When I covered CIOs for 13 years at CIO Magazine, I found that it was very difficult to generalize about the profession, beyond a handful of universal problems such as alignment with the business and the complexities and the voracious needs of the IT infrastructure.
If I learned anything in those years, it was that CIOs really are a diverse lot. And that has big implications for marketers.
To market to these people effectively, you’re going to have to get to know them as being part of multiple, unique segments. That means understanding not just the top 10 IT drivers for 2009 as predicted by Gartner or Forrester. It means understanding different CIO roles, skills, aspirations, and business contexts.
CIOs are in fact so different that marketing to them all with the same message means that you’ll be irrelevant at best, and offensive at worst to most of the people you’re trying to reach.
CIOs are not all the same
When I was at CIO, I was very frustrated with the findings from our State of the CIO survey because they were relentlessly identical from year to year. But I know that in speaking to hundreds of CIOs, very few fit into the exact same mold. I found that every CIO I spoke to had at least a few unique issues—whether it is unique industry requirements, organizational complexities, or other things that they were grappling with that I hadn’t heard from anyone else.
So one year when I ran the State of the CIO survey we decided to take a deeper look at this data. We came up with some interesting insights.
For example, we’ve long thought that CIOs in smaller organizations are hamstrung by a lack of discretionary budget to work with, small staffs, and a lack of access to the CEO in the business.
So we started pulling factors like these together, and sure enough, new insights began to emerge. We began to see the CIO in more segmented way, with different drivers and motivations.
This led to what we started calling the “CIO archetypes.” Since I did the original archetypes work at CIO, they’ve morphed a little bit. We originally had four, but today they’ve been reduced to three, and the names have changed:
Function Head. These CIOs focus on keeping the lights on, on the IT utility, and are usually at smaller organizations or divisions within larger organizations.
Transformational Leader. These CIOs tend to be in larger companies and generally serve multiple business entities. Because they have this cross-business visibility, they have the opportunity to become business process experts and use IT to make those processes more efficient and effective. Following through on those process opportunities requires more than programming and project management skills, however. They focus on processes and standards, different organizations, and they do a lot of work on governance; especially concerning what elements of IT are shared and what are local.
Business Strategist. These lucky devils have access to the business and are involved in strategic planning. The best have built up their business skills through direct experience. Others are successful CIOs who take on complementary business roles in addition to IT such as supply chain, for example.
Though CIO no longer tracks a fourth category, I think it’s important to mention:
Turnaround Artist. These are a small, powerful minority of CIOs who defy categorization. You can find the Turnaround Artists in any of the archetypes, but they have one important issue that marketers need to be aware of: they’ve been brought into fix what the business thinks is a broken IT department.
Can you see how these different archetypes have different needs and interests? Have you tried to segment your CIO audience?