How Marketers Can Talk to CIOs

Posted By
Gillian Singletary

When was the last time you changed your entire office to a new software system? Or took a meeting with a vendor for a piece of hardware that no one has heard of yet? Or made a business case for buying a new laptop for your entire sales team?

If you’re a marketer, the answer is probably: never. But these kinds of complex operations are par for course when you’re a CIO. And that means that if the CIO is one of your target buyer personas, you had better start familiarizing yourself with what it means to take charge of these types of projects -- along with the other daily tasks and priorities of a CIO -- if you want to have a prayer when it comes to reaching them with your marketing messages.

Not All CIOs are Created Equal

Just because two people have the same job title does not mean they are exactly the same in their approach to the position. In the 2016 State of the CIO report, CIO Magazine differentiates between three key types of CIOs:

  • Strategic
  • Transformational
  • Functional

All three would fall under the persona umbrella of a CIO, but each plays a very different role and therefore faces different challenges. For example, the strategic CIO may have a much greater understanding of and influence over larger business goals and therefore would require a different marketing message from what a functional CIO, who tends to supervise and manage the IT department with little influence in overall business strategy, would require.

If you are not getting down to these specific types of CIOs, or do not know where your marketing efforts are focused, it is time to drill down into your buyer personas with a bit more specificity.

Get Your Research Methods In Check

Maybe this is the first you are hearing of different types of CIOs and you’re not quite sure which one your personas are -- or how to find out. Don’t worry, there is still hope. But you should start getting your research team together as soon as possible. The best place to start is by interviewing your current customers and look for patterns in what they say about their traits, challenges, and how they operate. From there, you can start to paint a picture of your ideal persona. Don’t stop with interviews, however. Be sure to evaluate trade publications, read CIO blogs, and monitor social media mentions to keep getting a sense of who your real CIO persona is. And that isn’t to say that you may need to find messaging to address more than one type of CIO, but you may well find that only one or two types is really a great match for your technology offering.

You Have to Offer More

Speaking of offering: what are you offering? Like most C-level executives, CIOs do not tend to have a lot of spare time on their hands and they do not want what time they do have gobbled up by marketing messages that don’t make any sense to them and don’t address their key challenges. With a technology background (although not all have this anymore), most CIOs want data to back up your marketing claims. It is easy enough to offer “improved efficiency” or an equally vague promise, but if there are no cold, hard numbers behind those claims, they are likely to fall on deaf CIO ears.

The best way to make a case is to directly address key CIO concerns. For example, 56% of CIOs are facing a critical shortage of skilled IT workers. Does your product or service have a way for them to make do with fewer staff, or perhaps you have a training program that pulls focus on important IT skills and elevates the productivity of less skilled employees (providing you have some data to back it up).

If you really want your marketing message to speak to CIOs, you have to be offering them something they care about that will legitimately make their job or themselves more effective, or help their company meet key strategic goals.

Reach CIOs Where They Are

Of course, you could perfect your marketing message but if no CIO ever sees it, you won’t get very far. The truth is that unless they are feeling a direct pinch in some area, CIOs are not necessarily looking for new solutions to problems. That’s why it is so important to have a solution that works better and to make that clear from the beginning. Inbound marketing can be a great way to reach a CIO, because expert opinion is something that they value. When you are able to build your brand into a trusted name, through the use of inbound best practices, you can establish your company as a thought leader in a space that is important to CIOs. This will serve to make the CIOs come to you, without thinking twice.

As marketers, it is critical that we be able to speak to a variety of personas. But if we are not intimately familiar with their problems, challenges, and values that becomes nearly impossible. Speaking to CIOs is a matter of distilling your marketing message into one that will directly benefit them. This is no time to activate hyperbole or beat around the bush. Clear, direct messaging with data to back it up is simply the best way to earn the attention of this technology decision maker.