4 things you want to know about how Senior IT Executives do research

Courtney Kay

VP of Field Marketing

If you’re building and/or executing a persona-based approach to your marketing (hint: by now, you should be) there’s little doubt that Executive IT has emerged as a target for your messaging. Let’s call our persona Executive Ed (for all the ladies out there, I’m not sexist: 79% of CIOs are men – I’m nothing if not factual).

Now, there are lots of theories about how Ed does his research – I’ve heard everything from “his team does it all” to “he’ll only consider the vendors he has installed.” Well, to better understand Ed, we did a survey that looks at how he does his research. We found that, of the Executive Eds out there…

  • 58% start their research on Google;
  • LinkedIn trumps Facebook and Twitter for tech research (6:1);
  • 57% are willing to interact with any vendor with a solution; and,
  • 1/3 will consider new suppliers on every project.

What the research tells us is that generally, executives are open to new vendors, so long as the solution (and the price) is right – a win for the little guy. It also tells us, brands need to be more visible in more places. I say “brands” because sometimes lesser known vendors prioritize lead-generating content to fill the pipe when branding could actually be more beneficial (so says McKinsey on Forbes – did I name drop enough?). Google is a means to an end, and with Google searches trumping vendors and even peers as the starting point for research, there are lots of places Executive Ed will end up (I’ll talk about where those searches generally land in my upcoming Boston Online ROI Summit presentations – I’m working through our new Media Consumption research results as we speak).

What the research doesn’t give us is context. Not all projects are created equal, and therefore, not all research processes look the same. To further explore these results, Jon Brown did a really informative interview with Kevin Stokes, CIO for the Town of Brookline, MA, and Randall Gamby, ISO for the Medicaid Information Service Center of New York (note: Jon will be moderating another panel of top IT executives at the Boston Online ROI Summit). These two Executive Eds gave us a lot of detail about how their research processes look. While there will always be an element of personal preference, 2 themes emerged:

  1. Apps vs. Infrastructure – Because applications are always evolving, it’s easier to talk new vendor, than it is with infrastructure projects (takeaway: apps vendors can focus more on pure features and functionality whereas infrastructure focused solutions need to weave in competitive displacement).
  2. Known vs. Unknown – New technologies offer green field. Executive Ed and his team are doing a lot of research leveraging analysts, publications, and vendors. Randall mentioned (off-camera) that he spends as much as 30% of his personal time researching, especially on the “what’s next” technologies.  So those of you who think Ed farms out, think again. (Takeaway: BRAND. Particularly alongside independent perspectives to build mindshare and drive consideration especially when you’re messaging on an emerging tech.)

Bottom line: CIOs really are different; but, not so different that even the most unknown of brands can’t make an impact.  Take the time to understand their needs and tailor your content accordingly.  You can check out this section of the interview along with some of the research here . If you’re just getting started with personas, and need help, our Client Consulting team can help with a free persona-based content audit (Boston folks, we’ll have a team onsite at the Summit to consult with you).

executive IT research, IT buying research, marketing to CIOs, persona-based marketing, technology buying research

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