Even in IT, sex sells

Plus, new study suggests marketers take a lesson from software companies

Attention all IT marketers: There’s no limit to how sexy you can make technology sound, if you put some creativity into it.

Case in point, the Fall/Winter issue of Conduit, the glossy computer science alumni magazine from my alma mater, Brown University. The magazine just recently got a makeover. But what really stunned me about this latest issue was the come-hither, tarted-up nature of its cover story, “CSI: Computer Science Investigations.” Using blurry crime-scene photos and some hand-typed ransom-letter-like teaser copy, the cover resembled a TV-style case-file promo, like a teaser you’d see for Crossing Jordan or CSI: Miami.

Captivated, I flipped to the complete story inside, which turned out to be about how a group of Brown CS students used computer-imaging techniques (deghosting, specularity detection, camera calibration) to help find clues to a convenience-store murder. They didn’t actually solve the murder, but somewhat helped the cops narrow down the description of the suspect and getaway car.

The point here is that although much of IT is really cool -- and we know that -- you’ve got to sex it up a bit to appeal to a wider audience.

Speaking of marketing, Forrester is out with an interesting report suggesting that b-to-b marketers take a lesson from software companies, who do a good job of lead management. Compared with other business marketers, VP Laura Ramos says, software firms do a better job using data to qualify leads, automating lead management processes, and tracking campaign responses effectively. Furthermore, software firms are more open to using technology to improve marketing effectiveness.

No big surprise here, given that software firms are obviously more comfortable with technology than, say, companies in the food service distribution business. But interestingly, when an earlier Forrester study (“Marketing Technology Adoption 2006”) looked at marketing technology spend by business category, they found that the top spenders on marketing technology by percent of revenue were actually retailing companies (.038 percent), followed by travel and leisure (.034 percent), business equipment and technology (.032 percent), media and communications (.03 percent), consumer products (.027 percent) and financial services (.024 percent).

In other words, there seems to be no obvious correlation between type of industry (consumer vs. b-to-b) or tech savvy and marketing technology spend (financial services is super tech savvy, for example). And its also striking how low the marketing technology spend levels are on an absolute basis -- two hundredths of a percent of revenue, seems like a rounding error. I’d bet, by the way, that the comparable figures for sales technology are much higher (and in fact Forrester claims that marketing technology effectiveness shoots up the closer the organizational link to sales).

B-to-b may well lead the charge in changing the doormat status of marketing technology because it’s easier to track the ROI on a tech-optimized b-to-b sales process than a consumer campaign where you never quite know what caused people to come in the store. It’s more of a closed-loop process, in other words, with more trackable pieces. As a consumer, I’m proud of the fact that until they put a permanent Webcam on my head and link it to my credit card history, they’ll never quite know what I’m up to or what I might do next -- and that’s exactly what makes me dangerous.

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