Marketing IT Infrastructure, Part 2: Messaging & Segmentation

Marketing IT infrastructure requires great messaging and segmentation. In this second article of a five-part series, we walk you through defining your core audiences and crafting a hard-hitting-message for each one.


I see too many brands stumble over themselves with mediocre or mixed-up messaging. This is never great but it can be financially catastrophic when marketing IT.

As we discussed in the previous post, it’s extremely hard and expensive to get a CIO or VP/ Technical Director’s attention. They already have an innate distrust of marketing, they hate the idea of being sold to, and if your messaging is off-base they’re unlikely to give you a second chance. That means it’s critical to ensure that your message stands out as different—reliable, well-researched and succinct.

Marketing to CIOs is expensive. Once you DO have their attention, don’t blow it

Make the most of your opportunity by quickly giving a brief, truthful, and relevant message about your product or service. This seems straightforward, and it is, but it’s amazing how many companies screw this part up while spending millions of dollars on wasted distribution and media buy. Don’t confuse your audience with a muddled message or by substituting buzzwords and fluff for meaningful differentiators.

To develop the most impactful messaging, you need to do a deep dive into exactly who your audience is and what is important to them. From there, you can start to cherry-pick which of your potential brand messages will resonate with a given audience.

Tightly define your audience.

“CIO” or “IT Professionals” is not a one-size-fits-all target audience.

There are over 2 million IT pros in the United States, not counting programmers and web developers.  Some are data scientists. Others are security specialists. Systems architects. Developers. Administrators. And the CIO, who pulls it all together but doesn’t have the bandwidth to know all there is to know about every aspect of IT infrastructure.

Chances are, some of those folks are better targets for your solution than others.

  • C-level / VP level
  • Director / Sr. Directors
  • Implementers / Execution
  • Developers
  • IT Admins

Take the time to figure out who your target really is. If you have multiple targets, you will probably need multiple messages and targeted sets of collateral. For complex sales, it’s usually at least a two-tier message: high-level overview and ROI figures for the CIO and executives and day-to-day information as well as speeds and feeds for the folks in the trenches—packed with details and maybe a few screenshots of the UI.

Company Size

Do your buyers work in large organizations only, do they tend to small or mid-size, or are they found everywhere? Should you segment by company size, and if you do, should you use revenue, number of employees or another metric? The answer may profoundly influence your marketing strategy. Different sized companies often have vastly different appetites for budget, customization, deployment times, scalability, HA/DR, etc.

Decision Process

Big organizations tend to make decisions by committee while an individual in a smaller company may be able to make the product decision on their own… but may require more help understanding the actual solution category. Make sure you have content that addresses the hurdles your prospects face during the decision process and can keep that process moving with relevant information for each part of the buyer’s journey.

Expertise

While it’s true that IT directors and VPs of Engineering have vastly different concerns and perspectives, so do network folks versus security specialists even though sometimes they have the exact same title.1

Out of those 2 million IT jobs, there were fewer than 30,000 data scientists employed in the U.S. in 2017. If your product appeals to data scientists, why waste your money selling to database administrators and network admins?

Target your content: A network security specialist could not care less about whether your website development tool supports 65 million colors. She’s got other fish to fry. Don’t hesitate to rewrite your pitch entirely to address different audiences.

Tools/Platforms

When relevant, try to go beyond the basic targeting of “Sr. Level DBAs”.

For example, some DBAs think of themselves as DBAs who can work on any database. Others are Oracle DBAs, and they pride themselves on understanding the nuances of the Oracle product line. For them, the only platform that matters is Oracle. The same holds true for other technology platforms. Is that cloud specialist really an AWS specialist, or might their expertise be in Azure?

This distinction might be at the personal level—or at the company level. For instance, your solution might run best, or only solve a common problem, on a certain platform. Therefore, you should try to eliminate prospects who don’t have that prerequisite. Similarly, some of our clients have found that a given tool indicates a propensity to buy—even if it’s not directly related or required for their solution. It might just signal a certain organizational maturity or budgetary capability that correlates well with actual buyers versus looky-loos.

Why Developers are Weird

  • Selling to developers is more like selling to consumers in many ways.
  • Unlike most enterprise-sales… marketing to developers is often a bottoms-up process.
  • Developers often have freedom to pick their own tools. And many of them are open-source or free-to-use. So it might take quite a few “sales” at a single company before you can actually generate any meaningful revenue.
  • Developers love to talk about technology, but they hate being sold to.

Setting/Verticals

An IT pro working in a not-for-profit organization will have different concerns than one in a public company. Small companies vs large companies will affect the scope of responsibility or the span of control of an IT leader. A consumer facing organization will differ from a government organization. Manufacturing differs from retail. Global companies have different compliance and scalability concerns than even the largest regional powerhouses.

You need to understand the environment that your target operates in, and make sure you have addressed the needs and concerns of that specific environment.

Should You Target Globally, Regionally, Nationally, or Locally?

This matters both more and less than most companies seem to realize. Local references matter less than they used to and are often less useful than powerful case studies within the same verticals. That said, language still matters, support still matters, time zones matter, and it’s just plain more difficult to make a sale across an ocean than across town.

