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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

Marketing IT In-House: Never Stop Selling Your Project

Don't automatically believe it when you're told there's no money for your BI project.

Just because your project is approved doesn't mean your sales job is over. Your in-house customers need you to keep selling your work to them all through your project.

You're a tech person, not a salesman? Not to worry. If we think of marketing as leading prospects to the point of sale, you're a marketer, and marketing isn't really selling a product. However, marketing is all about selling people on the idea of buying, before and after the point of sale. Buyers need to be reminded why their purchase was such a good idea.

This after-the-sale marketing is exactly what's missing in many BI initiatives. Senior executives may have approved a budget for the BI goodies they ordered, but they grow impatient as the project drags on. Nobody's keeping them in the mood.

I listened to a group of technologists from different companies complain that user management was too impatient to allow a BI app to be fully developed, even with an agile methodology. I can understand the techs' frustration, but they neglected to sell the app's benefits after the point of sale.

Friends of mine hired a construction crew to build a two-story house. Like all new-home buyers, they stopped in occasionally to see the progress. They didn't want to get in the way; they just wanted reassurance every week or so that they hadn't spent their money on a dumb idea.

One day they decided to enter the house. What an experience it was to walk through the front door as a preview of their future. The impossible happened. The door opened partially and stopped against the staircase to the second floor.

You can imagine the horror in my friends' heart. Their imagination ran wild in the worst way. Instead of looking forward to a new home, they worried about their investment and the number of errors that might be covered up during the long building process.

User management is no different than my friends' experience. They may seem negative, but they've heard and seen money blown on many a losing cause. They've made costly decisions and they don't want to make them again. It's their worst nightmare.

You can make the difference by marketing the benefits and progress in understandable language all along the way. Executives often say there's no money in the budget when we know there is money. They're really saying they don't like what the money is buying.

I've been watching data analysts lose their jobs or status in initiatives that were originated by the top executives in their companies. In some cases, the problem is that a director or VP didn't know how to market in-house and didn't know how to articulate what should be said in defense of the project. In other cases, the director or VP felt powerless to keep selling to the top brass.

The bigger problem is that none of these managers thinks it's his or her job to market in-house in the first place. The managers' high-level understanding of the value technology brings to the business puts them in a position to exercise strategic influence -- if they weren't so scared to craft smart messages and speak up.

Your in-house customers and team members need you to keep selling your work. Selling it takes courage. If you're courageous, you can sell good ideas -- good news -- all the way to the top of your enterprise. Think like a magnificent business professional: be brave and never stop selling.

About the Author

Max T. Russell invites your questions about marketing. As owner of Max and Max Communications, he improves messages for BI, nonprofits, lawyers and alternative medicine. He and his identical twin, Max S., are heavy technology users who have been discussing and dissecting the challenges of IT in the workplace for the past 20 years. You can contact the author at

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