As a technology marketer targeting CIOs, you’re likely aware that roadblocks stand in the way of communicating with them. Despite the challenge, your sales and leadership team continually ask you to produce qualified leads. Naturally, you wonder, “How can I break through the protective barriers around CIOs to promote our solution?”
Here’s some food for thought.
The Empathetic Entrée
The empathetic entrée has nothing to do with the menu at a fancy restaurant. What it has to do with is understanding the struggles of the CIO, so you can speak empathetically to his needs and thus open the door to communication.
So what’s going on in the life of today’s CIO?
First of all, the CIO has moved from business’ sidelines to center stage. Whether it’s good or bad, the spotlight shines brightly on what he’s doing.
As Gartner reported in Flipping to Digital Leadership: The 2015 CIO Agenda, digitalization has become the muscle that transforms businesses. It now determines which company wins in the marketplace. While the old bar for a CIO’s performance was that he “kept the lights on,” that’s no longer enough. Today, he must also lead the way in creating consumer apps and digital products.
At the same time, the pace of technological change is accelerating. CIOs are now grappling with cloud migration, mobile, Big Data, the Internet of things and software defined apps, all of which fundamentally change how we do business.
And just to ratchet up the demands on CIOs one more notch, cyber attacks are becoming more prevalent[i] and sophisticated.[ii] Who’s supposed to build the fortress to guard against them? You guessed it — the beleaguered CIO.
Given that the CIO is juggling a myriad of responsibilities, you might think IT budgets would be growing. Not so. Gartner forecasts that IT budgets will remain flat in 2016.[iii]
As the CIO takes a leading role in a corporation’s success and is challenged to do more with less, what’s on the top of mind? Sadly for you, it’s most likely not your product’s cool features. His wish, like other C-level executives, is to be regarded as successful and competent. Also, faced with risks that range from project failure to hacker success, the threat of hearing the words “you’re fired” and being escorted out of the door loom large.
At all costs, he wants to avoid failure.
With so many competing priorities and so much at stake, it’s not surprising that CIOs have built a virtual firewall around themselves to prevent salespeople and marketers from reaching them. After all, they’ve got stuff to do!
So that’s why it’s hard to reach your target audience. The big question is “What can you do about it?”
Let’s step back a bit into the life of the CIO for one more critical insight.
Many CIOs climbed up to the C-suite on the rungs of the technology ladder. As such, they have a deep understanding of technological complexities and can rattle off an alphabet soup of acronyms; however, they may not have a strong understanding of business strategy.
Therein lies the opening for the empathetic marketer.
Education Breaks Down Barriers
Your job is to help the not-a-minute-to-spare CIO look competent and keep a firm hold on his job. To do that, you need to help him where he’s weak — building the business case for technological change. That doesn’t mean barraging him with fluff and flashy features. He wants expert opinions backed by hard facts.
The CIO does not want to be sold. He does want to be educated.
Yet despite the CIO’s need for education and the number of companies vying for his attention, according to IDG’s research, 81% of IT decision makers say that it’s challenging to find credible information.
Don’t Be an Unknown Expert
You’ve likely heard the saying, “If you build it they will come.” As a technology marketer for any length of time, however, you know this is not true. Likewise, many technology companies seem to believe, “If you have expertise, they will know.” Sadly, that’s not true either.
So, don’t be an unknown expert, hiding your organization’s knowledge under a rock. You need to show what you know, answering the CIO’s questions in formats he consumes and distributing them where he seeks information. Over time, he’ll come to know, like and trust you, seeing your organization as one that can help him to succeed.
Where does the CIO find information? He is most likely to seek information on IT vendor and publisher websites.[iv]
He is most interested in reviews, demos, technology news and how-to content.[v] How-to content, which describes solutions to problems, can come in the form of blog posts, articles, white papers, guides, webinars, newsletters and emails.
While the CIO seeks to answer many of his questions online, research shows that live events and conferences are as important in determining which technology vendor to select.[vi] Clearly, they can be an important part of your marketing mix, but since they are expensive, you need to determine the ROI they deliver. Also, recognize you need to nurture the leads you generate at the event. The best way to do this is to offer them educational content.
Although content marketing may open the door to the CIO’s corner office, it won’t swing wide on day one. You cannot view it as a campaign that will bring in a slew of leads ready to buy. Think of it instead as crockpot marketing. It works slowly. Simmering in the background, it eventually produces marketing qualified leads that mature into sales qualified leads.
First, the CIO becomes aware of your company or your technical experts, then he downloads your white papers, guides, and views your webinars. When he does, he shares his contact information with you, opening the door a crack. Over time, as you send informative emails that provide access to more content, you nurture the relationship. In this way, you turn awareness into interest and interest into demand for your solution or service.
Know the CIO and Help Him Know You Too
The bottom line is that reaching the CIO starts with a little empathy, understanding what the CIO is facing every day plus his hopes and fears. Once you do that, you can start to help him by providing educational materials on how to solve problems strategically. Through content and events, you can build a relationship and foster trust that eventually transforms into sales and revenues.
[i] Andrew Meola. Cyber attacks against our critical infrastructure are likely to increase. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/cyber-attacks-against-our-critical-infrastructure-are-likely-to-increase-2016-5. 5/26/2016.
[ii] ESET. Trends 2016 (In) Security Everywhere. http://www.welivesecurity.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/eset-trends-2016-insecurity-everywhere.pdf. P.70. Accessed 8/3/2016.
[iii] Gartner. Gartner Worldwide IT Spending Forecast. http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/it-spending-forecast/. Accessed 8/3/2016.
[iv] Tech Target. 2015 Tech Target Media Consumption Report, Guided by Content: How IT buying teams navigate through the research and purchasing process. http://reg.techtarget.com/2015-Media-Consumption-Report-Global-Report-Registration.html. Accessed 8/3/2016.
[v] IDG Enterprise. Customer Engagement 2016. http://www.idgenterprise.com/resource/research/ce-2016-customer-engagement-sample-slides/. Accessed 9/3/2016.
[vi] Blanc Otus. The Science of Influence B2B Technology Purchase Decision Study. http://blancandotus.com/tech_influencer%20survey_oct2015.pdf. Accessed 9/3/2016.