Marketing to IT Audiences: Winning Over the Skeptics

Roundup: Top 5 B2B Marketing Blogs

Know your audience. It’s one of the basic tenets of marketing and a critical first step before you even think about tactics and programs. Most who market to consumers have many resources available from companies like Nielson and others to build a clear picture of their target audience. It doesn’t take long to build a profile of Sally Shopper: her household income, marital status, number of kids, where she shops, the car she drives, and what she watches and reads.

In the B2B world, that level of detail is not readily available. As a result, we need to work a little harder and dig a little deeper on the market research front and leverage tactics such as social or web research and our own primary research with these audiences in order to build out those target customer personas to understand how to speak to these audiences and what marketing programs will be effective in engaging them.

Many of our clients sell to IT audiences and, as part of our work together, we are tasked with identifying (and executing) the best ways to effectively engage these audiences. While some programs target a single audience or job function, others must account for the various decision makers involved in the purchase. Below are a few tidbits we’ve picked up along the way.

  • ‘IT decision-makers’ is NOT a valid segment. This classification happens far too often in marketing, and when it does, it’s no surprise when campaign results are lukewarm at best. CTOs and CIOs cannot be lumped into a single segment—their interests, needs and drivers are vastly different and ignoring this results in poor marketing. Further, the size and industry being targeted will significantly inform the types of messages that will resonate and the marketing and sales approaches that will work best to reach these audiences.
  • Developers are a breed all their own. Developers are perhaps the weariest of technical audiences when it comes to marketing messages. They’re very wary of marketing and inflated claims, so it’s extremely important to be authentic and engage on a topic basis. When we market to developers, we work with actual developers to ensure our messages will authentically resonate with them. Technical audiences at this level aren’t generally scouring the web for interesting marketing literature on relevant products and services, but rather they are looking for real answers to specific problems they face in their day-to-day. Any content developed for this audience should reflect and address that need.
  • Security folks care about… (surprise!) privacy and security. This sounds obvious, but the very underpinnings of this audience can get overlooked when building a marketing program. Because security folks live and breathe security and privacy threats daily—and are often responsible for protecting others from vulnerabilities—they are particularly wary of sharing personal information. When marketing to this audience, you might be better off sharing more content upfront without asking them to fill out a form. Make the content so valuable or intriguing they are compelled to come to you. Also, understand that some of the standard components of the marketing communications toolkit are a bit more of a challenge, such as getting named case studies. As such, we tend to think creatively about how to showcase successes without asking for something that’s likely unattainable. And unless you have a strong reason to do otherwise, stay away from mass marketing personalization.

These examples are intended to demonstrate the importance of tailoring your marketing to each unique audience your product or service serves. When working with an audience you aren’t intimately familiar with, a bit of primary and secondary market research and a persona-based hypothesize-test-refine approach can go a long way towards investing in the right activities.

What audience-specific lessons have you learned about your market?