Virtual Marketing Benefits for the CEO

Almost every company has a web site these days. 

But, are you using the internet to market more effectively? 

The internet has allowed marketers to promote their value propositions and talk directly to customers in ways never before possible. And, we constantly hear that this way of one-to-one marketing has fostered more customer centric strategies.

However, from what I see not every CEO has adopted a completely  proactive approach to dealing with customers using the internet. Many have just taken their literature and posted it on their web sites with some forms for interested customers to fill out and e mail to the company. Others have gone one step further and have set up other forms to allow for ordering off of the their web sites.

The internet offers many more wonderful ways to promote your business more effectively than traditional methods of the past. It certainly allows you to cast a much wider global net and directly motivate more customers, if you use it properly.

Some of the more obvious benefits of marketing via the internet are:

Professionally done product presentations

One of the best things the internet provides is the ability to create professionally done product presentations and demonstrations. One of the things that used to bug me as a CEO was the way in which salesmen would present our products to prospective customers. After some sales calls I would ask "whose product were you selling"VbCrLf?

Depending upon the experience, education and personality of the salesman each would make a different presentation. If we were selling a product that required technical knowledge and experience, it was even worse.

Now with the internet you may not even need a sales force any more because everything that any customer needs to know should be available in a standard professional format with graphically sophisticated demonstrations of how to use the product, as well as highlighting its benefits and advantages. This can be supplemented with online availability of a company expert to talk to or FAQ's.

Selling today can be conducted via phone with access to the internet. You can show customers where anything that they need to know can be found on your web site and you can take them through demonstrations over the phone referring to your site on their screen.

Webinars further enhance this process of continuous customer education about your value proposition.

Broadcast product updates and promotions

Another beautiful aspect of online marketing is that you can broadcast updates to your product offerings to your e list of customers. In addition you can broadcast promotions, sales and other incentives. This ability to motivate customers and keep them directly aware of new product developments instantly is a powerful tool.

Historically, you would hope that customers would see your advertisements, or react to a snail mail promotion, or see something new in your store. This was a haphazard, catch as catch can approach, at best. Now you can be assured that every customer on your e customer file receives information about new developments.

Share success/application story's

Customer success story's sell product "" it's a know fact. Now you have the ability to share these success story's over the internet with the confidence that all of your good customers will see it! Business is about solving problems for customers.

Customer profiling/market research

Every time you have a transaction with a customer it is a great opportunity to capture another piece of their DNA as a consumer. Over time the bits and pieces of these transactions create a mosaic of individual customer types and their preferences and requirements.

In addition, now that you can establish a one-to-one relationship with customers you have another wonderful opportunity to ask them how you can continue to help them with their individual requirements or solve problems that they have. These solutions for individual customers usually become very saleable enhancements for other customers.

This is about customer relationship marketing "" CRM. The goal should be to use all of the tools now available to you via the internet to collect invaluable information about customers so that as I have said in other articles "" you can delight them.

I hope these few practical examples motivate you to explore how you can take advantage of the internet to market your value proposition more effectively, if you are not already doing so.

If you would like to start a dialogue on internet marketing "" let me know. 

Just think about how you have been motivated via internet promotions.

An entrepreneur himself, Bob has spent most of his career involved with starting, growing and selling businesses. Having held managerial positions with IBM, Pfizer and Exxon, he draws upon extensive organizational experience with large and small companies in advising CEOs of growing firms. He is available online to answer questions from Chief Executive readers, as well as offer workshops, tips, books to read and a monthly online column about common issues facing CEOs of growing firms. Bob has been featured in USA TODAY for his work with Inc 500 firms and is associated with NYU's Stern Graduate School of business in their Center for Entrepreneurial Studies where he is a Venture Mentor, Marketing Strategist and Business Plan Reviewer.

He is the author of GUIDEBOOK TO PLANNING - A Common Sense Approach to Building Business Plans for Growing Firms, which has recently been reprinted. He is a past contributor to Chief Executive and one of his articles was featured in The Best of Chief Executive.  Email Bob at: [email protected]

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Chief Executive has a high concentration of readers involved in financial/corporate services, human resources/staffing, sales & marketing, computer technology, and insurance purchase decisions, approving or authorizing any purchase decisions, value of any purchase decisions = $100,000+. They are senior top management working for corporations at the headquarters, serving on any company's board of directors, with primary job function in administration and/or finance.

