As a marketer, understanding your target audience and their content consumption preferences is a foundational component to running successful campaigns. It’s why we create buyer personas, conduct market research, and complete customer interviews.

IT marketers in particular face a complex challenge connecting with their audience, who are heavily marketed to and have less tolerance for salesy content. To understand what makes IT audiences tick and how to effectively reach them, we interviewed BrightTALK’s IT Security Community Manager Joshua Downs.

Read his thoughts below and catch him on the BrightTALK Academy next week for a more in-depth discussion with Symantec about how you can influence the IT visionary.

More than time of day, more than length of webinar – what are the leading factors in an effective marketing program?

I would suggest that there are several elements that build a strong marketing program on BrightTALK, all of which work into engaging the various formats at your disposal on the platform:

1. Keeping the presentation interactive by flipping between screenshare (to demonstrate complex points) and slides (for more high-level stuff).

2. Answering audience questions throughout the presentation.

3. Including downloadable, high-quality attachments like detailed white papers or current reports (not just the webinar slides or a marketing one-sheeter).

4. Keeping a constant stream of fresh content in your channel, including not only webinars but also videos like customer testimonials and short-form previews of upcoming webinars.

5. Utilizing external actors and organizing panels with industry experts and/or customers. I generally see a 30% spike in attendance when clients invite independent experts to participate.

What makes the IT audience different from other audiences?

IT concepts are often a lot more meaty and technical than in other communities. You often have to make use of the screen share functionality, especially if you’re demoing a new piece of software or (in infosec) demonstrating how an attacker might be able to exploit a certain vulnerability. You need to be able to take your audience on a deep technical dive in many cases, not just holding high-level discussions around a theoretical subject. However, this means that the audience is more likely to sit through 45+ minutes of the content, as they really do need to see it through to the end to get their head around what they’re being shown.

I often find also that their experience in IT (security in particular) means that the audience are savvy when it comes to data privacy and are very reluctant to be marketed to. You need to approach them differently, making sure the content is absolutely spot-on (avoiding any hint of sales pitches or marketing content).

The tone has to be strictly thought leadership and the content should help them get ahead in their career, or you’ll lose their faith very quickly. Anything with an overtly sales or marketing tone tends to send IT audiences running for the hills!

What are industry trends that’ll impact marketers looking to connect with IT professionals this year?

Blockchain (which seems to be everywhere) is a key concern for all IT audiences this year. It’s got everybody talking and there’s a lot of hype around the topic; several key industries are now assessing how they can incorporate blockchain into their offerings. It’s a bit of a bubble at the moment — whether it lives up to the expectation is another question — but it’s certainly on the minds of many IT pros which is being reflected in the content on BrightTALK’s IT Communities.

Information security is also a very prominent topic within IT. Gartner has predicted that Cyber Security spending globally will jump from $75 billion in 2015 to $170 billion in 2020, so it’s becoming probably the one area that all IT companies have to focus on in some way. Within infosec, encryption seems to be coming back into the conversation even more, as the FBI involves themselves with Apple, and WhatsApp just announced that they’re going to encrypt all messages. It’s a fascinating topic and all kinds of industries (finance, critical infrastructure, defence, retail) are both interested by and investing heavily in encryption.

Other key infosec topics that are in the news on a daily basis such as cyber warfare and the big breaches (i.e. Ashley Madison, Panama Papers, etc.) are sparking a lot of debate and discussion on BrightTALK. These hyper-public, newsworthy stories are bringing security to the forefront of IT’s public-facing world. All IT companies producing software are increasingly having to think about incorporating security from the ground up in their development; so as a topic, it’s resonating well and it’s of interest to almost all IT audiences on BrightTALK; as absolutely nobody wants their organization to get breached.

How are EMEA audiences different from their global counterparts?

EMEA is a vast region with a multitude of cultures, time zones, and languages. It’s not as easy to go with a one-size-fits-all approach, which is easier to do in North America. As such, local language content always comes as a relief to audiences in other EU nations. Delivering the content in Italian or French or German will always be more enticing to EMEA tech audiences, especially for more in-depth topics where attention has to be held throughout the entire presentation.

Several of our largest clients have extra channels for their Italian or German content, in which their EU counterparts repurpose US or UK content for those local markets, in the right time zone and delivered in the right language. They also apply this approach to how they market the content to the audience via promotional email campaigns and so forth and generally see a lot of success with this technique.