Susan Cramm answered questions from readers in response to her column IT Marketing Smarts.
Q: Given that IT is a relationship business, is any sort of marketing—whether mass-market or B2B—appropriate? Marketing seems to run counter to the idea of a relationship.
A: That’s the legacy of mass-marketing communications, but it really has nothing to do with the true purpose of marketing. Marketing consists of offering the combination of attributes necessary to satisfy a target market, as expressed through the “four P’s”—product, price, promotion and place (meaning distribution). Ideally, all marketing would be relationship-based; after all, the best marketing is always word of mouth. IT hurts business relationships when it takes a narrow view of marketing by focusing exclusively on promotion through mass communication and ignores the other three P’s.
Q: What organizational arrangements for IT work best when appealing to “segments of one”? Should relationship managers oversee every customer interaction? Should communication liaisons be paired with tech staff?
A: In a way, everybody in IT is in the marketing business. When chief information officers are planning their organizations, marketing efforts can be facilitated through four dimensions:
- Strategy—Ensuring that IT strategy is aligned with business strategy.
- Staffing—Selecting people in customer-facing positions who have good communication, negotiation and relationship-building skills.
- Structure—Allocating resources to liaison positions such as relationship managers.
- Systems/Processes—Making it easy for customers to interact with IT.
Q: One CIO article I read says the best IT marketing tools are regular reports to the board, IT scorecards with lagging and leading indicators, and real-time information on IT. Do these tools also work for business marketing?
A: These are great communication tools, but they don’t constitute an effective marketing program. For that, IT needs to give more thought to how its products, services, pricing, development and delivery methods are supported by its communications.