As we head towards a new year and start to plan our thought leadership programs for 2021, we have been taking a temperature check of the subjects most under discussion by C-level executives.
This is not a formal survey in any way, more an anecdotal summary of the conversations our content strategists and analysts are having with C-suite buyers in a number of different sectors across the US, some of the key takeaways from our Customer Buying Index, and my own conversations with sales and marketing experts in our ABM for 2021 webinar series.
But the results are enlightening, nonetheless, and paint a picture that is, on the whole, increasingly optimistic when compared to this time last year.
That may seem surprising given we are still navigating our way through a devastating pandemic, but it seems business leaders have grasped the fact Covid-19 has changed the way we will live and work for good, and are adapting accordingly.
The five subjects that are top of mind for enterprise execs as we head in to 2021 are:
1) Reimaging the future
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many organizations into a period of introspection and offered an unprecedent chance to re-set certain parts of their business.
The question of what comes next is, of course, one that can never be answered with certainty. But it is possible to instead ask the following question: what do we want our company to look like when this is over?
Increasingly, businesses of all sizes are taking this opportunity to examine every area of their organization, instigate long overdue overhauls of process and procedure and accelerate innovation projects.
And to help envision this future, many execs are leaning heavily on tech vendors, asking them to paint the picture of what’s possible.
Our tip for vendors: Approach customers with an offer to co-innovate. Be humble. Don’t claim to have all the answers, but instead ask them to help you outline what they want their business to look like in 2025 or 2030. Then build a roadmap together that will get them to that end point.
Discover more about how to present co-innovation strategies here.
2) Data security
The issue of security has been top of mind for execs for as long as digital transformation projects have been in existence.
But the events of 2020 and the spread of remote work has vastly increased the quantity of digital communications between teams (enterprise video communication platform Zoom, for instance, reported a jump from 10 million daily uses to more than 200 million in the first three months of 2020).
And this increase in the sharing of digital information has created all-the-more tempting targets for hackers and those looking to profit from security blind spots.
Our tip for vendors: Make security the bedrock upon which all conversations about innovation are built – and be ready with evidence to back up your claims. If you can demonstrate a proven track record in cyber security at scale, then that will allow you to drive the conversation to wherever you wish to go next.
Discover how to build value-based content here.
3) Worker wellbeing
Another conversation topic among execs that has been in motion for some time but has been accelerated by the shift to remote working is one around the mental and physical health of their workforce.
Though many organizations have seen productivity levels maintained or even increased by the enforced switch away from the office, there is also a recognition among senior leaders that there are now a new set of stresses being placed on staff.
Workers often feel isolated, complain that the line between work and home life has blurred into non-existence, and will also be dealing with the anxieties that accompany living through such uncertain times.
Execs recognize they have a duty of care here but need help in articulating that to workers and putting the structures in place to back up those words with action.
Our tip to vendors: It’s not enough to make your sales pitch transactional, you must also be able to demonstrate how your product will help improve the wellbeing of your customer’s employees. Employee experience should be one of the main narrative points of your content and, ideally, be backed up by evidence of how a happy workforce can lead to better business outcomes.
Discover how to create account experiences that move people here.
The topic of skills shortages was in the top five talking points among execs in 2019 and the events of this year have not eased that concern.
In fact, a survey by recruitment specialist Manpower published in February 2020 found that 69% of US employers struggled to fill advertised roles.
However, with remote working adding an extra layer of complication to the hiring process, many business leaders are beginning to look inward for the solution.
There is a link to the above point here, too. Yes, there is a benefit to the business in having a more highly skilled workforce, but the worker, too, will be more engaged in their task, will feel valued by their employer and be more satisfied in their work.
Our tip to vendors: Surround your customer’s buying team with content that talks to all parts of the business. Just as you will need to make a financial argument to the CFO, you will need to demonstrate to the CHRO how your solution can improve their workers’ skill base.
Learn more about how to connect with diverse enterprise buying teams here.
Another reimagining for business leaders comes around how to encourage and facilitate collaboration in the world of remote work.
The issue for execs is twofold: firstly, how can teams replicate the innovative environment of physical brainstorm sessions or the efficiency of office processes long in the making; and, secondly, how can workers be encouraged to connect in an equitable manner that is respectful of their colleagues’ time zones, childcare needs, work patterns, etc?
Part of this is about tools – about ensuring workers have access to best-in-class tech that serves to improve on the face-to-face workplace experience – but more so it is about culture and building an organization in which people can communicate with ease and treat each other with respect.
Our tip to vendors: Make the conversation a transformational one about culture first and tech products second. Cultural change is the precursor that all other innovation changes will follow, so lead with that to demonstrate a human side that is missing from a lot of sales and product-based conversations.
Learn how to tell a transformation story here.