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No Marketing, No Sale

No Marketing, No Sale

People believe that if they work hard and do the right thing, others will notice and reward them. But in the real world, you have to beat your own drum

Many IT executives frown at the thought of marketing IT internally. It conjures up visions of loudmouths delivering sales pitches - the kind of people we'd prefer to avoid. If we wanted to get into marketing, we would have got into . . . well . . . marketing. But what marketing is really about is educating people about something that you're passionate about. For instance, some of you probably spend hours regaling your friends about your tennis game. As CIO of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), I'd like to thank you for marketing our sport!

Many of us grew up believing that if we worked hard and did the right things, people would notice and reward us. Unfortunately, things don't always work out that way. The executives and board members who are critical to our jobs have countless issues being thrown at them all the time. Unless we market our ideas to them - communicate and educate - we will never capture their attention, attention that we need to succeed.

Why Names Are Important

Marketing is never more important than when you're trying to turn around an underperforming IT organization. When I began my tenure at the USTA, our IT team had a bad reputation and no credibility. After I listened to my clients to understand what they perceived the problems to be, my first step was to develop and market an action plan to address them. I named this plan "Operation CPR". The acronym stood for the three areas our clients had identified as shortcomings: communications, project delivery and responsiveness. Calling it an "operation" helped my team understand that we were in a battle, and CPR reminded them about the areas in which we needed to improve. (It's not only your clients to whom you need to market but your own people too. What your staff thinks, feels and says to others in the quiet moments when you are not around will have a more profound impact on how people see IT than the messages you deliver from the pulpit.)

By giving the project a name and a brand, we made it clear to our clients that we were taking their complaints to heart. (I knew I had my work cut out for me when at my first board presentation a member told me that CPR wouldn't work "because the patient was already dead".)

Getting the Message Out

When marketing, it is important that you are consistent and constant in the delivery of your message. We use every vehicle we can think of to drill home our focus on communication, project delivery and responsiveness. We developed an IT scorecard, administered twice a year, with almost all the metrics we track tied back to those three major themes. We present the results (the good, the bad and the ugly) as well as all the comments we receive at our IT committee sessions at USTA's annual and semi-annual meetings. This audience includes board members, committee chairs and key executives from our 17 section offices. This level of transparency accomplishes two objectives. It allows me to articulate (that is, market) our progress and successes in a large public forum, and perhaps more importantly, this level of candour lets people know that I can be trusted.

At these meetings we also host an IT "trade show". This provides our constituency the opportunity to touch and see new IT systems as well as mock-ups of innovations we hope to deliver in the next 12 to 24 months. It also helps us drum up financial support and sponsorship. We publish a monthly newsletter that highlights our progress on our major initiatives and their business value (download a copy at www.cio.com/archive/080106/USTA_IT_newsletter.pdf ). It's critical that these IT missives be written in clear, concise business language and articulate business value. No geek-speak allowed!

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