The role of a CEO can vary greatly depending on the size of the company.
In a very small organization, the CEO might also be the head of marketing or the head of sales. Or both. At most SMBs, though, CEOs serve as the visionary director of the company, holding court with other company leaders to ensure the long-term goals of the company are met.
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However, every company — and every CEO — is different, so any generalization is tricky.
For companies that have embraced They Ask, You Answer and are seeing great success with it, the CEO has a lot to do to ensure that success continues. This means leading in a way that makes employees feel supported, valued, and inspired, but not micromanaged or untrusted.
What CEOs need to do to support They Ask, You Answer success
There are many potential missteps that can sabotage a content marketing effort from within.
Here’s how CEOs can best support a thriving They Ask, You Answer initiative at their company.
1. Provide the resources
First and foremost, a CEO needs to make sure the necessary resources are allocated to the They Ask, You Answer initiative. Trying to nickel and dime your way through any major marketing initiative will waste your money, not save it.
They Ask, You Answer works when the proper resources are devoted to it. That means bringing the right team on board — a content manager and videographer — but it also means paying for the software and other tools necessary. If you’re flinching at your yearly HubSpot costs or not giving your videographer the tools needed to be successful, then you are undercutting the whole enterprise.
Businesses show what’s important to them in their budget. Make sure you’re clear about priorities by providing your team with what they need.
Your content manager needs freedom to do their job well. If you’ve hired and onboarded this person, you’ll also need to trust them to run your content marketing initiative.
All too often, I see companies struggling to publish content because their approval process is overly complex. This results in a bottleneck that prevents content from getting out the door. An article sits on someone’s virtual desk and then things start to pile up.
Connected to that is a broader need: CEOs must advocate to get marketing a seat at the table. We know that marketing plays an increasingly large part of the traditional sales process. Buyers are making more and more of their purchase decisions from what they read on company websites — be that information, reviews, comparisons, or expert information.
Rather than being seen as an expense, marketing needs to be seen as part of the revenue team that keeps a company thriving and growing.
This recognition starts at the highest level. Start by asking yourself this question: Is the head of marketing held in equal standing as the head of sales?
A CEO is the public face of a company, and what you say and do matters. How can you show the importance of your They Ask, You Answer initiative?
Are you willing to be a subject matter expert interviewed by your content manager?
Are you willing to be on camera?
Are you willing to write for the website (if that’s something you expect team members to do)?
Demonstrating the importance of marketing will help sustain your They Ask, You Answer efforts for the long haul.
4. Make sure the sales team is actively engaged in the content process
Similarly, it may be up to the CEO to clearly set the tone for company engagement with this marketing initiative. They Ask, You Answer is inherently about answering the questions the sales team hears from buyers. Without buy-in from the sales team, a content manager will be hindered from getting and answering these questions.
The CEO must impress upon the sales leader that the relationship between marketing and sales is critical. Start by openly stating this fact in meetings so that everyone is clear. Then follow up with your sales leaders to make sure it’s actually happening.
If you’re a HubSpot user, you have access to unbelievable amounts of data about your website. You can see who is visiting your site, what pages they read, how often they return, and where they dwell.
But you have to know where to look.
If you need help finding this information, talk to your marketing team. Then, make a point to check in periodically on your own to see what you can learn.
Content creation can sometimes feel like thankless work. A content manager might toil over a piece of content that initially doesn’t attract much fanfare. But maybe in nine months, that same piece of content has become a top search result that drives great traffic to your site. Maybe that content has helped your sales team close key deals.
When these small wins get noticed and celebrated by top leadership, marketers feel validated and valued.
As a CEO, keep your eyes out for content marketing successes you can celebrate. You’ll feel connected — and you’ll feel proud of your employees.
They Ask, You Answer is a customer-centric business model that is made stronger by tangible support from the top. Whenever I meet with business leaders, I offer the same simple advice: Talk to customers. Directly.
It could just be a few phone calls each month to customers who have already completed their purchases. Or, it could be in a more formal focus group-type setting, but I prefer the former.
There’s so much value you can get from these conversations. This is a great time to ask if they felt like their questions were answered. If they found the information they needed on your website. If they felt educated and supported during the sales process. Prompt them with questions, then just listen.
The fact is, you can’t really get the full picture of They Ask, You Answer from inside your company. To truly check in on your customer-first initiatives, talk to the customers themselves. They’ll give you a perspective you can’t get anywhere else.
Be clear to your team: Marketing is a priority
Implementing They Ask, You Answer means accepting the reality that marketing is playing a bigger and bigger role in buying decisions. You will no longer see marketing as an expense when you acknowledge that it has a hand in bringing in the revenue your business needs.
How can you, as CEO, show your support for marketing? In addition to what’s listed above, take the time to go to a marketing conference. (This is made even easier by the pandemic. Many great conferences and events are virtual.) Take the time to sit in on a marketing meeting — and make sure you celebrate content wins.