ITDMs Want Information…and Empathy

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Steve Ingledew, SVP Strategic Planning, Enterprise Technology Group

Steve Ingledew, SVP Strategic Planning, Enterprise Technology Group

Allison Wilt, VP Strategy, Enterprise Technology Group

Allison Wilt, VP Strategy, Enterprise Technology Group

Marketing communications are often at the extremes – too technical or too fluffy. Finding the balance is key to driving behavior.

“Marketing Fluff”

 “This is not for me!”

That’s what we often hear from IT Decision Makers. Frequently, they exhibit exasperation at what they feel are communications that don’t speak to them, don’t engage them or even worse, present them with, “marketing fluff that doesn’t tell me anything.” LRWGreenberg undertakes a significant amount of creative evaluation research on behalf of leading B2B technology brands each year. A consistent theme emerging from these engagements among technical IT audiences is their frustration with the campaigns and assets they are being asked to evaluate. Fluffy ads are often a barrier to a brand’s success with ITDMs. 

More specifically, there is a clear need for ITDMs to see details relating to the offer. There needs to be some kernel of technology to make them believe. They are extremely critical if they perceive what they are evaluating as being “light” or “marketing hyperbole.” If communications don’t address the minimal technical hook they need to get in, brands are missing out. On the surface, that’s not news. But we suspected there was something deeper going on that wasn’t just about getting more information. 

Exploring the WholeHuman with ITDMs

At LRWGreenberg, we believe it’s essential to take a nuanced view of all humans. We call this WholeHuman and it involves exploring people’s three centers of intelligence: the head (cognitive), the heart (reflective) and the gut (instinctive). But, you can’t get to all three centers if you can’t get beyond the skepticism.

The overarching mandate for an ITDM is one of risk mitigation and management. There is no upside, only downside; akin to a sports referee where “the best referee is one you don’t see.”  Same goes for the ITDM.  She or he is a helper, a fixer and a constant learner. Their primary need is to make the right decision based on facts, specifications and details. Very cognitive. Yet we could also see they feel vulnerable to failure, of being caught out and as such, and gravitate to security in the form of specifics that resonate with them.  Now we’re getting into instinctive and reflective territory.

A recent study undertaken by LRWGreenberg addressed this nuanced view of B2B technology decision making. Discrete samples of IT Infrastructure decision makers were exposed to different types of advertising from a leading enterprise chip brand. The assets ranged in their balance of head/heart/gut elements and were exposed to ITDMs at three different stages of the decision-making process based on where they were in their decision-making journey (i.e., 1. Pre-research, 2. Research, and 3. Recommendation). Robust samples were achieved for the different types of executions and the three phases of the decision-making journey.

The outcome of this design and subsequent analysis revealed the level of uplift on “likelihood to purchase” resulting from exposure to the executions compared with pre-exposure to the executions. Notably, the results showed that executions that appealed to all three centers of intelligence create a greater uplift at both the pre-research and (especially) the recommendation stage at the close of the process, but that the cognitively-focused executions created the greatest uplift at the research stage. This research-driven example helped demonstrate the nuance involved in discussing this topic. 

Tips for Stronger ITDM Research, More Impactful Insights and Better Creative Outcomes

  • Ensure the creative idea appeals to all three centers of intelligence: In addition to the detail and facts that get the cognitive center firing, include elements that address the heart and gut, too. What do you want their first instinct to be when they see the idea? Surprise? Excitement? Certain images and phrases can definitely elicit that gut response. Then consider how to demonstrate empathy, which gets at reflective heart center. Show them you get that they don’t want to fail and need to feel secure in their choice.

  • But beware of hyperbole: We know through many projects that ITDMs rail against what they term as “marketing fluff.” Clarifying who your audience is is an essential piece to help them engage.

  • Go deeper in your questioning to get at core motivations: These needs are rarely revealed through direct questioning, but rather via projective techniques. Such techniques and approaches can involve the use of imagery, photos, role play, games and other tools.  Correctly crafted, presented and used, these tools are completely appropriate to be used with even the hardiest B2B audiences.

  • Leverage for pillar/messaging research, too: These perspectives can also be leveraged for pillar and messaging research usually undertaken upstream from concept evaluation.  Learning can be applied to ensure that stimulus is:

    • Understandable

    • Presented at the right altitude

    • Likely to resonate with the ITDM audience

    • Supported by the appropriate (though not too much) level of specific technical detail

Ads meant to target ITDMs are created at the extremes – they’re either too focused on the technical specs or don’t include enough. Brands need to bring the attention back to the human; the ITDM. In order to gain their trust marketers need to strike a balance and validate that the heart and gut are important, but not at the expense of the head.