The Four Myths of Marketing to the C-Suite

There is no magic bullet to attract C-Suite attention and engagement. The process begins with a deep dive using a discovery and assessment process that will form the basis for all future marketing activities. While no two individuals are alike, studies have shown that there are commonalities among this elite group of executives. We will discuss four commonly misheld beliefs and dispel those myths once and for all.


Bill Arnold

1/23/20245 min read

C-Suite Myths
C-Suite Myths

Marketing to the C-suite requires a deep understanding of their motivations and mindset. It is crucial to debunk four common myths surrounding this approach. We discussed some of this in a previous article, The Psychology of the C-suite: Unlocking Effective Marketing Strategies.

While no two individuals are alike, studies have shown that there are commonalities among this elite group of executives. We will discuss four commonly misheld beliefs and dispel those myths once and for all.

Myth #1 The C-Suite Does Not Use Social Media - All of us are socially connected in the digital realm and search for answers to nearly all of our questions online. The executives who sit in the C-Suite are no different. When it was first reported back in 2014 that only 68 percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs have a social presence and 74 percent of that group are only found on LinkedIn ( the marketing world wrote off using digital marketing to reach anyone in the C-Suite.

 Well, we got it wrong. First, the Fortune 500 list is a small subset of CEOs and much smaller when you are looking to reach CXOs of other titles. Unfortunately, like all statistics, they are often accurate for a moment in time but relied upon for years.

 Let’s just look at the CEO title. When it comes to social media, there’s been a remarkable evolution in the past five years: a study by Weber Shandwick found that today, 80% of the CEOs who run the largest 50 companies are actively engaged online and on social media. This trend is rapidly increasing, as the numbers have doubled since 2010. On top of that, as younger CEOs replace the more tenured CEOs, these numbers will continue to grow. (Weber Shandwick).

Practical Application - Establish a comprehensive social media plan designed to promote themes that would be of interest to the C-Suite. Ideally, it would drive traffic to your blog or to a landing page to secure gated content. This process will increase credibility and allow the CEO to connect the dots for themselves.

MYTH #2: Digital Marketing  Does Not Work For the C-Suite - “Selling to the C-Suite” by Nicholas A.C. Read and Dr. Stephen J. Bistritz is based on data collected from interviews with 527 executives. The authors found that C-Suite executives are increasingly using the internet to inform their views by searching for solutions to business problems that they’re confronted with (Selling to the C-Suite).

 When we talk about digital marketing being effective for reaching the C-Suite, we are not referring to pay-per-click ads or disruptive marketing like pop-up ads. Nobody particularly likes these and often have a negative impact on C-suite executives.

Instead, we are referring to the use of comprehensive marketing programs that are designed around a combination of inbound marketing, content marketing, earned media, and outbound marketing. All four components are vital aspects in the quest to capture the attention of the C-Suite and convert that attention into active engagement.

Inbound marketing is more of a philosophy than a specific marketing tactic. Much has changed about inbound marketing since Brian Halligan (The Globe and Mail) of HubSpot first coined the phrase “Inbound Marketing” in 2005. It takes better content, demand generation, and nurturing than ever before. What has remained the same is that it’s about attraction by excellence, as well as by thought leadership expressed and shared online.

As a marketer, you need to attract CXOs to your website with content that is relevant to their concerns and interests and published in the channels where they spend time. Once leads have been engaged, you need to implement lead nurturing and management protocols to further educate the CXO as his needs for information evolve from awareness to consideration to engagement through the Buyer’s Journey.

When it’s superbly written, designed, and produced, content marketing can be a useful component of an inbound marketing campaign. When content is perceived as high-value by your buyer personas, it stimulates engagement and sharing. In the context of marketing to the C-Suite, this requires you to regularly share new content that is relevant to the CXO’s pain points and concerns throughout your website’s ecosystem. This ecosystem includes your website, blog, and all social channels. Publishing new, relevant content often not only reinforces your position as a thought leader to the CXO, but also helps drive organic traffic as your site’s search engine ranking improves.

 The content you produce and distribute via your website, blog, and company/staff social media profiles is known as owned media. Earned media, or Public and Analyst Relations, refers to gaining exposure for your brand by establishing yourself as a thought leader with the intention of having highly targeted television, digital, trades and national business media platforms interview your company stakeholders or publish your original content. Earned media also refers to content being shared on social media by brand advocates and industry influencers, or information presented by in-house experts present at national events.

 Outbound marketing plays a part as well and occurs when you pay to reach buyer personas in channels where they “hang out” but might not otherwise find your brand presence. Particularly at the early stages of brand awareness, this type of paid media is critical in the search for new buyers.

Companies that are successful in rapidly accelerating sales online use all three channels—owned, earned, and paid—to gain traction. Effective outbound marketing ensures that the right message hits the right leads at the optimal moment.

 A comprehensive marketing program is designed to identify and craft each aspect of the program to the specifics that each C-Suite persona needs to see at each stage of their Buyer’s Journey. By continuously telling your story, the lead builds up a positive impression and understanding of your brand and its value to them and their organization.

MYTH #3: C -SUITE Is Only Comprised of Old Men - While many Fortune 500 Companies boards are still comprised of older men, this is changing in many sectors. With Baby Boomers retiring and companies finding stronger profits where there is diversity on the board (Catalyst), “times they are changing.” Even amongst Fortune 100 companies, 72% of the CEOs have held their position for less than 5 years.

 For marketers, this presents an opportunity to tailor content and communications that resonate with the ever-changing composition. This means that Content Distribution methods that were deemed less reliable with old baby boomers have now become relevant and effective with the newly compiled C-Suite.

The need to continuously review who your buyer personas are and what will motivate them is never done. The process of interviewing stakeholders, new clients, and lost opportunities should continue each and every quarter so that the content and tactics being used are always relevant.

You need to understand exactly what information each CXO needs to see at each stage of the Buyer’s Journey. If you understand their pain points, concerns, interests, and where they go for information, you can set the stage for them to see you as a strategic partner.

 Explore and test new marketing techniques and channels. Let the metrics for key performance indicators drive your marketing program.

MYTH #4: The C-suite is the Same as Everyone Else -  Sure, the C-suite is comprised of people, but to assume that these executives have the same motivations, and move through the decision-making process as “everyone else” is a surefire way to derail even the best-intentioned marketing plans. We dispelled this myth in our blog, The Psychology of the C-suite: Unlocking Effective Marketing Strategies.

 There is a psychology in dealing with the C-Suite that is not encountered in other levels of management. That’s because the C-Suite is comprised of a different breed of people - and you need to understand what makes these people tick before you can implement a strategy for engaging them.


There is no magic bullet to attract C-Suite attention and engagement. The process begins with a deep dive using a discovery and assessment process that will form the basis for all future marketing activities.

When you implement a Comprehensive Marketing program it should contain ALL the necessary elements to achieve what your client describes as success. You also need to practice diligence and patience. This is all worth it: the benefits derived from gaining the trust and engagement of the C-Suite can result in a successful and profitable long-term relationship.