Why The IT Blame Game’s a Winner

Is there a place for humor when marketing IT solutions to technically-savvy prospects and customers?

I ask, because many b2b technology sales teams know that ‘geeks’ can be very antagonistic to traditional marketing materials. Many interpret these as “marketing BS” or as poorly disguised “sales fluff”. (That’s why experienced account managers will often bring along a pre-sales SE to customer meetings and conference calls.)

Having been in the network infrastructure world I can understand their unease when a vendor’s sales folks arrive to “nurture the account”. What I think most interests the network operations staff are tools that:

1) Help them find potential problems before users ever notice anything is up.

2) Quickly pinpoint operational issues while providing the metrics and status info to keep managers and busybodies off their backs during problem resolution.

Now, if your company had a product in this area, how would you get the attention of those in a position to purchase and use it?

Clearly, CIOs and IT Directors are very motivated to reduce the business impact of application and network infrastructure problem. Their career paths depend on it! And that’s why some white papers, webinars, trade show appearances and peer company case studies will get their attention early on in the research stage of the buying cycle.

However, because the IT operations staff (and their managers) are ‘fighting fires’ daily just to keep the existing IT investment up and running, they often have little time, and even less patience, to think about alternatives to the status quo.

Oh, they’re interested in making improvements but swapping out an existing solution, even if it is less than ideal, is low down on their task priority list because of the risk, uncertainty and thankless work in doing so.

One way to get their attention is by poking a little fun at the often surreal reasons behind network and application outages. The idea is not to belittle them or their users (who after all fund IT budgets) but to communicate a kind of shared Dilbert-esque world-weariness with the ups and downs of keeping an enterprise networking humming along.

And that’s what I think ExtraHop Networks have done with their ‘IT Blame Game‘ microsite. It’s ‘amusing’ in ways that only a network operations department can relate to, with end-users probably finding it condescending or trite. Then again, few end-users would ever check it out…

Here’s a screenshot from the home page.
Notice the subservient, apologetic posture of the poor IT staffer, who has to suck up a plethora of excuses for what might be behind the reported ‘network outage’.

And here’s what shows after clicking the ‘Go’ button to the right of the figure.



Notice the multiple options for visitor participation:

1) Play Again:
Click through the existing contributions – it’s fun to read how outlandish some of the submitted ‘Blame game’ answers can be.

2) Tell Us Your Story:
Here’s an opportunity to grow user-generated content, providing additional reasons for people to visit the site again.

3) Like or Dislike:
You can like or dislike each ‘IT Blame” answer.

And along the bottom of the page you can click through to ExtraHop Networks’ home page, which is a subtle mix of marketing and technical content.

For those curious about what they’re ‘selling’, there’s also a link to a short video on application performance management. But, alas, you have to register to view it. (If this was my campaign, I’d test out making the video free to watch (ungated) and include an offer to register for (say) trial demo software or  a newsletter.)

Of course, this site by itself won’t change minds and get a purchase order signed any faster. What it might do, however, is to raise awareness of ExtraHop networks amongst IT operations frontline staff and their managers.

And why is that important?

Well, people talk. They do so at the start and finish of meetings, beside the water cooler, over lunch, even in the restrooms. It’s not that hard to imagine some of these conversations including an aside about that goofy ‘IT Blame’ game and how many (or few..) of those submitted stories are relevant in their workplace.

Think ‘mindshare’. Because in its own small way that’s what this microsite is about. ExtraHop Networks are taking a pain point in the daily existence of an IT professional and, in a light-hearted but still respectful manner, encouraging visitors to link the relief of that pain and embarrassment with their solution offering.

Another way to view this strategy is to imagine an external applicant with probably the best job resume of all candidates (including internal ones), but yet with no firm interview appointment. If only they had a way to clearly flag their accomplishments and value in an indirect yet memorable way…

The purpose of the IT Blame Game microsite, in my humble opinion, is to be that ‘flag’; one which can help ExtraHop Networks get a few steps closer to the ‘prize’ – be that a demo, an invite to tender, perhaps even a trial purchase.

This is great content marketing for a technical audience, with the added benefit of user-generated content and a chance to therefore go viral via social media sharing.

In my book, that makes the IT Blame Game a winner, and a funny one too.

PS – This post was originally published on technologymarketers.com but is included here because of a change in business plans by the fine folks at technologymarketers. I very much enjoyed working with them and hope our paths cross again.

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About the Author

Author: Mark McClure – A freelance b2b case study and white paper writer to the computer networking industry. Based in Tokyo, Japan. About the ‘Samurai Writer’.

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