If you’re a marketer who aspires to introduce your product or service to C-level executives, you’re not alone. After all, they hold the purse strings. And they have the authority to make sweeping decisions. So it’s no wonder that many B2B marketers aim to reach them through their marketing programs.

Here’s the problem. C-level execs are squeezing more than seems humanly possible out of their days. Also, the competition for their attention is stiff. Your audience is busy, stressed and bombarded with marketing and sales messages. It’s not surprising that unlocking the C-suite can feel as challenging as climbing Mount Everest.

But the keys are lying right in front of you. That’s because the highly visible decisions these executives make could be career changing in both good and bad ways. Despite the intelligence and grit that helped them find homes in corner offices, they’re sometimes unsure of how to tackle the myriad of problems they face.

What do they want from you? Or from anyone, for that matter? HELP. Help comes in the form of new ideas that help them to solve problems and exploit opportunities.

Providing such assistance will lift you part of the way up the mountain. But what good is that? You don’t want to be left clinging to hope by your fingertips. To get to the top, you also need to add in some trust building techniques. So reaching C-level executives takes a winning combination of content and relationship building.

It’s been drummed into our heads that in this fusion of tactics, content is king. I believe, however, that content serves, but relationships rule.

Fresh Content Serves

You need content to help buyers move through the buying cycle. Because of this widely accepted reality, marketers research their customers, find out their needs, and continuously pound out content to answer their audience’s questions.

But many of the blog posts, webinars, white papers, e-books and more are not fresh, and they’re far from fascinating. Bland content does not work. If content is to engage, it has to have personality. It must be distinctive.

You need to check out what other companies in your industry are talking about as it relates to your product or solution, and then change the conversation with a unique twist. Build a logical argument for a slightly (or completely) different approach that challenges conventional wisdom. Or find a creative way to educate people on an issue, so they understand it better. For instance, cloak the concept you’re relaying in a new metaphor or a story that brings it to life like never before. By taking this approach, you not only educate your audience but also build your status as a thought leader.

Showing how you think and what you know is one way to build trust. Showing how you’ve helped customers is another. Demonstrate this by documenting success stories that illustrate how your product has assisted your clients in solving problems and exploiting opportunities.

Also, whenever customers express their satisfaction with your company’s offering or services, request a testimonial. If they’re happy with you, they’ll likely want to help you build your business.

Relationships Rule

Relationships always have been and still are the rulers of B2B marketing and sales success.

According to a study by Insidesales.com, the most effective techniques for generating B2B leads include inside sales, executive events, telemarketing and trade shows and conferences.

There is a common thread running through these methodologies — they all involve person-to-person (P2P) communications. And whether people converse in-person, on the phone or Internet platforms such as Skype, relationships blossom.

Despite all the changes born of the digital age, one thing remains stubbornly unaffected — in B2B, people do business with other people. Because of this, companies need to build a human connection with their audience. Thus, there’s no reason for the age-old cornerstones of marketing and sales to fade into the background. New, shiny techniques can support them, but they will not supplant them.

Rather than communicating human-to-human, why can’t we use marketing automation to track buyer behavior, personalize communications and build relationships online? You can. But nothing beats a live conversation for learning about and helping to solve the problems individual buyers face.

So, schedule events and conferences. When you do, reach out to executives through email and telemarketing to schedule appointments with them while you’re there. Follow up immediately after the event with a phone call to see how you can help further.

To supplement or replace events, research companies that might have an interest in your product or solution and call the appropriate executives. Ask them about their goals and obstacles and help them to formulate and integrate solutions.

When should these phone conversations begin?

In spite of the oft-quoted research that buyers are about 60 percent through the buying cycle before they reach out to a salesperson, there’s no harm (and quite a bit of opportunity) in being proactive. Get ahead of the curve and make the first call, but don’t call to sell. Instead, call to consult. Executives will appreciate your help in untangling their issues even though they may not yet have determined a product category to investigate further. And you’ll have the opportunity to frame the problem in a way that casts your product as a potential solution.

So remember, relationships rule. Always have. Always will. But don’t forget the fresh, fascinating, credibility-building content that serves the ruler’s bidding.