople. Explaining objectives, recruitment processes, media, and intended outputs, it will invite recipients to suggest C-level Exchange candidates. A marketing team will qualify the candidates and reach out – directly or through the nominator as appropriate – to those who meet set criteria.
Primarily, entry qualification would be for the member to have a CxO job title in a multinational organisation. To ensure in-depth coverage of up-to-the-minute topics, while ensuring the programme’s manageability, we estimate the maximum number of active members should be around 30 per region.
Following the initial call to action, ongoing programme recruitment will use channel entry points like:
- Referrals from existing C-level Exchange members
- Nominations from client partners
- Existing senior manager relationships
- People identified by the customer reference programme
Adequate administrative resources will be allocated as necessary, probably using an existing marketing team with the know-how to make the programme a worthwhile experience.
Ensuring an impartial mindset
In setting a rolling agenda for C-level Exchange sessions, care must be taken to avoid blatant product and service topics i.e., one must ensure a business strategy-led approach where a particular technology solution may or may not be the answer to a challenge posed. That means principal speakers and facilitators should first and foremost be business experts with analytical skills (universities tend to be good sources).
Sample topical areas for consideration might include:
- International supply chain and logistics
- Government and/or healthcare EX and CX
- Worldwide digital workspace
- Migration to colocation infrastructures
- Global market entry and growth
To an extent, the topic area dictates the industry and job function of desired invitees, which is why a C-level Exchange membership of 30 or more would help fill sessions with like-minded people.
To ensure an impartial mindset, for each C-level Exchange session an introduction from a supplier’s CxO should set the scene (ghost-written by the marketing team). An external guest speaker should be introduced to provide an objective analysis of the business scenario(s) under consideration. Also, a moderator should be engaged to run the session.
Multiple member benefits
Among many advantages of C-level Exchange membership, the following would be sent post-event to each person taking part:
- List of participants and their contact details.
- Transcription of the external guest speaker’s presentation, with slide deck and notes.
- A high-level, analyst-style paper recording the session discussions, conclusions reached, and recommendations and actions agreed.
- Selected video soundbites (implied calls to action).
A news release (based on the analyst-style paper) along with a blog for use on the supplier’s company website should also be produced.
The C-level Exchange would have a secondary purpose in forming a captive audience for tightly focused surveys to be used as inputs for other marketing initiatives. Prizes (e.g., most engaging contributor, greatest technology advance, most incisive input, and so on) could be awarded at an annual ceremony. The C-level Exchange may also be linked to similar programmes such as supplier/executive peering and PIICTS campaigns. Check out our blog on incentives here.
Getting it off the ground
Initially largely virtual to take account of social distancing, live events will quickly be introduced as the situation improves. While confidentiality and security must be considered, it would be impractical to introduce non-disclosure agreements. Having said that, closed sessions could be arranged to deal with ultra-sensitive topic areas.
In terms of budgets, it’s assumed that existing internal resources would be leveraged to run the programme, with advice from GoRefCo. Per-session expenses would largely initially be hiring fees for external contributors with, later, venue, catering, and perhaps tangible collateral costs for physical events. A pilot in the supplier’s HQ region using tame customers and supplier executives could be used as a proof of concept.