'Understand who we are, what we do, and get to the point': How to market to CIOs

Peter Gothard
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 CIOs sit on-panel at the Computing Tech Marketing & Innovation Forum 2017
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CIOs sit on-panel at the Computing Tech Marketing & Innovation Forum 2017

And stop incessantly asking us out for coffee, say senior IT decision-makers

Do your research, be direct, stop requesting endless coffee meetings and, above all, attempt to sell us something with a use case relevant to us, not a general message of commercial hype.

These are just some of the tips passed down from CIOs and IT directors to IT marketers in this morning's panel discussion at the Computing Tech Marketing & Innovation Forum 2017.

When asked what's most likely to make them take notice of a marketing pitch, Watchfinder IT director Jonathan Gill remarked that he would favour "the ones who understand what we do, as opposed to what they think we should do".

Of particular chagrin to Gill is technology vendors marketing their own SEO abilities - whether earned or paid for.

"The classic [pitch] is, ‘Do you know we're top of Google on these keywords?' said Gill, ‘And my response is: ‘Have you had a conversation with Google, and not me?'"

Gill now has in place members of his team he calls "gatekeepers" to "keep the majority of cold calls out", and suggests IT marketers start widening their aspect to target team members with buying influence, and not just the CIO themselves.

"If you start with the team, they'll surface it up," he said.

Agreeing with was Brian Long, CIO of Pattonair, who echoed:

"Don't get in touch with me - get in touch with my team. I'll just go round and give it to my tech guys anyway."

More generally, he implored marketers, to "Help us along with our strategy - don't give us lots of options," with the implication that pitches should be targeted to a researched use case, and not just non-specific spam.

Blenheim Chalcot Accelerate CIO Mark Ridley said he wanted to be "honest" with IT marketers, relaying the message that anyone who even manages to catch his attention is "lucky" in the extreme.

"If you think of any procurement a CIO does, we do a lot over the year, so if you don't hit the inbox at the right time - that 1 per cent gap out of 99 when we actually happen to need something - we probably won't speak to you ever again," he said.

Ridley also reminded marketers that marketing material from specific vendors is "second or third tier".

"I will probably only read your [material] if I'm already interested in your company," he said.

Finally Nick Folkes, CIO of G4S, further cemented today's common message:

"Understood who we are and what we do. Also, what can your product do for our industry? What do you do to stand out from the crowd? Everything we've used has something new we haven't seen before."

Folkes also remarked that "email should come from a human".

"The amount that comes from out of Salesforce is astonishing," he added.

"You should say, ‘Hi, I'm Bob and I understand you and your industry'."

Asked to qualify these needs with something concrete, Folkes explained how it was Google, of all companies, who turned 4GS' head, helping a fragmented IT estate with too many different email estates be brought together into a centralised, manageable infrastructure.

"So they fixed that, and now we've gone on to buy more - they knew us from the outset," said Folkes.

The conversation, ultimately, was best summed up by Watchfinders' Gill:

"I don't want to have lunch with you, go for coffee, or catch up over a period of three weeks - get to the point."

Take heed, IT marketers: in a storm of noise, you need to make sure you're targeting the right people, with the right solutions, at the right time, and with the right tone. Knowing what you're talking about and having a plan - neither of which, let's face it, are revolutionary concepts - will see you making far more progress with CIOs than the fire-and-forget approach of spam email and a prayer.

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