Gone are the days of the faceless, nameless CEOs. Today it’s expected that the CEO will not only be the face of their brand, but also at the center of the company’s marketing strategy.
Of course, that’s a tough sell when your CEO doesn’t want to be the center of attention. But, if CEO introverts like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Marissa Meyer have succeeded, then why can’t you?
How have those CEOs overcome being introverts? One reason may be because they became influencer marketers in their respective industries. You can achieve that same level of success in overcoming your introvert-ism by reviewing the modern marketing tactics used by some of the most powerful CEOs around.
“Use yourself. Make a fool of yourself. Otherwise you won’t survive.”
This was the advice that Sir Freddie Laker gave to his protege Richard Branson. And, the charismatic founder of the Virgin Group took that advice to the next level.
Branson put himself “front and centre of the brand – giving Virgin a personality that British Airways didn’t have.” He goes on to write, “Ever since then we’ve been thinking up fun ways to stand out from the crowd and draw the media’s attention to our company. We’ve done everything from breaking world records to pulling competitors’ tails – I can’t even remember how many costumes I’ve worn – and our outlandish adventures have created waves. Despite our size and budget, we’ve consistently made headlines by having fun.”
Instead of spending all of your dollars on marketing your business, create a core set of values that sets you apart and is something that your customers can get behind. Even if that means making a fool out of yourself.
This doesn’t mean that CEOs are literally brawling with people. It means going against what we’ve been told in Public Relations 101 and getting into a grudge match with journalists. That’s what Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is known for doing.
Back when the BBC show Top Gear gave the Tesla Roadster an unflattering review, Musk went on the defensive by suing the BBC for libel. While Musk didn’t win the case, it did help gain awareness for Tesla.
But, that’s not the only time that he’s gone after the media.
In 2013, Musk went after the New Times after the publication claimed that battery in the Model S test car had died during a long drive. In retaliation Musk tweeted “NYTimes article about range in cold is fake,” followed by a tweet containing a link to an article he had written called “When the facts didn’t suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts.”
The reason this strategy has worked for Musk has earned additional media exposure for his brand. He also, as Dan Lyons puts it perfectly on HubSpot, “looks like a proud papa defending his kid. People admire him for sticking up for his product.”
Become a Better Storyteller
When you’re the co-founder and CEO of two of the most exciting and innovative companies currently in existence, then the rest of us should take a moment and listen to what you have to say.
And, that’s exactly why you should watch this 2011 video where Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter and Square, discusses how to become a better storyteller.
The first step, according to Dorsey, is get any ideas out of your idea. Whether you write it, draw it, or code it, getting any idea out of your idea gives you a chance to take a step and look at the idea in a different perspective. From there, you can tinker with the idea or share it with others for feedback.
Once you start writing your ideas down more frequently, you can begin to think about the story you’re trying to tell. Dorsey actually treats this exercise like a play so that he can consider style, substance, and technique.
For example, Dorsey recalls when Steve Jobs came back to Apple. Jobs scrapped all products in development and put-up billboards of the people that Jobs admired with the text “Think different.” By being a stage-driven company, Apple was able to focus “on bringing up the product and making people wear the brand again and how the brand is aligning to this particular feeling and story.
And then, they came out with the iMac and then built iTunes and then the iPod.” Dorsey adds,”They realized, ‘Wait a minute. People are carrying music on their phones now. So, we better build a phone, iPhone.’”
Speaking of Apple, current CEO Tim Cook has broadened the brand’s values to reflect the values of the of it largest target audience – Millennials.
A majority of millennials support brands that place a high weight on society’s interests and supports a good cause. At the same time, only around 41% among all Americans trust the government.
Cook has been adamant that Apple will protect the privacy of its customers and will not turn over devices or information to any federal agency, such as the FBI. His battles over these topics has emotionally connected with his audience.
By doing so, Cook has built trust with this audience who will become the brand’s biggest advocates and supporters.
Hold Yourself Accountable
We live in a time when we expect brands to be transparent and own up to their mistakes and accomplishments. Perhaps that’s why we were so bothered by Martin Winkerton, the former CEO of Volkswagen. When the company was caught rigging pollution control tests, Winkerton simply replied “I did nothing wrong.” Winkerton not only failed to take responsibility, he’s now under investigation because it’s hard to believe that he did, in fact, do nothing wrong.
