The target audience for Lenovo’s Data Center Group is the definition of niche: chief information officers at Fortune 500 companies who are in the market for complex storage, networking and server solutions.
To reach that niche, Lenovo has increasingly turned to targeted digital and social ads.
“We’re not interested in big, general blasts of information – that’s not going to yield results,” said Roderick Lappin, SVP of global sales and marketing at Lenovo DGC, which was created through the 2014 acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business. “You’re not going to see us do anything with TV advertising.”
But with a sales cycle that can exceed six months, performance advertising isn’t the answer either. Rather, Lappin and his team seek to provide Lenovo DCG’s sales force with “air cover” so prospects have some familiarity with the offering in advance of an in-person sales pitch.
“We’re talking about multimillion-dollar deals in the Data Center Group all the time – we’re not selling Motorola smartphones,” Lappin said. “Our journey starts and concludes very differently from the other consumer-oriented Lenovo business units.”
AdExchanger caught up with Lappin and Scott Hawkins, Lenovo DCG’s executive director of marketing.
AdExchanger: Where does the Data Center Group sit within the overall Lenovo machine?
RODERICK LAPPIN: We’re the black sheep of the Lenovo family. Motorola is a device-centric brand with a lot of equity and the same is true of ThinkPad [laptops]. Both are personal computing-related. But the Data Center Group is all about the infrastructure and the parts of the technology spectrum that actually run organizations.
We’re a small part of Lenovo – we contribute about 10% of Lenovo’s business revenue – and small relative to some of our peers, but we’re a very strategic part of the company’s future and we’ve got a big opportunity. Our addressable market is $87 billion, and that will be $93 billion by 2020 [according to IDC Market Forecasts].
How does DGC position itself?
LAPPIN: No dogs on skateboards. David Roman [Lenovo’s CMO] created some amazing imagery for the consumer business, especially Motorola, but that sort of thing doesn’t work for the Data Center Group.
We’re looking to target the CIOs at Fortune 500 companies. We need to deliver the message that with us they’ll never have to go in front of their CEO and explain why a security breach happened or an application is down. The message is all about trust, security and reliability.
What’s in your marketing mix?
SCOTT HAWKINS: From a CRM perspective, we use Salesforce to set up profiles, do targeting and create third-party lists. We create nurture streams through Eloqua to make sure we’re showing people the content they’ll be interested in. We also use third parties on the social side to do targeting.
But it’s still a mix between digital and face-to-face. Large infrastructure purchases are a big decision, and that’s not something we can do all on digital.
Do you do any programmatic advertising?
HAWKINS: We do content syndication. We run by geo, so when we’re choosing our ad tech partners, we look for the DSPs with the best skills in particular markets.
How do you approach targeting?
LAPPIN: You’re going to see us focus a lot more on targeted digital advertising, including LinkedIn. We need to be very specific with our efforts so that we’re reaching our CIOs where they’re surfing for information.
Has your target audience changed over the years?
LAPPIN: The target has changed a lot. Ten years ago, CIOs would start out cutting code and then move up through the ranks to become business leaders in the technology sector. Today, CIOs often start out as businesspeople and as much closer friends with the CEO.
It used to be that CIOs only read CIO Magazine and other tech industry publications. Now they’re as likely to be Wall Street Journal readers and as interested in what Elon Musk is doing as what’s happening in their own industry.
Does that impact how you reach them?
LAPPIN: Truth be told, the majority of sales are done with our field sales force. Selling our product is still a very face-to-face type of engagement. That’s why sponsoring industry events is so important for us.
But there are also very specific things that are top-of-mind with CIOs, and that’s where digital and social come in – as a place where we can hook them relevant content.
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