Making a business case to CIOs

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Reaching CIOs has long been a priority for b-to-b marketers, yet never before has the challenge been more complex or more interesting. When it comes to talking to CIOs many sophisticated marketers still seem to stumble, choosing either the wrong message or the wrong approach.

First, there are the marketers that pretend CIOs are just overgrown techies with the big “C” in their titles. Equally ineffective are marketers that have concluded most CIOs have come into the fold from other disciplines—and they don’t really want to talk about technology.

In reality, CIOs are a diverse lot, with a complicated job. They’re the intersection of business and technology. In many organizations, they’re where what meets how. Don’t assume that a CIO is a CIO is a CIO And for marketers, that means you can’t treat them all the same. CIO Magazine has identified four common CIO personas. The business leader, who will put a premium on understanding business processes; innovation agents, who believe strongly in IT’s ability to drive new-business initiatives; operational executives, who place strong emphasis on their project management and execution skills; and turnaround artists, who are risk-takers and see themselves primarily as agents of change.

CIO’s have different personalities and very different priorities. Smart marketers can use these insights to frame their approaches differently.

Be relevant, and keep it snappy Play to a prospect’s strengths. A single message—delivered one way—will not be effective with every CIO. Consider ways to balance a tailored approach with a consistent brand story. Talking to a business leader? Your marketing communications materials should speak his or her language. How will your solution help the organization gain competitive advantage, increase share, boost margins? Talking to an operational expert? You’ll want to address project time frames and ROI up front.

Don’t “darken the skies” with indiscriminant attempts to reach them. Choose your time and place carefully. Keep your message brief and straightforward. And don’t neglect the favored media of busy CIOs—anything they can view online (via laptop or mobile) or pick up at a conference or networking event.

Use snail mail at your peril Regardless of the age of the CIO, leave the glossy brochures at the office. CIOs are wired—and wireless. Although the majority of CIOs today are baby boomers, there is a younger generation of bloggers right behind them. This new generation grew up with Yahoo, Google and eBay. Viewing IT as a place of innovation is second nature for them. And marketing communications in their preferred communications modes are not so much appreciated as expected. Always keep in mind that they get much of their information online and on the go. Think podcasts, mobile-enabled microsites and downloads, rather than traditional direct marketing pieces. Don’t be shy about using technology to make the sale. CIO’s are technology people, and they get that.

In short, keep it short. Be relevant. Appeal to their priorities and their strengths as individual business leaders. Enlist their peers as influencers. And never underestimate their technical savvy as consumers of information. Remember these things and they just might remember you—and opt in for a longer conversation.

Sherri Leopard is founder-CEO of boutique marketing agency Leopard Communications (, a wholly owned subsidiary of OgilvyOne North America.

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