CMOs Need to Take a Stronger Hand in Changing IT Vendors' Sales Pitches

NEWS ANALYSIS: IT industry chief marketing officers need to have a voice strong enough to push their companies in line with what customers are asking for today.

Chief marketing officers have picked up a hefty chunk of the enterprise technology budget, and now they have to take a leadership role in technology selection and acquisition.

The old methods of tech marketing: build awareness, capture leads, nurture those leads and eventually toss the leads over the marketing wall to the sales force, have been automated, calibrated, measured and monitored but not rethought.

The way technology, and, in particular, corporate technology, is being acquired is undergoing fundamental change. And now marketing—the department that many senior executives wonder glumly about what they do for their organization besides spend money and go out to lunch—is in position to lead.

I spent a couple days at this year's Inbound 2013 marketing conference (the user conference for Cambridge, Mass.-based Hubspot). This event championed the theme of content delivered in context and it included a few new products to deliver on that promise. I'll delve into some of those new products, but while the content-in-context theme makes sense, it will take a mindset change in the enterprise for vendors to deliver.

How do we know that corporate technology acquisition is changing? Consider the traditional vendors including Oracle, SAP, Dell, Microsoft, Cisco and most recently Hewlett-Packard, which are reporting falling revenue, missed expectations or layoffs in view of a shaky financial horizon. Those vendors often blame their sales force for not making customers swallow technology sufficiently quickly. Executives get reshuffled and org charts rewritten. But aside from longing for the good old days, not much changes.

The LA Times recently featured an article on the surprising slump in technology stating, "After a remarkable six-year boom set off by the introduction of the first iPhone 2007, tech companies of all shapes and sizes are finding growth slowing, and even contracting in some cases." On the other hand, consider Amazon Web Services, any number of Hadoop-based startups and open standards-based IT organizations are finding a receptive audience and increasingly open wallets for their products and services. As Joseph Heller wrote in his telling novel on corporate culture, "Something Happened," it was as much about changes in technology acquisition as technology itself.

Amidst this upheaval, CIOs and technology managers can now try and buy (or more precisely rent) software applications and infrastructure at a pace traditional marketing tactics can't match. A consumer with their smartphone can download and try out an app in a minute.

A corporate technologist can fire up a computing instance on Amazon Web Services and try out a new corporate app nearly as fast as the consumer downloading from an app store. Lengthy evaluation processes are gone.

The well-known time to value proposition (the amount of time it takes from when you sign the contract to where the product starts generating revenues for your company) has been compressed to weeks, not years. As a result, major vendors are stuck in trying to figure out how to move their organizations away from big, one-time capital sales models to ongoing monthly service.

Recently I spoke with four CIOs and technology managers about their purchase and evaluation process.