Aside from a major hardware failure, websites going down or the inability to get into email (the tech crisis I think our IT department dreads the most), I’d never really put much thought into how a tech project comes to be. That is, until I met Kevin Stokes and Randall Gamby. Kevin, CIO for the town of Brookline, and Randall, Information Security Officer for the Medicaid Information Service Center of New York, came to our offices literally just to chat with our sales force about how they do what they do. One of the topics they covered was the origin of the technology project. I found it very interesting, particularly as a marketer responsible for helping technology marketers improve the effectiveness of their content marketing efforts.
What I’d never really thought of prior to this discussion, is how the classification structure IT departments use to categorize the types of technology projects they’re handling, can actually inform and prioritize the focus of your content. Some of you may be asking “what’s a classification structure”- don’t worry, I did too. Basically, IT departments look at tech projects in certain ‘buckets’ which dictate everything from how they research, to the prioritization of the efforts.
While these structures can vary organization to organization, there are some basics themes you’ll see come through:
- Something Broke- I think we’re all familiar with this one. When a something goes down, it’s a scramble to fix the problem. There may be some research here, but it will be quick, and right to the point. These projects are typically priority one on any given day.
- The Upgrade- Another area technology teams monitor are upgrades for the various hardware and software products the organization leverages. These can be either mandatory or optional, with the research process here being one that starts basically when your marketing does. IT teams follow the news around the upgrades, explore the pros and cons, and work to understand what it’s going to look like for their organization, sometimes well in advance of when they’ll plan to actually deploy.
- New Features- Thanks to business owners like us marketers, there’s often a demand on IT for a new functionality or feature of an existing system to support and overall goal or new strategy. Sometimes, these projects actually originate within IT as the anticipatory result of a business focus. These projects typically result in a tech purchase, managed by IT (hot button topic business vs. IT, we’ll circle back to that one in a future post but in the meantime, that link will take you to a great paper on the subject).
- Strategic Endeavors- Some organizations may put an emphasis on what I’ll call ‘strategic IT.’ Based on the overall direction of the business, technology needs may be evolving. It may be a ‘right now’ thing or maybe it’s a ‘3-5 year’ thing- in either case, Sr. IT is often monitoring the landscape for the right strategic investment. Randall mentioned spending as much as 30% of his time simply researching/monitoring the technology landscape.
So what does this mean for your content strategy? Based on these categorizations, you can see different content needs (or opportunities) emerge. I bucket them into four content focuses:
- Crisis Management- whatever the solution, it’s always important to understand what happens when the unexpected happens. Make sure your buying teams have access to information on how ‘easy’ it is to get the product or service back up and running in the event of an emergency. This content will work particularly well with your In-the-trenches team members who will ultimately manage the product in the enterprise. They’re also typically the ones responsible for researching the project, so this could give you a leg up. Play up the ‘minimal business impact’ when marketing to your more senior or strategic personas (line-of-business (LOB) or Sr. IT- side bar, for a little bit more on what matters to these guys to inform your persona, check out this post & infographic).
- Navigating the Upgrade- while it’s important to publish content yourself on how amazing the new version is, you’re not exactly the most credible source out there (I know, the truth hurts). The reality is independent content can do wonders here for you (The CMO Council and Netline had some interesting research here recently). Build a strong alignment with relevant 3rd party content and integrate custom content into your plans.
- Bells and Whistles- this might seem like and obvious one on the surface, but the reality is ‘bells and whistles’ mean different things to different people. Make sure you’re producing content that covers what matters to each of the project’s influencers. Your personas will be critical here. What the business cares about, will differ from Sr. IT, which will differ even further from line-of-staff IT. Position the benefits to each persona, and distribute the content accordingly.
- Forward Thinking- Finally, build out the content that speaks to how your solution enables the tomorrow infrastructure. Look mainly to target your more senior personas with these messages and be sure to align them with more wide-reaching, relevant publications, relevant groups or communities, and conferences, to intercept researchers tasked with thinking about the IT of tomorrow within their organization.
Some of these themes will likely emerge as you lay out your personas if you haven’t already. If you’re in the process of working through personas, remember to focus on things like common pain points and priorities in addition to role or level within an organization.
As a thorough content marketer, obviously I didn’t let this interview slip away without capitalizing on the content – so if you’re interested in checking out this portion of the interview, you can read it here, or view it here.