Executive engagement is, at its simplest, about having conversations and building relationships with your most senior clients and prospects. At its heart lies a belief that sustainable business success comes from understanding your customers and collaborating with them to deliver value for you both.
Developing an executive engagement strategy requires long-term thinking and careful planning, particularly with regards to where you focus resources. In my book – Executive Engagement Strategies; how to have conversations and develop relationships that build B2B business – I describe this process in detail. To get you thinking, here’s a seven-step plan:
1. Set your objectives
Think about your objectives in three categories: building your organisation’s reputation, strengthening its reputation with customers and influencers, and growing revenues. Define what you want to achieve and over what timeframe, then decide how you will know if you’ve been successful.
2. Select your executives
Set criteria for the executives you want to engage with your programme. They may be your most important customers, or prospects and influencers. Based on your headcount and available budget, you may need to define a ‘cut-off’ point below which executives wouldn’t qualify and perhaps create a tiered programme with different levels of investment in each tier (think frequent flyer benefits!)
3. Understand their motivations
Engagement strategies work best when they are built on a deep understanding of the executives involved, rather than on what your company wants to achieve. Developing a basic profile of their role, priorities, and interests is a good place to start. Take care to explore which other programmes they participate in – especially those of your competitors – and what they get from each one.
4. Decide your content and themes
The real question here is not what you want to say, but what your executives want to hear. Senior executives value real thought leadership which educates them around the challenges they are facing in the short, medium and long-term – not just blue sky thinking. They also relate well to case studies that illustrate how solutions might work for them. You will need a compelling value proposition for your programme so that they choose to spend their precious time with you.
5. Design your main activities and channels
There are three main ways to engage. Peer networks are popular; from online communities to large conferences, these are a good way to engage all of the executives that are important to you. Smaller group activities, such as advisory boards, seminars and innovation workshops, are a great way to facilitate discussion and share ideas, delivering additional value for executives in the higher tiers of your programme. Finally, engaging individually, whether through contract governance meetings or personalised briefing sessions, are the best way to build relationships executive to executive. Whatever the activity, ensure executives feel their time has been well spent, otherwise you won’t be seeing them again!
6. Select, brief and train your team
There is a wide range of people who can play a role in your executive engagement programme. Identify them early and involve them from the start. Executives prefer to meet with peers so involve your own executives and the team immediately below them. PAs and EAs can be hugely helpful here. Your subject matter experts will play a crucial role – they are valued for their insights – and you’re likely to need support from your marketing team, for example to host events or share thought leadership. Keep your sales and account teams in the loop, but don’t try to sell within the programme.
7. Create your success metrics and dashboard
There are a range of metrics you can use to measure the success of your programme. Aim to pull your results onto a single dashboard to track and report your success, demonstrating outcome metrics that matter to your own executives and deliver against your agreed programme objectives.
Read more about setting up a successful executive engagement programme in Executive Engagement Strategies; how to have conversations and develop relationships that build B2B business, by Bev Burgess and available from Kogan Page here (https://www.koganpage.com/product/executive-engagement-strategies-9781789661927)