IT Marketing Smarts

IT Marketing Smarts

What Really Leads to Loyalty

It's the CIO's job to ensure that IT products and services are cost-competitive and differentiated from competitors - those external service providers doing end runs around your department.

But while meeting financial expectations will keep IT in the game, it's these nontangible services that foster long-term relationships and loyalty. Effective IT marketing consists of face-to-face communication with each segment of one to understand how that customer defines value and to ensure that IT is both delivering against his tangible expectations and over-delivering on the intangibles. By the end of every interaction with your department, it should be clear to customers why they are doing business with their internal technology provider.

All the pretty IT marketing collateral should make CIOs a little squeamish. Mass-market communications that contain inferior product and service positioning can make CIOs look like a socially inept kid trying to get attention.

Susan Cramm is founder and president of California-based Valuedance, an executive coaching firm

Reader Q&A

Q: Given that IT is a relationship business, is any sort of marketing - whether mass-market or B2B - appropriate? Marketing seems to run counter to the idea of a relationship.

A: That's the legacy of mass-marketing communications, but it really has nothing to do with the true purpose of marketing. Marketing consists of offering the combination of attributes necessary to satisfy a target market, as expressed through the "four P's" - product, price, promotion and place (meaning distribution). Ideally, all marketing would be relationship-based; after all, the best marketing is always word of mouth. IT hurts business relationships when it takes a narrow view of marketing by focusing exclusively on promotion through mass communication and ignores the other three P's.

Q: What organizational arrangements for IT work best when appealing to "segments of one"? Should relationship managers oversee every customer interaction? Should communication liaisons be paired with tech staff?

A: In a way, everybody in IT is in the marketing business. When CIOs are planning their organization's marketing efforts they can be facilitated through four dimensions:

• Strategy Ensuring that IT strategy is aligned with business strategy.

• Staffing Selecting people in customer-facing positions who have good communication, negotiation and relationship-building skills.

• Structure Allocating resources to liaison positions such as relationship managers.

• Systems/Processes Making it easy for customers to interact with IT.

Q: The CIO article you point to says the best IT marketing tools are regular reports to the board, IT scorecards with lagging and leading indicators, and real-time information on IT. Do these tools also work for business marketing?

A: These are great communication tools, but they don't constitute an effective marketing program. For that, IT needs to give more thought to how its products, services, pricing, development and delivery methods are supported by its communications.

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