customer loyaltyIt turns out that in terms of brand loyalty IT professionals are least loyal to cloud service providers (CSPs) and IT outsourcing/consulting partners.

A survey of 535 IT professionals conducted by Spiceworks finds more than 70 percent of IT buyers are loyal to their server, virtualization, and networking vendors. About 65 percent of IT buyers are also loyal to their computing device and security vendors. In contrast, CSPs and outsourcers/consulting partners garnered 47 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

To make matters even more challenging for smaller technology companies and firms, the survey finds that only 12 percent of IT buyers said they’re likely to respond to sales or marketing outreach if they’ve never heard of the vendor.

Why reaching prospects can be a challenge

On average, IT buyers report being contacted by technology sales reps and marketers 13 times each week via email, five times via phone, two times via online forums/communities, one time via social media, and one time via physical mail. In some cases, IT buyers are contacted by tech sales reps and marketers up to 25 times a week.

When contact is made, more than half the IT buyers (57 percent) prefer to be contacted via email, compared to only 8 percent that prefer to be contacted by phone. More than a third (36 percent) of IT buyers prefer to seek out information on their own.

Factors that do drive IT buyers to respond include relevant products (77 percent), detailed pricing information (61 percent), detailed product specifications (55 percent), a timely solution to a challenge (44 percent), and a free product trial (35 percent).

Generating more brand awareness

The marketing challenge IT services providers face is that services tend to be less sticky than products. Vendors of products also tend to spend more time and money on marketing than IT service providers. Those marketing efforts are critical given how few customers will respond to any type of IT vendor they are not familiar with. The signal-to-noise ratio between IT vendors and end customers is high. That makes it difficult for IT services providers to be heard.

Rather than thinking of marketing in terms of an exercise in lead generation, IT services providers need to engage in marketing initiatives designed to establish thought leadership. White papers and social media engagement activities stand a better chance of creating brand awareness at a cost an IT services provider can afford. IT services providers would also do well to set up virtual war rooms modeled on political campaigns so they’ll be ready to respond to any timely IT issues that arise. That creates the opportunity for IT services providers to participate in a discussion while the topic is still relevant.

Of course, there’s no substitute for superior customer service. Word of mouth has always been an effective way to generate new business and solidify a brand image. But, while bad news travels fast, good news tends to travel at the pace of a snail. IT services providers need to find ways to effectively amplify their marketing messages on a limited budget. That may be challenging to execute. But, brand recognition can be the critical difference between gaining and holding on to clients.

Photo: Constantin Stanciu/Shutterstock.com

Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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