For one, IT professionals seek extensive information on products or services they're considering, and they most often search for that information online. Research from the fall 2006 IntelliQuest CIMS study indicated that manufacturer Web sites are the leading source of information for technology purchase influencers, followed by technology content Web sites, reseller Web sites, and computer and technology magazines.
Marketers must make it easy for customers and prospects in the IT vertical to do research, said Joe McCormack, creative director at ad agency Doremus & Co., San Francisco, whose technology clients include Intel, Sun Microsystems, Rosetta Stone, Saba and Tektronix.
"We find that what a lot of companies could do a much better job of is making that compelling information more accessible on their own Web site, pushing it up onto the home page, getting it into place and making it prominent enough so it engages prospective buyers when they hit the home page," he said.
Client success stories, relevant third-party content and Flash animations or videos that dramatize a technology's functionality are effective at breaking through to this audience, he said. "There's a lot of extremely sophisticated functionality that's happening, for instance, at the chip level," McCormack said. "When IT audiences see some of this functionality at work, it's very compelling."
IT marketers are increasingly using social media such as community sites and blogs—either by building their own or having a presence on an industry site such as ITtoolbox—to reach their audiences, said Sonal Gandhi, an analyst at JupiterResearch. "IT tends to be a topic where people do need to share information with others in the same profession," she said. "Social marketing tends to work very well in this market."
The shift of advertising dollars to the online arena has been significant, said Matt Yorke, senior VP-sales and marketing at IDG Communications. "Print budgets continue to get cut, and that money is being shifted over to the digital world," Yorke said. "We've had some clients who last year were putting 70% of the budget in print and 30% online; now those same clients are putting 70% of the budget online and 30% in print. That's a dramatic change to see in the space of one budget cycle to the next."
This shift gives marketers a chance to use print vehicles more as a premium complement to Web advertising, Yorke said. "There's less advertising right now in the print vehicles, therefore there's greater impact and a lot less clutter," he said.
Educational events focusing on targeted topic areas, such as virtualization, seem to be on the upswing, Yorke said. "It allows the vendor to be seen as a market maker and associate themselves with the topic," he said. "And you've got a very engaged audience that really feels they need to learn more about those areas."
"The best way to talk to this particular audience is to have technical people speak to other technical people. That's what they respect," said Michele Turner, VP-product marketing and product management at the Platform Business Unit of Adobe Systems. "The key is being able to create that connection between different technologists and create a community feeling."
Blogs have played an important role in driving attendees to conferences, Turner said. "This is a crowd that blogs a lot, and there's been a lot of buzz in the blogosphere about these events," she said.
Turner said it's critical to understand who the top bloggers are for your particular audience and build relationships with them. "Working with the bloggers and working with the press is a very, very key part of our marketing strategy when we go out to this audience," she said. "They're not always going to write what you want them to write, but hopefully you create enough of a working relationship that there's a mutual respect there."