• March 10, 2008
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

10 Ways to Meet the CIO

ORLANDO, FLA. -- While strategic differences exist between marketing B2B and B2C, there is a fundamental similarity -- in both cases, you're selling to a person. The challenge, however, is making sure you're selling to the right person -- the decision-maker -- and oftentimes that person is hard to identify, and even harder to reach. A session at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) B-to-B Marketing Conference here earlier this week provided some helpful tips on how to reach the higher-ups. Today's chief information officer is in charge of more than merely running the technology department, according to the session's presenters, Sherri Leopard, chief executive officer of B2B marketing agency Leopard, and Teresa Golden, vice president of marketing and strategy at IBM. In fact, Golden told the crowd, when it comes to the CIO title the "I" could just as easily stand for:
  • Integration: integrating solutions and technology;
  • Innovation: being a change agent, introducing remedies to business problems;
  • Irritation: trying to prod people toward change and doing something different;
  • Identity: getting the right information to the right person; and
  • Inoculation: protecting the company from technology threats (such as spam) and maintaining corporate privacy.
Given these responsibilities, one of the key takeaways is that today's CIO wants to be addressed as a business leader, not as just a technology leader. IBM's Golden broke down the sophistication of CIO responsibilities into three tiers:
  • The Utility Player: effectively ensures that the infrastructure is secure. This is a CIO's most basic requirement -- if she can't achieve this, she won't last long, Golden said;
  • The Trusted Advisor: focuses on implementing new applications and solutions with the intent of expanding or accelerating the organization's growth; and
  • The Partner Player: gets a seat at the table with the other c-level executives and helps to shape the overall business strategy.
Currently, Golden reports, only 10 percent to 15 percent of CIOs have attained the position of "partner player," but there is an ambitious trend in that direction. Nevertheless, in every company, the CIO has the potential to play a significant role. The typical CIO is bombarded with vendor messages that just get ignored -- "They don't think they need help," Golden said. Therefore, sellers have to know whom they're talking to and what that particular CIO's goals are in order to conduct a conversation that will be heard. IBM conducted a 15-month program to really understand what makes a CIO turn her head. The research centered on how the seller could reach a given CIO in a way that that CIO wanted to be reached. Leopard and Golden shared 10 of the key strategies:
  • Be where they are: Based on where the CIO is in terms of her commitment level, the seller needs to deliver appropriately -- low commitment might call for a simple white paper; medium commitment involves a little more engagement, where the CIO reveals more information and expects to receive reasons a seller can deliver; and high commitment is when the CIO has done her research and is actively seeking a solution provider;
  • Content is king: Most sellers tend to think of a pitch as a volume game, Leopard says. Keep it short and relevant -- get in and get out;
  • Address them as business leaders: By understanding how this profession is changing and evolving, sellers can deliver not just pertinent content but content presented along with the most appropriate strategy;
  • Be patient: Fostering confidence with the CIO can take a minimum of anywhere from six to 18 months. You're not just selling a product -- you're selling a relationship.
  • They buy from people, not marketing campaigns: Sellers do need to be educated on the product -- but that's because they need to be able to use that knowledge in order to craft a pitch based on the needs of a particular buyer;
  • Let your customers convince your prospects: CIOs are more convinced by other CIOs than by you. IBM created a community user environment where users and prospects can connect;
  • Persuade rather than promote: It's always more compelling to convince rather than cajole;
  • Present a payoff: Make the solution easy to understand and describe the potential payoff in simple, digestible terms;
  • Be intimate: CIOs hate thousand-attendee user events, Golden says. They prefer smaller, more intimate crowds of 100 to 200 people who are like them; and
  • CIOs hate to travel: Go to them.

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