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Marketing and Communications of a Successful IT Provider

By Alex Salicrup

SALICRUP-crop2Communication is the single-most important pillar of being a service-driven IT organization. While technical aptitude and service are both vital, being able to communicate effectively about value internally and to consumers is the key to IT becoming a true business partner.

IT has always struggled because its culture is one of fragmented thought leadership; not to mention the fact that those in the IT profession are often reactive, detail-oriented, and risk averse. Overcoming these obstacles requires careful management of IT’s internal brand.

Traditional IT is control-driven and customized. Go to a third-party cloud service provider and knock on the door, and they aren’t going to hand you a customized solution. The majority of them have a solution that they have predicted you will need. They have created a small number of services that will satisfy most of their consumers.

Now is the time to take a cue from those vendors and shift to a service-oriented model of IT by truly understanding user needs and perceptions first, then designing services around them. Manage IT like it’s your own business. Be competitive, proactive, and innovative. Manage customer perceptions. Remember that risks are opportunities.

Change is Difficult
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It’s difficult to change negative perceptions, but marketing campaigns do that every day; they are designed to put a new, positive perception in your head. It’s time to start your own IT marketing campaign to manage how your company views IT and help foster change.

Here are the five components you’ll need to think about as you start your IT brand campaign.

  1. Brand:
    Admit where you are now and where you want your brand to go. Your name, symbol, and color palate, are all part of the perception. So are all of the ways you communicate, including emails and templates.
  2. Catalyst of change:
    What are the reasons why your stakeholders would want change? The biggest place where this is a problem is within IT.
  3. Vision:
    In order to create a good catalyst, you need a vision that you can communicate. “We have to change because…” Many people are nervous about cloud, for example, but there is an opportunity for it to be that positive catalyst for change, that differentiator that tackles business issues, not just IT issues. Your vision needs to be something that is trackable. It can’t be something too absolute, like being the best cloud provider in the world. You will also need to determine who will communicate the vision and to whom.
  4. Targeted services:
    Know your niche. There are all sorts of cloud services available. So find out what the needs of your consumers are and your value proposition to them. A lot of times in IT, we buy the architecture first, and then tell people their needs. Now that consumers have options, that strategy is not competitive.
  5. Effective communication:
    A cohesive message to communicate with different audiences to help position service values.

Let’s look a little more closely at the three types of individuals that you will be communicating with in your entire organization. Of course, the first step is to get your own people on board with the dog food you are going to sell.

  • The complacent are happy with the status quo, they are the most resistant to change, and unwilling to look at the benefits of change. If you tell them they are going to do something new, they say “no way.” They pose the biggest threat to consumer adoption at your organization.
  • The blind followers, on the other hand, can get behind any vision but aren’t able to articulate it. They are tactical so the high-level vision is likely too broad for them.
  • Lastly, you may have a small group of competent followers who may be emerging leaders or IT loyalists (or both). They understand the business units, and are highly interested in the team and organizational results. They can help you manage the other two groups.

Go out and create evangelists. Executives and directors cannot carry the whole load. The individual contributors–those who will be using the services—can be your most influential advocates.

Pave the Way Forward
Now that we’ve looked at the individual types of stakeholders and the five components of your brand campaign, let’s take a look at how to get your message across.

Acknowledge IT’s current state

  • Tell stakeholders your transformation plans from start to finish.
  • Admit challenges to make IT more credible.

The plan should communicate:

  • Product or service
  • Target consumers
  • Your competition and how IT compares
  • IT services value over competition

Three main stages:

  1. Identify critical success factors: What must be right in order to meet forecast and grow?
  2. Value proposition: which aspects of your products make the IT consumer focus on the services rather than the prices?
  3. Prepare a service uptake forecast: Lay the best path that IT can reach.

These IT marketing concepts may seem simple or common sense, but they are also reasonable and achievable. When you prove value through effective communications and marketing, the business starts looking at you like a true partner.

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Alex Salicrup is a transformation strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services and is based in California.