So.. how do you decide on the geographic scope of your campaigns? Try thinking about all of the above factors and figure out how big your true addressable audience is. Now, take a look at your actual marketing budget. Can you afford to saturate that market on a global basis? No? Then go regional or national. Still not making a big splash? Go local. You want to concentrate on the areas where you’re most likely to win and can grow in a scalable fashion — without unnecessarily restricting yourself if you have the budget.

Roles: Technologists vs. Business Person vs. Human

Okay, so you’ve thought about which IT pros you want to communicate with. Like everyone, these people wear multiple hats, so let’s talk about in which role(s) you want to engage them.

There are three primary roles that marketers might want to appeal to:

A) The IT pro as Technologist

IT pros went into the field because of a love of technology, so you can’t go wrong talking about your technology. But the trick here is not to try to sell, but to introduce your solution and its potential benefits to the individual or the organization so that they can evaluate the benefits on their own.

Allow these skeptical professionals to validate claims for themselves by giving them access to the supporting data and studies, provide case studies of similar customers and field open forums for questions and discussion with colleagues.

All marketing should build trust. When marketing IT, trust is especially important. These professionals hate to feel like they’re being bullshitted, and they are immediately wary of any unsupported claims. They know it’s unlikely that the marketing team truly understands the technology, so they tend to disregard anything that smacks of buzzwords or sounds too good to be true.

Keep it simple and be factual. Talk about your features, but make sure you draw a map to the benefits, so the reader doesn’t get lost in the weeds. Minimize buzzwords and marketing speak. Focus on actions and activities.

When marketing IT, stick to the golden rules:

  • Be honest, simple and forthright.
  • Stick to provable facts.
  • Don’t try to mislead people or make claims that you can’t back up.
  • Talk about what your solution doesn’t do as well as what it does.

Demos not Converting?

Pig wearing lipstick

(Hey, we’ve all put lipstick on a pig.)

A word to the wise: The number of pointless demo requests your sales team receives is directly proportional to your buzzword bullshit ranking. The more bullshit, the more fruitless demos and never-enabled downloads. If your conversion rate after demos is poor the problem might well be confusing marketing. Of course, it could just be that your product sucks.

B) The IT Pro as Business Person

We all love to geek out over cool technology. At least, I do, and so do most IT pros. But they are still business people, and no matter how cool your product is they need to understand the ROI and business benefits.

Many CIOs and IT departments have tight budgets. In fact, even though Gartner says IT budgets will rise by 6.2 percent this year, those budgets must stretch to cover more than ever before.

More security. More network management. More new technologies like AI and IoT that users are clamoring for. That doesn’t even count the new compliance requirements, new reporting demanded by management, and new apps that users want.

So finding money can be problematic unless the expense can be justified.

Your message must be crystal clear at outlining the benefits and it never hurts to have content that shows how to justify the investment in your product on economic terms.

So go ahead and make your economic argument (you’ve got one, right?) to the IT pro-as-business-person. But don’t make it the sole focus of your pitch, any more than the cool technology should be.

C) The IT pro as a human

Studies show that 99.99% of IT pros are actually human (margin of error is +/- .01%). They have lives outside the data center with husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, houses, mortgages, game consoles and the latest phone.

Like everyone, IT people wish they had more time. And fewer midnight callers.

Help them understand how your product will make their lives easier and free up some time.

Many (but not all) have considerable disposable income. For instance, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites a median starting pay for computer support specialists of around $52,00, but a quick search of job postings for data scientists shows MANY jobs in the $200,000 and up range.

So your prospects may have plenty of money and no time to spend it.

Or like most of us, they just cherish their free time.

IT pros live in dread of that late-night call. Or maybe it’s Saturday afternoon. Or dinner time. The system’s down. They’re back on the job.

What’s the point here? Your prospects are still mothers, fathers, runners, surfing enthusiasts, and gamers too. If you’re selling to IT Pros-as-people, keep that in mind and make sure your message strikes a chord in all three areas of their lives.

That’s a lot of variables.

I know, right?

You need to think through all these variables and then figure out how/when you can clump them together to create a manageable number of segments.

Keep in mind that the expense involved in IT infrastructure marketing means that it’s often worth developing creative and campaigns for smaller target segments that would never be worthwhile in less competitive markets.

Hopefully, this will provide some food for thought the next time you sit down to think about your messaging and segmentation.

In our next segment, we’ll review the best ways to create compelling content for IT decisions makers—an especially challenging content marketing challenge.

To be notified as soon as the next blog segment on marketing to IT is published (and get the whole series as an eBook with exclusive bonus content), just give us your email.

This is the second of a multi-part series on marketing IT Infrastructure. Others in the series:
Defining the Challenge
Distributing Your Message
Content Creation
Measuring and Optimizing Results.


1In fact, there’s so many differences that we’ve written an eBook specifically for marketing to cybersecurity specialists. “Marketing CyberSecurity Solutions” will be published in the 1st quarter of 2019. Sign up here and we’ll send it you as a soon as it’s ready.

Rich Quarles

Rich Quarles

Rich is a marketing strategist focused primarily on startups, technology, and marketing to doctors. He has advised early-stage startups that have collectively returned over $2 billion to founders and investors.

Rich founded glassCanopy in 2001.
Rich Quarles