In the Most Wanted series, Chief Marketer looks at some of the top demographic segments marketers need to target in 2017. In this week’s spotlight, IT professionals.
Who: IT professionals include help desk technicians, systems analysts and administrators, web and software developers, server administrators, infrastructure technicians, IT managers, and in the corner suite, chief technology officers and chief information officers—anyone whose job revolves around computers, software, connectivity, data security or any other aspect of information technology.
The Stats: According to IT trade organization CompTIA, the U.S. tech industry employed 6.5 million people in 2015. Ready for an even bigger number? Data provider and consultancy IDC estimates that the U.S. spends about $2.5 trillion a year on IT. And according to Austin, TX-based Spiceworks, the industry’s leading social network (think LinkedIn for IT pros), companies on average spent $327,798 on IT hardware, software and services in 2016, up 7.9% from the previous year.
Why You Want to Reach Them: While the size of the market is impressive, Spiceworks estimates that only 233,000 of the 6.5 million IT professionals are C-level, such as CTOs and CIOs. But don’t fret: While those executives may be the people who sign off on IT purchases, they’re not necessarily the people you should be marketing to. While 69% of the IT pros surveyed by Spiceworks said the business decision maker—executives and owners—are involved in purchase decisions, nearly 100% of the pros themselves are involved. In other words, even if the IT pros aren’t signing the purchase order, it’s unlikely that the person who is will do so if the pros say no.
And just in case you’re still wondering whether you should be reaching out to the folks who will be using your product or their higher-ups, consider this: More than 60% of IT professionals are IT managers or network administrators, which gives them even more influence on buying decisions.
“IT is no longer a role that just supports the business,” notes Trey Harness, senior vice president, group account director for marketing and advertising agency gyro. “They are the key driver in making the business successful, especially in a time where digital transformation is at the core of nearly every company’s innovation vision. So do market to them as the driver of the business. Don’t market to them as the people who just make sure the systems are operating.”
Preferred Channels: “IT professionals are tribal—probably more so than other functions,” Harness says, “so reaching and engaging them in forums where they’re sharing ideas is most effective.” Stats from Spiceworks back that up. Ninety percent of the IT buyers surveyed trust online peer recommendations and 82% trust IT forums. Two-thirds cited Google as a trusted source of information, while 57% said the same of company websites. Harness also recommends industry conferences and other events as effective channels for reaching them.
Once you reach IT professionals, engage them with facts. According to IDG’s 2014 Customer Engagement Study, IT pros download an average of seven pieces of content—articles, spec sheets, white papers, videos, product reviews—during the decision and buying process. But the Spiceworks report “Tech Marketers Are from Mars, IT Pros Are from Venus” indicates that marketers aren’t providing enough of the content IT pros want. For instance, 99% of IT buyers use and want product reviews in the decision-making process, even in the early stages when they’re developing brand awareness, yet only 59% of marketers provide them. Nearly as many IT pros (95%) want technical spec sheets, yet only 72% of marketers provide them. Eighty-eight percent look for videos, but just 78% of marketers offer them. And while 82% look for webinars, only 71% of marketers offer them.
Interestingly, marketers may be more bullish on case studies and ROI studies than their audience is. While 82% of tech marketers make them available, a more modest (though admittedly still sizable) 72% of IT pros said they look for that information. “Like any job role, IT has its own language, but because the lines have blurred between IT and line-of-business functions, some brands are trying to speak to IT in the language of LOB, and that will sometimes fail,” Harness says.
Who’s Getting It Right: If you’re looking for marketers to emulate, you can’t go wrong with looking to IT companies themselves, says Harness. They “understand the transformation of IT’s role, and probably because they have been a part of making that transformation happen. They’re the ones you expect—HP, HPE, Cisco, IBM, Amazon and Google.”
The Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) website is especially robust and user-friendly. It hosts a variety of specialized forums, creating a haven for IT pros to engage with their peers. What’s more, it offers free trials for a number of its software products, something that 90% of the IT buyers surveyed by Spiceworks said they looked for but that only 57% of marketers provided. Its online resource libraries present diverse content, including the much-loved-by-pros data sheets, analyst reports, videos and even podcasts.