BtoB: What should marketers know about IT managers' decision-making process?
Barsam: [IT managers'] nature is to rely on one another, and they really respect each other's opinions more than anything else. They also have a growing reliance on the Web in general, because they are multitasking, they're under a lot of pressure, and they don't have time to go through traditional, standard research channels, which in years past was reading all kinds of analyst reports. They'd literally have stacks of these on their desk and be expected to read through them. And now they can just download things off the Internet and talk to each other, go to blogs and ask questions of each other. So that's a pretty insightful change.
BtoB: Who is typically involved in IT buying decisions, and how can marketers reach these different audiences?
Barsam: [IT managers] will tell you that in most cases, they're part of a very dynamic team that has been assigned by a CIO or a senior manager, so if they're going to figure out a compliance issue, for example, not only on different levels is the CEO, the CIO, the CTO involved, but then you've got the architects of the solution, you've got the administrators of it and you've got the people who are going to implement and manage it. They all go about looking at different aspects of solving a business problem based on their expertise and where they sit in the organization. They do pass-along content that is valuable because they all want to have been exposed to the same thing before they sit down [together] and say, "Let's create a short list and go after these five vendors."
So the team dynamic and the path they take once they identify the business problem, start the research process and decide who the best solutions providers are is very complex, and they take it very seriously. A marketer needs to have a lot of content that speaks to different stages that these guys are all at. And it needs to be written in such a way that some of the content will speak to more senior, strategic people on the team while some of the content will be more tactical and speak to people who are less strategic, so that at the end of the day when these guys converge, they all have a favorable attitude toward that one vendor because that vendor has shown how to solve the problem from all their different perspectives.