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Global Leaders of Tomorrow

A new generation of business leaders are asserting their capabilities and determination around the world. They comprise the post-millennial vanguard forging our global economy. Complementing and supplanting the European dominated hierarchies of the post-World War II era, they include Asian and Latino leaders. Taking advantage of leaps in technology and the homogenization of culture, they are borderless. They may be entrepreneurs, ambitious scions of established family enterprises or executives of multinational corporations, but they're all enabled by the spread of free-market capitalism. Many are making their mark in high-tech and emerging sectors, while others are blazing new trails in traditional staples of industry. They tend to be young, with universal sensibilities. Despite the increasing redistribution of American business might to the rest of the world, many have important ties to the U.S. It would be impossible to put together any kind of objective list of these new leaders. Even empirical measures such as net worth-if they could be known-prove simplistic, because energy, ideas and potential are the most important currencies in this arena.  

Yet Chief Executive has identified a dozen individuals from around the world who clearly exemplify the new generation, their backgrounds, their attitudes- and their possibilities. 

Alberto Arebalos - Google

Representing one of the world's most dominant and dynamic new brands should be a piece of sopaipilla for Arebalos after dodging death threats as a journalist. But the 45-year-old director of communications and public affairs for Google in Latin America has the crucial task of serving as the face of Google in one of its fastestgrowing markets.

Arebalos has mettle on his CV. As a Reuters reporter, the Buenos Aires native specialized in danger, covering the Medellin drug cartel in Colombia and the messy rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. By 1997, he was its youngest regional editor, based in Miami. Cisco recruited him in 2000 to head Latin American public affairs.

He jumped to Google last fall, where one of his most challenging tasks is to help open up a corporate culture that has tended toward the secretive-even though its success is built on the Internet. Google "is built on goodwill, and we could lose it in a moment," Arabalos says. "This is a company that touches practically everyone's life nearly every day."

Arebalos looks up to John Chambers, CEO of Cisco. "He's an excellent leader." When he's not traveling, he tinkers with new devices to enhance his hobbies of listening to music and watching movies. 

Shouvik Bhattacharya Adea

At 38, Adea CEO Bhattacharya has already crisscrossed the world in executive and top IT consulting posts. Now he is making Adea a rapidly growing force in the accelerating global IT-consulting industry, with revenues of $75 million and a staff of more than 1,000 landing and fulfilling contracts on three continents.

The Bangladesh native leapt onto the fast track at Tata, the highly successful India-based conglomerate. Then he took advantage of a U.S. fellowship and joined McKinsey, then Booz Allen. Adea, a Dallas-based company started by an Indian entrepreneur, was a burgeoning client, but then crumpled a few years ago after losing its primary customer. Fresh from a Sloan Fellowship at MIT, Bhattacharya accepted the Adea board's invitation to become CEO. Bhattacharya has put Adea on an upward trajectory by courting former clients, recruiting new ones in retailing and health care, and opening an office in China. "Our kind of services are becoming important to mid-market companies all over," he says, "so that's where we're penetrating-and that's behind our growth."

Bhattacharya's U.S. ties include a Nebraska-born physician wife. So he often surprises American business colleagues with his knowledge of college football, his cowboy hat and guitar, and performances of Garth Brooks songs. 

Constantino de Oliveira - GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes

Son of a bustransport magnate, de Oliveira (who goes by "Junior") is the billionaire Freddie Laker of Brazil. In 2001, he launched low-cost GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes ("Intelligent Airlines") as its CEO and leapfrogged it past veterans such as American and Iberiato to the nation's No. 2 carrier. About 10 percent of its passengers are flying for the first time, using a new key link to the continent's economic centers. After dropping out of college to help manage the family company, de Oliveira saw an opportunity to convert Brazil's heavy long-haul bus traffic into budget airline passengers. So he purchased fuel-efficient, nextgeneration Boeing aircraft; pioneered a system for Internet ticketing that has become the airline's operational linchpin; and motivated his workforce with one of the country's first profit-sharing plans.

