Oct 24, 2023

Expertise-Based Positioning: How to Create Content to Engage the C-Suite

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer


In competitive markets, how can you use expertise-based positioning to help you create content that engages your audience? 

In this podcast, we catch up with Rin Hamburgh, a former journalist and experienced copywriter, to discuss research that her agency has conducted into what the C-suite reads. 

So, if you’re someone who wants to create content to engage the C-suite or you want to create an expertise-based marketing strategy that can help you differentiate your business, then stick around because we cover everything you need to know.

Today’s Guest

Who they are: Rin Hamburgh is the founder and director of RH&Co.

A bit of background: Rin is a former journalist turned copywriter and now leads RH&Co, a strategic brand copywriting agency that she founded in 2016 and is based in Bristol. They specialise in working with expert-led businesses to create hard-hitting thought leadership content that builds brand awareness and authority and allows them to lead the conversation.

Where you can find Rin:

Find out more and connect with Rin here

Prefer Video? Watch a full video of the podcast here…

What is expertise-based positioning?

There are many ways to position a brand in the market. And for B2B technology companies today, it’s nearly impossible to compete on features. Sure, you may be fortunate enough to create a category or be able to effectively use narrative design, but those success stories are for the lucky few. So what’s the answer?

Expertise-based positioning.

Expertise-based positioning is a strategy in which a company differentiates itself and establishes a strong presence in the marketplace by emphasising its in-depth knowledge, mastery, and proficiency in specific areas, disciplines, or subjects relevant to its solutions or services. But before you dive into creating a strategy like this, let’s discuss the benefits. 

What’s the benefit of expertise-based positioning?

There are a number of benefits to your business when using expertise to position it. Here are two key benefits:

  1. Pricing: Expertise serves as a foundation for trust-building, fosters customer loyalty, and empowers you to command premium prices.
  2. Hard to emulate: it’s very hard for companies to fake expertise, and even harder for companies to translate that expertise into an effective marketing strategy. 

Further Reading: Expertise: what is it and how do buyers perceive it

Why is marketing to the C-suite so important and difficult?

So we’ve discussed what expertise-based positioning is and the benefits of deploying a marketing strategy around it. But how can we use this to engage people in the C-Suite, e.g., CEO’s, CFO’s, CMO’s, etc.? First of all, let’s discuss why marketing to the C-suite is so important and difficult. 

Marketing to the C-suite is crucial because these individuals have the authority to make important purchasing decisions. They possess vast industry knowledge and high expectations for the products and services they invest in. However, reaching the C-suite can be challenging due to their busy schedules and limited time for content consumption.

In the research that RH&Co conducted, they found that, ‘There is no single channel that will guarantee you an audience with a CxO. You’ll need to have a presence on social media, think carefully about SEO, work at your PR, and build your networks. Content always needs to be produced strategically and this is even more important when you’re trying to get in front of the C-suite.’

What expert research tells us about marketing to the C-suite

It’s easy to have preconceived ideas about persona’s. And we all understand the importance of understanding your audience before marketing to them.

So what does research tell us about marketing to the C-suite?

The C-suite are the agenda setters

Rin goes on to explain that people in the C-suite rarely get involved in the details. ‘Because, actually, at that level, you are not doing the work as such; you are facilitating and overseeing it.’

So they’re not looking for what HR system is best, as an example, but are more interested in supporting their team to outwork company objectives. 

The C-suite are horizon scanners

The second insight is that the C-suite are horizon setters. They are very much consuming content to understand what might be happening in the future. 

“I read to make sense of the broader picture, anticipate the future, see what trends are emerging in our sector and beyond. Innovation, ideas and insights that we can draw into our organisation from other places – those are the things that I focus on.” – Dan Wood, Chief People Officer at UWE

How does this research relate to what content to produce?

Ok, so we have research that points to people in C-suite being agenda setters and horizon scanners, but how does that relate to the type of content you should be producing?

When asked in the survey why they would read content, the two main reasons were that they wanted to get an overview of a subject they didn’t know much about (69%) and to gauge an industry view (59%).

graph showing why C-Suite people read business marketing content

And secondly, to help keep the C-suite engaged with your content, you should include original research, opinions, and trends or predictions. 

graph showing what keeps c-suite people engaged with content

What steps you can take to create engaging content for the C-suite

As an expert brand, here are some steps you can take to ensure your expert-led content and marketing strategy work.

  1. Understand what interests them: Conduct thorough research to gain insights into what interests them. This will help you tailor your content to address their specific needs. When it comes to understanding what interests the C-suite, it’s important to dig deep. Take the time to conduct in-depth interviews with executives, attend industry conferences, tap into niche social media groups, and stay up-to-date with the latest trends and challenges in their field. By doing so, you’ll be able to identify the key areas of interest or pain points that keep them up at night and create content that directly addresses them.
  1. Showcase your expertise: Demonstrate your industry knowledge and expertise through your content. Share valuable insights, case studies, and predictions that highlight your understanding of certain subjects.
  1. Deliver concise and actionable content: The C-suite appreciates content that is concise and provides actionable takeaways. Simplify complex concepts and present information in a clear and compelling manner.

“It might not be a surprise to hear that the number one bugbear for CxOs is content that’s too complex or poorly explained (56%). What’s worth noting is that they are least likely to be put off by content that is ‘too basic / simplistic’ (22%).”

Rin Hamburgh
  1. Use different content formats: Engage the C-suite by utilising a variety of content formats, such as articles, whitepapers, videos, and infographics. This provides them with options to consume information based on their preferences and time constraints. Not all executives have the same preferences when it comes to consuming content. Some may prefer reading articles, while others may prefer watching videos or looking at infographics. 
  1. Establish thought leadership: Position yourself as a thought leader in your industry by sharing original research, insights, and opinions. This will help you build credibility and gain the trust of senior executives.

How should we think about ROI when creating content for senior executives?

Of course, we wouldn’t be commercially focused if we didn’t talk about return on investment.  

And should we even be thinking about MQLs and SQLs when following expert-based marketing?

During the podcast, Rin emphasises that measuring the success of brand building can be challenging due to its multifaceted nature. It’s crucial to define the specific metrics that align with your business goals rather than relying on vanity metrics like website hits. Engagement metrics, such as the seniority level of the audience viewing your content on LinkedIn, can be more insightful. Customising your metrics to match your objectives along the customer journey is essential. 

Also, being realistic about timescales is vital, as brand building and content marketing focus on long-term reputation and engagement rather than immediate sales.

A few other highlights to look out for in this episode:

  1. What channels Rin suggests using to distribute your content
  2. What stops the C-suite engaging with content?
  3. What Rin suggest you should look for if you’re hiring a B2B content marketer