The especially deep economic recession may be causing a decline in overall information technology spending, but IT marketers that can communicate a message of value and efficiency to customers and prospects may still profit from this lucrative market.
Worldwide IT spending is on pace to total $3.2 trillion in 2009, a 6% decline from 2008 spending, according to a Gartner Inc. report, “Gartner Dataquest Market Databook, June 2009 Update.” All four major segments of IT—hardware, software, IT services and telecommunications—will experience declining revenue, according to the report. The computing hardware segment will be hit hardest in 2009, with spending projected to drop 16.3%; the software segment will show the slightest decrease, with spending forecast to drop 1.6%. IT services will decline 5.6%, and telecom will drop 4.6%, according to the report.
Against this backdrop, it's not surprising that marketers targeting IT professionals are focusing their campaign creative on cost-efficiency and value—and relying heavily on cost-effective media (namely, online) to convey that message.
“The biggest trend we're seeing, undoubtedly, and the trend with the most impact over the longest amount of time, is social media,” said Matt Yorke, president of IDG Strategic Marketing Services at IDG Communications, a media company whose brands include CIO, Computerworld, Network World and PCWorld.
Yorke said social media is having a huge impact on how IT professionals communicate and how marketers target them. Marketers with a simple strategy might have only a LinkedIn and Twitter presence, he said, while the most sophisticated technology companies have communities on their own Web sites, participate actively in social networks across the Web and use advanced monitoring tools to track what users are saying about their technology, services, brand or product.
Marketers are extremely interested in social media, he said, but they often wrongly assume that it's free. “To a certain extent, there's some truth to that; but, if you do it right, it's not free,” he said. “You've got to listen, you've got to build your objectives and you've got to participate; and the participation is an enormous time constraint. Then you've got to understand what's going on there to see if you moved the needle or not.”
John Mannion, exec VP-director of client relations at b-to-b advertising agency Doremus, San Francisco, (at right) likens social media to a trade show in that the marketer has to interact with the audience for it to be successful. “It's not like broadcast; you don't just throw it out there,” he said. “You need to commit to having someone contribute actively to that community; otherwise, it really just dies on the vine.”
Marketers are putting more of their marketing budgets toward content in an effort to feed social media efforts, Yorke said. “Content is becoming the new advertising,” he said. “Sophisticated marketers are starting to realize we're moving from a world of paid media—"I need to buy space aligned to professional structured content to gain your attention'—to a world of earned media, which is "I don't need to be in the most structured environments, and I don't necessarily need to pay for it because I can use my content and participate in these environments and, therefore, earn your attention in that way.' That's a huge shift.”
Content should be data-driven and offer the target audience something of value, said Susan Orbuch, senior VP-corporate marketing at Internet security provider Trend Micro. As part of a recent marketing campaign (see case study, page 18), Trend Micro commissioned an analyst firm to write a study about the economic impact of enterprise security. “This audience is skeptical,” she said, “so being able to provide third-party data really helps add credibility to what you're trying to do.”
Though social media has picked up significant steam, integrated marketing efforts are still the most effective way to reach an IT audience, Yorke said.
That proved true for Trend Micro's campaign, which included both print and digital. Because it was an enterprise campaign, ads targeted many audiences, including those who make decisions as well as those who influence them, said Frank Schumacher, senior VP-managing director at PJA Advertising & Marketing, San Francisco, which created the campaign.
“Print can be very, very effective in building frequency, and awareness and immediate impact—and also pass-along,” he said. “If you've got a very senior target, they can have something in their hand and hand it to someone on their staff and say, "Would you look into this for me?' ”
The combination of traditional and new media requires marketers to plan more strategically, Yorke said. “You have to think about where you're going to put your time and participation to drive a high level of engagement,” he said. “There's a new level of complexity but also a new level of opportunity.”