Do You Really Need That C-Level Title?

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Do You Really Need That C-Level Title?

Day in, day out, we hear, “I need C-Level titles for my research project” – I am sure you are thinking, yes, I hear this all the time! But are they really the right fit for the insights you need though? Do not get me wrong, sometimes they are needed but from my experience, more than 80% of the projects I have worked on, C-Level is not the right fit. Having a discussion with our clients about who is the best target for their research project is our responsibility to make sure they get the insights they need to drive the results they are looking for.

I am the CEO of my garden. I tend to it daily, keep it watered, keep pests away as best I can but my son helps me with weeding, he is the best fit for the job (he may disagree though – ha). A friend of mine asked me for tips on how to keep weeds out of her garden. She wanted to know specifics on what I was doing to keep them out of mine. My answer was, I will have to ask my son as he knows the answers to that. You may be thinking, its weeds, just pull them! It is not that simple, and I will not bore you with the details – but in this case, the CEO is not the best fit to answer this question.

                                                                                                                                                                                                 Exhibit A

But why aren’t C-Level folks the right fit and why wasn’t I the right person to ask about something as simple as weeding?

The simplest answer is, they are not involved in the day-to-day tasks to really know what goes on to be able to share the insight most research projects need. To get insights that drive results, you need to speak with the right people, the ones that are in the trenches daily and can speak to the day-to-day activities. Asking a CIO/CTO for their thoughts on customer pain points or challenges customers face in their journey to digitalization will not go very far as they do not interact with their customers often, if at all. These folks are more focused on strategizing company growth, preventing cyberattacks to their network, selecting technologies to increase efficiency throughout their organization, and so much more. This is a great fit for Manager+ titles – the folks that interact with customers daily and are in-the-know of the customer journey to digitalization and the pain points they face. This is where you will find the “juicy data” you are looking for to drive results – not the CIO/CTO – they do not have the time for this, nor would they know how to answer your questions on this topic.

Now, let me apply this to something that may resonate a bit more than my previous gardening example. I received a request from a client wanting to reach CFOs. I let my client know that this was not possible given the target of CFO – they are just too challenging to find for online Quantitative research. We could try on best efforts but why burn through a ton of sample to only see minimal return and a disappointed client in the end. I let her know why I thought this was the wrong target for her client. She went back to her client who then said, what would be the best way forward, what can we do then? I then advised them, based on their objectives and goals for their project, that taking it down several levels in the organization to find people that dealt with the issues daily, instead of the top strategy guys, would get her client the kind of information about real decisions being made. Targeting the right people for your client’s project will provide the insights that are needed to drive necessary business decisions – that is a fact.

Focusing more on roles and responsibilities in research is crucial in getting the insights needed you are looking for.

C-Level titles do not necessarily bring quality to your project, unless you are looking to find out what they are responsible for in their roles – it just does not make sense. Quality data is achieved by targeting the right people to deliver you the data you are looking for. Not to mention, these folks are tough to find for your typical research project – I know you agree with me on this! That aside, do not waste more time in trying to get C-Level titles for research projects that just are not the right fit. Ask yourself; what do I need to know, what results am I looking for, how will I be using these results and what are the goals of the project? Knowing this information will help determine the right titles to focus on.

By now you are probably wondering why there is a picture of a pineapple in the article, random, right? Well, the pineapple really is not relevant to the topic of responsibilities and decision makers, just like asking for C-Level all the time isn’t relevant to a realistic request. If you are asking for C-Level, think pineapples and maybe it will help you to remember to ask your client more questions about what they are really after. Do they really need pineapples, or do they want a hamburger or a steak, do they want something they can dig into, something that will nourish them – or are pineapples actually the right fit for their project?

Contact Ann at to learn more about business research targeting.

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Do You Really Need That C-Level Title?