The Sao Paulo-based company went public in 2004, providing de Oliveira with more capital for expansion. South American destinations have expanded to 60. Last year, GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes acquired and integrated venerable Varig (VRG Linhas Aereas). Varig recently added five European destinations and planned to launch flights to New York and Miami this year.

Perhaps as a function of growing up with three brothers, the 39-yearold de Oliveira says he's "a man of few words. I prefer to hear a lot and to lead people, converging our energies on the same point."

Michael Hoffmann - Hewlett-Packard

At 46, Hoffman is an HP lifer, but that doesn't mean he takes his job or his company for granted. In fact, the dedication he demonstrated to corporate goals and values since joining HP out of college 20 years ago helped Hoffman climb the ranks to the unique position he enjoys today as the com pany's only senior vice president not based in the U.S.

The supplies, image and printing operation Hoffmann runs is crucial to growth because he's in charge of the high-margin products that keep HP's millions of installed printers churning out billions of pages worldwide.

A member of the fifth generation of merchant families on both sides, Hoffmann leveraged his sales acumen and dedication to HP into a career-long blitz through many corporate functions and locations. "Now, I'm thinking about how markets are developing three to 10 years out and driving the right decisions around technology, research and development, our manufacturing footprint, and workforce development," he says. "But I also need to make sure our current execution is flawless."

Hoffmann lives in Munich because his family is well settled there, though it means more travel for him. Between flights and dinners at home, he trains for two or three triathlons each year. 

Jacob Hsu - Symbio

Early in his career, it became clear to Hsu that his birth in Taipei and childhood in the U.S. gave him a global perspective helpful to businesses. Now, the 33-year-old CEO of Symbio heads the largest software-outsourcing concern in China focusing on Western technology clients. Using reasonably priced engineering talent in second- and third-tier Chinese cities is one of his savvy moves.

"We've been very successful because we understand how China works," says Hsu, whose Beijing based company has reached about $50 million in sales and plans an IPO early next year. "Our bridge between East and West is our core competitive advantage."

Hsu joined Symbio in Silicon Valley in 1998, when the startup was becoming an early outsourcer of software development to China, for blue-chip clients including Microsoft and IBM. He ran U.S. operations, then started a financial services division in Tokyo in 2000. Symbio's China business boomed after China clamped down on IP pirates and got approval to join the World Trade Organization. Now global headquarters are in Beijing, and Symbio has 800 people on the mainland. Hsu co-hosts a weekly game of Texas Hold 'Em for Western CEOs and Chinese venture capitalists. The latter "haven't quite gotten the bluffing thing down yet," he says. 

Laurent Kocher - Orange Business Services

Senior vice president of global services, Kocher joined this B2B unit of the France Telecom Group three years ago with an eye toward helping transform the enterprise into not only the dominant business-network provider on its home continent but also a player in the North American market. Under his rising star, Orange Business Services became the premier provider to multinationals in Europe and Asia and is now competing against AT&T on its home turf.

Kocher, 42, was always intrigued by technology, and began his career selling IBM hardware and software in Europe. Orange recruited him with the promise that he could help create the business market's "shift toward the communications space-enabling people, machines and systems to communicate at any time, from anywhere," as he puts it.

Double-digit annual growth ensued, and much of Kocher's task now is to acquire and integrate other operations into his Orange unit-including three French companies and one in India during the last two years alone.

"Integrating service companies is quite a challenge," he concedes. "But if you set the right vision, and people can recognize themselves in the ambition, you can get people on board."

Kocher's favorite leisure pursuit is so French it should come with a sauce: reading political philosophy. He also skis-sans books. 

Nancy Markley - Tech Avenue Ventures

Three years ago, this research scientist- turned founder and CEO formed a venture capital company leveraging three major business trends into nascent commercial success: the aging of the massive corps of Western baby boomers, that generation's growing preference for natural rather than chemical solutions to nutritional and medical needs, and the desire by university scientists and other innovators to commercialize such research.

"I loved science growing up, but I was always more interested in commercializing it," says the 42- year-old Markley, who has a PhD in life sciences. As an executive of a biotech startup, she ended up managing a spinoff enterprise that produces natural emulsions from oilseeds-and landed natural cosmetics giant Burt's Bees as a customer.

