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Keeping it simple will help get through to IT pros

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As VP-strategic marketing and business development of CMP's Channel business, Kate Spellman knows how to reach IT decision-makers. Prior to her current role at CMP, she was the publisher of the company's SmallBizResource .com; she has also served as senior VP- corporate marketing.

BtoB: What products and services are particularly hot right now in IT?

Spellman: Software applications are the hot thing. Anything wireless, anything that's voice-over is also hot. It's about what's going to first of all be a service to me that I can make more dollars off of and also have more ease of business with. [The IT user's] profitability becomes the vendor's responsibility as well, which hasn't been so much of a concern in the past. In the past, it's been more about the product and being able to push that through. Now, so many products work together that it's much more about the solution than anything else.

BtoB: What strategies, messaging and media work in marketing to IT?

Spellman: You've got to keep it simple. You need to be very much focused on the benefit. What is that value proposition? Why me instead of anybody else? And you must be able to deliver on the promise. It's not about "speeds and feeds" anymore, it's about the solution. What am I going to do to make your life easier? And what am I going to do to make you more profitable?

As a marketer, as you get those messages out, it's really important to stick to your plan and have patience; but also have a contingency plan because otherwise you start to be reactive rather than proactive. If you're continually batting out a certain e-mail blast that isn't working, you need to retrench, and figure out what's going on and make sure it fits into your plan.

BtoB: What kinds of value propositions work in reaching this audience?

Spellman: They're looking for reliability and quality of product. That's something that's a mandate that just has to happen; it's almost something that's ubiquitous. What's becoming more and more important is ease of use. A trend that we're watching that's incredibly interesting is that the loyalty factor is becoming lower and lower. People are more likely to switch [vendors] depending on if that product can offer something better, something less expensive, or if there's a service offered on top of it. We see more and more vendors looking for those services that they can add onto the product. For example, with a printer, you make it data storage.

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