Where IT meets marketing

How many of you woke up this morning thinking, 'I can't wait to start marketing IT's value today!' It sounds like a strange question but it's a thought and an orientation that's becoming more and more critical to IT organisations.

What do you think of when you hear the word 'marketing' For many it conjures up images of the used car salesman or trying to force or manipulate people into buying something. That's not what we are talking about here.

What we are talking about is building a team or organisation which is oriented towards marketing, communicating, sharing and educating the entire organisation to the value that is being provided.

Task versus orientation

To create an awareness of the value you provide into your culture, marketing must be viewed as an orientation, not a task. Marketing is not something that you do and then it's done - a task to be ticked off the "to do list" and marked complete.

It is a constant and consistent way of messaging and an orientation that is brought forth in all interactions between other areas of IT and the rest of the business, as well as with your actual end customers.

There are three foundations to marketing. Firstly, it involves every in IT -- from the CIO to senior managers to support staff -- just about every human touch point. Secondly, it consists of formal and information plans and messages -- everyone should be on the same page and delivering a consistent message.

Thirdly, it uses formal versus informal marketing. Formal marketing consists of our traditional marketing plans and initiatives, which take on more of a structured and planned nature.

Informal or what is known as 'hallway marketing' is the marketing which is most often overlooked but it is what creates and shapes the culture of the organisation. It is all the day-to-day interactions between different areas of IT and the interactions between IT and the rest of the business.

One way to tell if you are managing hallway marketing effectively is to imagine there has been a breakdown in an IT system and one of your team members was in the lift with the CEO.

Would you be comfortable no matter which team member it was Or would you be extremely concerned about who was in that lift with the CEO Effective hallway marketing means you have a prepared team that is delivering a consistent message from all of IT.

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Think of hallway marketing as your way of leading, developing, and maintaining the foundation of communication which will build the culture of your organisation.

As American management consultant, Peter Drucker once said: "Only three things happen naturally in organisations: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership."

Press statements and party lines

Two of the most useful tools for effective hallway marketing are using press statements and party lines.

Press statements are issued statements from IT to the rest of the business or from one area of IT to another. They should be written from the perspective of the intended reader of the statement, and the outcome in which they would be interested.

For example, if you were writing a press statement to announce an upgrade, usually the email subject line would be something like "System Upgrade to Version 999 as of March 31".

Those emails are rarely read and most often deleted without being opened. If the subject line was something like "Work from home more easily and effectively", which was an outcome of the new system, you have a much better chance of your intended readers paying attention to it.

Party lines are the prepared messages given out across IT to answer questions about a current situation. For example, let's say the network is down. Anytime someone from the business sees somebody from IT, they will ask when IT expects the network will be up and running again.

It does not matter if the person from IT has anything to do with running the network or not. Non-IT people tend to group all of IT together. You will want to make sure all of IT is prepared with the same message to be delivered to ensure that consistency and a professional image is maintained at all times.

Although marketing is not historically thought of as a function of IT, more and more it is becoming an element of a high performing IT culture.

What press statement or party lines should you prepare to ensure your team's message is being delivered clearly, consistently, and professionally

Lou Markstrom is the co-author of "Unleashing The Power of IT: Bringing People, Business, and Technology Together", published by Wiley as part of its CIO series. He is also a professional development specialist at DDLS.

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