CMP study: IT to shift focus to software rollouts, virtualization

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The focus of IT decision-makers next year will gradually shift to software rollouts and virtualization, among other areas, from the current challenges of security, business continuity and compliance, according to a recent study by technology publisher CMP.

The study, "Media Engagement & Activation," was based on Web interviews conducted in August and September with 800 business technology executives. It was designed to provide a deeper understanding of decision-makers' use of emerging media. CIC Research conducted the survey on behalf of CMP's Information Week, TechWeb Network and technology trade show Interop.

The groups surveyed were: executive IT management, IT management and staff, and corporate management.

The top three immediate IT priorities listed by the respondents were containing internal and external security threats, business continuity and ensuring regu- latory compliance.

However, in the next six to 12 months the top three IT priorities will shift to PC/laptop hardware or software upgrades, enhancing Web services and unifying communications across voice, video and data networks, the study found.

"Virtualization," a term used to describe how companies are investing heavily in IT to help manage their business processes more efficiently, is going strong.

"All of these IT products are hot because they can have an immediate and even transformative impact on the business," said Scott Vaughan, VP-marketing and research at CMP. "But it's not just a marketing shift, but how does your product [or service] fit into buying initiatives."

According to the study, technology companies spend an average of 3% to 5% of revenue on marketing, while 10% to 12% of revenue is spent on sales. Yet tech marketing departments are responsible for generating 60% or more of sales leads.

With these statistics in mind, the pressure is mounting on marketers to fill the sales funnel and shorten the sales cycle. Vaughan said that to do that, marketers have to do a better job of integrating their content into IT managers' work flow.

"E-mails and telemarketing to death is not the way IT buyers consume information," he said.

"If you can get into work flow and provide some interesting applications, you can do some cool things because you're getting into their processes, and that's different from the purchase process, which is linear. It's click-to-learn versus click-to-buy."

The survey also found that IT execs differ somewhat in terms of the types of media they most use to conduct research.

Asked where they go for information, IT executives listed tech b-to-b magazines first, followed by tech b-to-b Web sites and vendor Web sites. For IT management and staff the first choice was tech b-to-b Web sites, followed by vendor Web sites and tech b-to-b magazines. For corporate managers the first choice was tech b-to-b Web sites, followed by tech b-to-b magazines and vendor Web sites.

"If I were a b-to-b marketer and saw this survey, the first thing I would ask is whether my Web site—as a vendor—is good enough so that it becomes the No. 2 or No. 3 most-relied-on Web site for IT buyers," said Gary Slack, senior partner at b-to-b ad agency Slack Barshinger. "IT buyers are getting credible, useful and actionable information from these sites. Otherwise they would not have rated them so highly."

Of the IT executives who use tech b-to-b Web sites, 39% said they go to topically focused content areas and 36% go to online user communities, according to the study. For IT executives who use business Web sites, 20% go to topically focused content areas and 20% go to online user communities.

"You can no longer make sweeping generalizations about how people make purchasing decisions anymore," said Wes Durow, VP-enterprise strategy and marketing at Nortel Networks. "We, as b-to-b marketers, talk a lot about integrated marketing. But the mistake we make is we don't integrate according to how the customer is involved with information and at what stage. We need to look at integration through the lens of the buyer, not the marketer."

Durow said marketers should take pains to segment their messaging. "If you don't have a segmentation plan in place, you have a plan for bankruptcy," he said.

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