Your mission: save the CIO

Marketing to the CIO has a whole new meaning today.

November 20, 2014

You’ve spent years trying to convince them, influence them and earn their approval on purchase decisions. But today, ladies and gentlemen of technology marketing, you have a new mission. The CIO is feeling like an increasingly threatened species. It’s time for you to save them.

In his keynote address at Tech Connect in London recently, Computer Weekly’s Editor in chief Bryan Glick laid out the reasons why today’s Chief Information Officers are coming under increasing internal pressure – and what this means for those trying to sell to them. The ‘Command and Control’ approach to IT that the CIO role represents has been disrupted by the commoditisation of technology – and employees at all levels are rebelling against complex IT buying experiences and inflexible legacy systems. Chief Execs demand to know why the company’s storage infrastructure needs expensively upgrading when they see plenty of ads for free online storage. Employees surf social networks on their phones whilst grumbling about the fact that their desktop computers are blocked from accessing them. And nobody can see a good reason why their machines take 10 minutes to boot up in the morning.

The CIO of course, knows that there are plenty of good reasons for all of those things. They are complicated – and that’s why the company employs a CIO to take care of them. But he or she exists in an age where the ubiquity of innovative and extremely simple technology has outlawed complexity.

How then can technology marketers help the CIO to survive and prosper in this new, disrupted technology landscape? And how can they ensure that they get rewarded for doing so? Here’s the plan:

Talk to needs first – and really mean it

It’s easy to say that you will build a dialogue with your CIO audience based on their needs. It’s far harder actually to do it. Content that always links back to your product as the solution can be a serious threat to your credibility in today’s environment – when a fixed, one-size-fits-all solution is very rarely the answer. Encourage your experts to generate issues-focused pieces that demonstrate your understanding of the pressures the CIO faces. And don’t gate this content as your under pressure audience isn’t ready for data capture and sales calls yet. Your first step in earning consideration from the CIO is to demonstrate that you understand their challenges.

Offer skills and knowledge – not just products

In the new technology environment, CIOs need a partner that they can depend upon to help them respond rapidly to the demands of different internal stakeholders. To demonstrate that you’re that partner, you need to showcase your skills and knowledge; not just your products’ features. Develop a listening strategy to keep you plugged into the issues setting the technology agenda – and remember that, in today’s environment these could easily come from the consumer side. You’ll need to recruit credible internal experts to put out content that demonstrates your business’s grasp of these issues as they emerge – and your mastery of the implications for IT buying. You may have more of these experts than you think. In this IT Committee Infographic, you’ll find details of the range of expertise that CIOs and other IT Committee members value.

Stay agile – and prove you are collaborative

Agility is increasingly prized by IT buyers at both a strategic and executional level. We operate in a time when e-businesses like Net a Porter sit developers next to marketing teams, so they can respond instantly to competitor activity, and when the likes of Unilever and Diageo are investing in start-up accelerators to give them a wholly collaborative relationship with new technology businesses. To be of value to the CIO, you need to demonstrate that you can provide the same level of responsiveness – and that you are not beholden to static, legacy products. When you do share product collateral make sure your content and marketing messages balance specific details with evidence of your collaborating, flexible approach.

Protect the flanks – engage the buying committee

The CIO faces increasing pressure from other departments with their own view of what technology should be doing and how it should be doing it. You can help by targeting your credibility-building content at all of these different decision-makers – and by tailoring it to their particular agendas and concerns. Our Nurturing the IT Committee Lead report has all the detail you need on who you should be targeting, and how you can set about doing it.

Education, education, education…

Many of the CIO’s internal challenges come from other departments’ lack of full understanding about the business’s IT needs. Thought leadership that can engage the diverse buying committee members and make a persuasive case as to the essential differences between business and consumer technology can provide a vital support.