On the other side you have Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg who took all the blame for the Facebook’s slow embrace of mobile. After holding himself accountable, Zuckerberg “spearheaded a major shift in how the company does business.” And, to add icing on the cake, “mobile ad sales were a key element in Facebook’s latest earnings announcement.”
Customers want to know how you and your brand can enhance their lives. And, there’s no better way to accomplish this than by educating them.
One of the easiest ways to do this is by writing or getting interviewed by writers. A lot.
Whether it’s a blog, writing guest posts, authoring a book, or getting interviewed, writing or speaking to a journalist is a great way to highlight your skills, experience, and to share advice. That’s why you see Richard Branson, Tony Hsieh (Zappos), Anand Mahindra (Mahindra), Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn), and myself publishing online content or being interviewed. We’re not just telling our customers the latest company update, we’re providing priceless information that they can use in either their personal or professional lives.
Other ways that you can educate your customers is by speaking at industry events, hosting a podcast or webinar, and teaching classes or workshops online or at local community college.
Build a Community Through Social Media
Did you know that 61% of CEOs on the Fortune 500 list have no social media presence? That’s a problem when more than two billion people have some sort of social media account.
Social media is more than just broadcasting the latest news involving your organization or sharing your values. It’s also one of the most effective ways in building a community around you and your brand.
For example, Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, writes in Fast Company that he uses social media to talk to his customers in real-time.
“On a typical morning, I see plenty of raw, unfiltered commentary from users on what we’re doing right and, of course, what we’re doing wrong: requests for new features, complaints about the odd bug, product support questions, even the occasional high-five for a job well done.”
Holmes added that this “may not sound earth-shattering,” it still gives CEOs a direct pipeline into what their customers are thinking and doing—in real time, with no spin from publicists or middle managers.
Holmes also uses John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, as an example of a CEO who listens to the pain points of their customers on channel likes Twitter. “In fewer than 140 characters,” Holmes writes, Legere shows “customers that someone real was at the helm of the company and looking out for their interests.”
Holmes continues by saying that CEOs can use social media to share their excitement regarding a product launch, proves authority, and attract top-level talent.
Host Events or Conferences
During the early days of Box an investor reportedly told CEO Aaron Levie “You’re not doing enterprise marketing unless you do an event.” That’s why Anthony Kennada, CEO of Gainsight, adds “It’s never too early to build a conference.”
When Gainsight was just starting out, the company launched Pulse, a customer success industry conference. The event has become a major success for the company that expects over 5,000 attendees, 150 plus speakers, and more than 250 speakers during the course of four-days.
Hosting events or conferences, is a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and network with like-minded individuals in your industry.
Partake in Crazy Stunts
As Business Insider explains perfectly, Marc Benioff, co-founder and CEO of Salesforce.com, “is famous for coming up with stunts that journalists can’t resist writing about.” In fact, “Benioff is infamous for turning others’ events into stunts that brings the spotlight back on him and his company.”
These type of students, or guerrilla marketing tactics include;
- Hiring fake protesters after the launch of Salesforce during a conference hosted by the company’s rival at the time Siebel Systems. Siebel actually called the police and Salesforce got free media attention.
- During another Siebel conference, this time in France, Benioff rented each and every airport taxi. When conference attendees entered the cab, they heard a 45-minutes Salesforce pitch.
- When Microsoft tried a guerilla marketing tactic against Salesforce, which included a man carrying the slogan that said “I didn’t get forced.” During Benioff’s keynote, he brought the man out and convinced him to switch to Salesforce.
- After Benioff somehow became a keynote speaker at rival’s Oracle Openworld conference in 2011, his time was bumped to later in the week. Instead, Benioff held his speech at a nearby restaurant, which resulted in most of the journalists never attending the Oracle conference.
- He once did a standup routine in a German accent. This lampoon of SAP executive Peter Graf wasn’t the best of ideas, especially in Germany, but it became a favorite online moment.
Use common sense before launching a guerrilla marketing campaign. You don’t want the stunt to backfire on you. However, when done correctly, getting a little weird and gutsy definitely sets your brand apart, gives you free publicity, and connects with your audience.
What marketing techniques have you noticed that modern CEOs are using?