At the same time, Calgary-based Markley was nurturing Tech Avenue from scratch. Among other things, the VC concern is piloting a jaw-friendly tongue-retention device for snorers and is helping a biotech startup rebrand and relaunch a natural cold-sore treatment derived from geraniums.

"All of the technologies we're working with today are aimed at global markets," Markley notes. "We are helping attract talent and financing internationally to fund these products and drive them to market."

The mother of two can't recommend Donald Trump's childrearing skills but likes his approach to business. "He has taken his talent to a different level," she says. "He has done it his way." 

Geraldine McBride - SAP, Asia-Pacific

Given that SAP is ensconced in the relatively mature business of enterprise resource planning software, it might seem audacious of McBride, president and CEO of Asia-Pacific, to suggest that she can grow her part of the company to three times its current size by 2010. But the 47-year-old, self-described "transformational business leader" has achieved stunning goals time and again during her 24-year career with the German-based software leader.

The New Zealand native and former frog researcher spent about a decade in sales with IBM in South Africa before jumping to SAP after meeting its dynamic co-founder,  Hasso Plattner. McBride has since dramatically jump-started SAP's growth about every three years in a different territory: South Africa and Namibia, New Zealand, the CPG sector in the U.S., the North American field business, and then Australia and New Zealand.

"Don't give me a business in a steady state," McBride says. "I enjoy the challenges of being able to take business from a good state and making it high-growth. It's semirepeatable; it's about aspirational and transformational leadership." And pulling that off, in part, depends on establishing three-year objectives and on paying a bit more for good people.

McBride manages to satisfy her lifelong interest in zoology with frequent hikes from her homes in relatively untamed areas of Australia and New Zealand. 

Carlos Antonio Salas - Stratos Renewables

Stratos Cofounder And CEO "Tony" Salas says he believes that his startup is the most promising company in one of the most promising industries on the globe: ethanol production. This Peru native and former agronomist launched Stratos on the bold notion that he can grow sugarcane more efficiently than anywhere else on the planet. Then Stratos can penetrate the growing U.S. market, where skepticism already is rising about corn-based ethanol. "If someone looks at where to put their money on ethanol, and how to grow the business, they'll look at Stratos," says the 40-year-old Salas.

"We will be the most beautiful woman in the bar." Salas received his undergraduate degree and MBA in the U.S. and was an international agronomy consultant before he joined the Peruvian government as undersecretary of agriculture in 2002.

Then he came up with the proposition for Stratos: Grow sugarcane on a desert strip on Peru's Pacific coast, watering it with runoff from the Andes mountains. By creating farmland where there was none, the venture will be not only carbonneutral but actually carbon-positive.

Salas got financing and is building a distillery that should be in operation yet this year. Then Stratos will be greeting customers in the U.S. Salas was a national amateur tennis champion several times, most recently when he was 31 years old. 

Sheila Jane Sarver - General Motors

As director of engineering and operations, Bangalore Technical Center, Sarver is on the front lines of GM's crucial efforts to expand its share of the rapidly growing car market in India. In 2003, the company moved the career engineering executive and U.S. native of Indian descent to Bangalore to launch its Indian technical center from scratch. Nowadays, more than 1,000 people staff the thriving GM outpost that Sarver established and grew. And last fall, it became the site of the industry's first digital design studio in India.

"We're committed to being an industry leader in India, and we have global work that we're doing here too," says Sarver, 44, who has been able to attract a lot of top talent to GM from the region known as the "Silicon Valley of India."

At the same time, Sarver says her performance is carrying extra expectations because "there are not a lot of women in senior technical positions in India. The network is much smaller."

GM thinks enough of Sarver's work so far-and her potential-that it selected her as one of just a couple dozen executives around the world to be featured in interviews and activities attached to the celebration of GM's centennial this year. "I do have aspirations," she says, "to greater corporate leadership." 

Beatrice Trussardi - Trussardi

As the handpicked CEO of a century - old , $200-million icon of the Italian fashion industry, Trussardi has a lot on her 36-year-old shoulders. Not only has she been working to keep Trussardi and its brands on the cutting edge of global design during her three years as chief, but she also has been plotting the company's expansion to the U.S. via a plan to smatter the East and West Coasts with high-end stores.

