Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a customer roundtable as part of the IBM Marketing & Communications Top Talent (TT) Program, where the CEO, IT Director and CAD Manager of an IBM client discussed their views on the marketing and communications they receive from the IT industry – their likes and dislikes (many of which came as no surprise!), and some insight into what they really need.
1. Relationships are key
At CEO level, the relationship needs to be from your CEO to your client’s CEO. ALL forms of communication are filtered out by gatekeepers (i.e. email, direct mail, etc.) – primarily the PA. If the material is of interest to the PA, it may reach the CEO.
Utilise staff who hold the relationship with the client to deliver material that is relevant to the clients needs. The IT Director and CAD Manager were both looking for personalised communications focused on the benefits to them – delivered by someone with whom they held a personal relationship, and that understood their business and strategic objectives. However, for personal relationships to be leveraged, TRUST is imperative.
2. Researching new challenges – GOOGLE!
Both the IT Director and CAD Manager were unanimous that, when researching solutions for new IT challenges, their first port of call was to type a search term into Google. If it’s a known issue – e.g. security – and they were already working with a vendor in this area, they would go directly to that vendor. However, if they aren’t aware that a vendor plays in this area, they would not necessarily ask for advice. It’s therefore important to ensure that clients are aware of your full portfolio, and that your sales teams are engaged with the clients, understand their strategy and imminent projects, and are able to alert them to solutions that may be beneficial.
3. Ensure your message gets through – less is more
The CEO’s impression was that IT companies don’t execute long-running campaigns that leave a lasting impression. The IT Director argued that this was because the IT industry was so fast paced and the speed of technological changes was rapid. However, it does highlight the fact that vendors need to ensure that they are targeting clients with a consistent message, value proposition and creative concept/campaign in order for it to have a lasting impression.
All three clients stressed how time-constrained they were – they didn’t have the time to read information from vendors. Messages need to be short and succinct – enough to whet the appetite and capture the imagination so that the client can read further if the material is of interest.
For this particular client, videos and podcasts weren’t seen as worthwhile communication vechiles. However, there was an acknowledgement that a podcast may be listened to if they had a lengthy journey into work.
With the increasing availability of mobile email (e.g. delivered to Blackberry devices), it was admitted that anything too wordy was deleted.
The challenge for us IT vendors is to find a way to understand the content needs of the individual, tailor our messages to the individual, and deliver this message via their preferred communication channel.