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Aug 30, 2004
How To

Marketing to CIOs vs. Marketing to IT Staffers: What Works & Why

SUMMARY: If you market to CIOs or other IT staff, this article is a must-read for you. You'll learn:

Why CIOs turn down sales rep meetings until they feel "smart" and how marketing can speed the cycle.
Which types of headlines, creative, and offers IT influencers love, and which make them yawn.
Details of the psychology of the IT pro and how this applies to your marketing mission.

Plus, why you should consider a sweeps for your next DM offer to CIOs (even if you...
Before you launch your next marketing campaign targeting CIOs, tech decision makers or IT staff, it would help to understand who they really are.

We asked Bill Babcock, CEO Babcock and Jenkins, to profile the psychology and marketing dos and don'ts for IT pros...

Profile #1: How to Market to CIOs and Technical Decision Makers

CIO is a title held by the CIO at Netopia with 302 employees and the CIO at GMC, planning the information needs of 325,000 employees worldwide. Itís also a role held by people with other titles in the broader category of Technical Decision Maker.

Surprisingly, the composition of their job is fairly consistent even over that wide spectrum ó they spend their time communicating with senior management peers, IT staff, IT vendors, and business partners. But their experience, pains, and priorities are very different. Thatís the key to keeping mindshare ó relevance is personal.

George is our average CIO. He (85% to 91% male depending on whoís counting) is 49, comfortable ($180,000 total compensation) but not rich. He came up the ladder starting in the IT department right out of college. Heís been CIO of a company with revenues a little over $1 billion for four years. Heíll stay in this job for two more years, and leave for another CIO position.

Like most CIOs he reports to the CEO (52%), and heís happy about that. Even though he has a good relationship with the COO (their jobs are similar) he wouldnít want to report to him as 12% of his peers do, or worse yet to the CFO (11%) with whom he has a somewhat strained relationship.

Georgeís greatest weakness is that he doesnít have a strong business background. He understands processes, but his view is tactical. The technical proficiency that got him here is not needed in his job, so he converted it into understanding the options for solving business problems. He believes he could be more strategic if he had time to think, but heíll never get it because heís terrible at delegation ó he really doesnít have a second-in-command (75%).

Thatís an important hint about how to reach George.

His failure to delegate means he has to listen to his senior staff, and even tech gurus way down the org chart. There isnít a filter between them and him ó they influence him strongly. It also means he needs outside expertise, because he has to understand the business case for anything he recommends, and he doesnít share or delegate final decision-making on major initiatives.

Georgeís biggest priority is enterprise integration. Itís where heís going to spend the largest share of his budget (35 to 55%). Heís dragging a lot of legacy applications along, and they need Web integration and interface. Every department is screaming for new hardware now that they see a little economic sunlight, but George isnít listening. He didnít go through the pain of the last few years, losing valued people, abandoning initiatives even near the end of heavy investment ó just to fling away precious working capital once business turns up.

But anyone who can show an immediate ROI for a new technology will get consideration. The bar for ROI is raised though. Vendors talking about profitability through increased efficiency better have rock-solid proof.

Georgeís greatest pain is hiring and retaining the right people with the right experience. His budget is tight, heís tired of hearing he has to do more with less, and the priorities of his budget donít match what the organization needs ó but he canít fix that without wasting money and breaking promises. He needs to see short payback for any investment ó two years is a bad joke, two months is more like it. The legacy systems are driving him crazy, but he canít rip and replace.

He may not be hands-on anymore, and his CEO hired him for his communications and leadership skills. But when something doesnít work, itís his fault.

The CRM system his predecessor selected is still eating budget and producing little more than irritated salespeople ó and heís blamed for it. When sleazy spam gets through the filter to the CEO's admin she thinks itís his fault: ďCanít your people fix this?Ē Heís a C-level executive, but the performance of the most tactical, minor, trivial piece of IT infrastructure gets attached to his coattails.

George is easy to target, tricky to reach, and hard to hold.

The keys to getting through to him are:

-> Sliding past the gatekeeper with something she doesnít dare toss, grabbing his attention, and then keeping every communication as relevant and brief as possible.

-> He doesnít want to be sold, he wants to be smart.

-> He wonít talk to a salesperson until heís on a level playing field, and he's comfortable with his own knowledge. Your choices are to wait for him gather it, let it come from competitors, or set the playing field and stack the deck.