"The constant challenge that we face as a fashion brand is that we have a history," says Trussardi, who joined the company nine years ago as head of marketing after getting undergrad and MBA degrees in New York-and then working in the art-museum business. "It's an advantage in one way, but you also have to communicate that you're innovating and contemporary and proposing new products."

Trussardi focused on creating a more flexible management structure and on adjusting its approach market by market to enhance the brands' awareness abroad. She also got behind a not-for-profit group that is working to boost worldwide appreciation of Italy as a center of excellence for fashion design, food and art.

Trussardi is a member of the Young Global Leaders group established by the Davos-based World Economic Forum. 

Johan Stael von Holstein - IQube

The irrepressible von Holstein, CEO of IQube, is a rising serial  entrepreneur. He founded one of the world's most successful dot-com companies and is now trying to apply a Midas touch to his latest idea: a new approach to startup incubators called IQube. Von Holstein's notion for IQube is a variation on the idea that if you  put enough monkeys in front of keyboards, you will end up with a novel. At his first IQube site, in Stockholm, von Holstein is nurturing 80 companies. He provides them all with back-office assistance and advice, expecting that a few may become successful.

"I'm not smart enough to pick raisins out of a cake, so I eat the whole cake and therefore I get all the raisins," he says. "Good entrepreneurs don't need help as much as they need enough time." Von Holstein, 45, says that IQube's initial thrust is to help solve the problem of anemic entrepreneurialism in Sweden. But eventually, he plans to franchise IQube internationally.

He knows what he's doing. In 1996, von Holstein grew a consulting startup, Icon Medialab, to more than 3,500 employees in 32 offices in 21 countries.

Accomplishment has allowed von Holstein some idle periods, including a few years spent skiing with his family in the Alps. 

Would a CEO Make a Good President?

In an online column Chief Executive asked why CEOs are largely underrepresented from the ranks of political leaders, particularly those seeking the presidency (Mitt Romney notwithstanding).

I agree that most CEOs would not make very good presidents. You point to one very important reason: Most CEOs are used to having their instructions followed where in the political arena, they could easily be undone. The games are fundamentally different. Not only are the rules of the game different but so are the fundamental leadership skills.

We know in business that different leadership skills are required for companies in different life cycles. For example, a great turn around manager rarely makes a great growth executive. A start-up entrepreneur often is replaced by a professional CEO once the company reaches a certain stage of growth. Why would we expect that a great CEO can be a great political leader if a great CEO in one environment will be a lousy CEO in another?

And to make the point from another angle, consider why there are very few CEOs who take over the reins of leading academic institutions. Different games require different skill sets.

Norman Wolfe
Quantum Leaders
Irvine, Calif.

Do CEOs make good presidents? No. They are "temperamentally unsuited." That dispensed with, I must have a bit of fun with you and Steve Forbes on the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. When I was a kid in the '50s, I recall reading about three great mysteries:

1. Why did Queen Victoria have so many hemophiliacs among her descendents? I remember one article that theorized a hit on her ovaries from a cosmic ray; I don't think it was tongue-in-cheek. Cosmic ray?! She was married to her first cousin!

2. What happened to Hitler? Is he alive in South America? I have no idea how the accounts of those in the Bunker took so long to come out in this country, nor why it was ever a mystery. It isn't anymore.

3. What caused the Great Depression? The Smoot-Hawley Tariff has been tediously recited by generations of clueless teachers. A few years ago, I read an article citing statistics on the money supply during the period beginning with the stock market crash of 1929. The author argued that the stock market crash, in and of itself, wasn't that damaging. But it set in motion a series of events that decimated the money supply, and that caused the Depression. I found that argument more compelling than the *&^%*^ Smoot-Hawley Tariff.

Jeff Wick
Wick Building Systems
Mazomanie, Wisc.

It's About Customers

I could not agree more with Bob Donnelly's column on CRM (CE Online, October/November 2007). I have been fortunate enough to have had three wonderful firsthand experiences with customers laying out their problems. Two were ignored by the company I worked for; one we listened to and built a dominating business. Once one gets in tune with the customers, it is amazing how clear they are in telling you where they want you to go (product-wise). There is a close corollary for start-ups, which is that one must accept that everything will change as one learns more about customer needs; however, one better be in the game.

Dave Powell
Austin, Tex.

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