-> Give him condensed nuggets of highly relevant expertise and heíll stay engaged. Get ahead of the selling cycle and the doors close.

-> Strategy in a can. Prove to him that you can make up for his greatest weakness (without pointing it out to him) and heís interested.

George is a true believer in technology, but heís been burned, and heís watched his company suffer. He has laid off friends and people he respected. Heís shot projects he loved. You canít take his sense of fiscal responsibility lightly. He needs to see clear alignment with the capabilities his company needs, a clear return on investment, and an adoption process he can manage with limited and possibly sub-optimal resources.

You reach CIOs with a piece of startling creative. As soon as they see it their attention must be captured. It must be almost psychically relevant to elicit response.

Pushing them to microsites can be highly successful, but once they land, the relevance must start high and increase rapidly or you lose them.

Itís literally like fishing with an artificial fly. Not only must the bait be attractive, but also every aspect of presentation must be perfect. Each piece of information they yield must be used immediately to increase the relevance of the conversation youíre crafting.

Pain points and critical issues are not the best way to access them (though it can be a component). Every marketer pounds on their tight budgets, the difficulty of getting exactly the right people, how important reliability and short dev cycles are today. Thereís no opportunity there to stand out.

You can reach them most effectively through their weaknesses: o they donít delegate well, o they donít have time to be strategic, o and they are not as experienced in business as their CxO peers.

Again, remember CIOs canít be sold until they feel smart. Since they canít effectively delegate they need to gather expertise themselves. If you feed them condensed, relevant expertise they will value your communications.

The most valued information feels more like it is aimed at the CEO. Think Corinthian leather binder with a strategic business plan printed on cream-colored heavy stock. NO, donít send him that, just think that way. What else works: Believe it or not, a sweepstakes for an appropriate but small cool item. Youíd think it wouldnít, always does.

Profile #2. How to Market to IT Staffers

IT Staffers are easy, as long as your product is really great. Fluff wonít work, in fact theyíll hate you for it, and they never forget. Read some of the article response dialog in SlashDot and ZDNet, then tremble. Think religion, think crusades, swords and sorcerers. These people love and hate.

Weíre not going to give you the statistically-reinforced profile as we did for the CIO, because these people vary hugely. Somewhere in the middle of the endless cube farm of companies like Intel, Dell, UPS, American Express, and Fredís Airline and Storm Door, Inc. is a guy (or remotely, gal) with a nondescript title who has the CIOís ear about products like yours.

The IT staffer knows products right down into their bits and pieces. In a slightly larger cube by the window is a group manager. The CIO wonít buy your product unless he vets it. And in a larger cube with darker walls that are a little higher in a corner near a conference room is the IT Manager. She meets with the CIO every day (yes, thereís actually a decent chance that itís a woman).

Finding them is easy (lots of controlled circulation publications, tech sites, etc.), reaching them is easy (no gatekeepers, lots of buttons to push) and holding them is easy if youíve got the right stuff. And the right stuff is relevant information that they need.

Letís start with what not to do:

-> Donít promise them theyíll get to go home early.

-> Donít show them somebody in front of a monitor with their hair being blown back.

-> Donít show them speeds and feeds.

-> Donít disrespect them. Even though the IT guru might need geranimals to match shirt with pants, heís a pro, and smarter than you or I.

Hereís some headlines from campaigns that rocked with these folks:

o Ten steps forward, no steps backup (a play on words only a twidget would love, and they did ó for backup systems).

o You hold the power to connect the world (appeal to ego ó theyíve got a big one).

o Show what you know (more ego: Visio for IT people).

o More team, less work (independent spirits who know they canít do it all).

o You canít choose your users, but you can choose their projector (picture of a fuzzy-headed ditz photocopying her face: All IT people despise users).

o Disaster can strike in the blink of an eye. We donít blink (appeal to fear and their knowledge of harsh reality).

What else works: Build them a personal portal and fill it full of technical information they care about. Donít forget business case stuff ó these folks want to be the CIO some day. Sweepstakes ó inexpensive personal gadgets, the more leading edge the better.

However, forget massive prizes ó they understand statistics, theyíll believe they can win something small. Also, don't offer discounts. Itís not their money; it wonít motivate them so why give it away?

Note: Statistics quoted are from a mix of research, including CIO Magazine published reports and Babcock & Jenkins WebProfiler results from marketing to CIOs, TDMs and TIs.

Babcock and Jenkins

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