European IT strategy lacks clout

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Five major flaws in the state of European high-tech marketing have been identified by an organisation recently set up to put the business on a par with the best in the world.

The Foundation, established by five high-tech marketing consultancy and services providers, says:

The European information technology industry has a cruder approach to segmenting its markets than other sectors;

IT marketing largely remains an after-thought and receives little boardroom commitment;

European marketing typically relies on US programmes rather than taking into account specific European factors;

Many organisations take a product and engineering-led approach to marketing rather than seeking to match customer needs;

The vast majority of IT marketing is outsourced to disparate, specialist IT marketing agencies, with the result that there is little strategy.

The Foundation aims to bring together "the best and the brightest" marketing directors from technology and telecoms companies across Europe with the intention of encouraging better marketing practice and so faster and more extensive investment by IT buyers. As such it is a direct response to claims by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Andrew Grove, chief executive of computer chip maker Intel, that European industry is lagging behind North America and Asia in the take-up of IT.

Though it has just been launched and held its inaugural meeting late last month, The Foundation has attracted a great deal of interest from European high-tech companies involved in all aspects of the sector from manufacture to consultancy as well as the local arms of such US companies as Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Oracle.

Luke Spikes, The Foundation's chairman, and managing director of IT and telecommunications research company Spikes Cavell, which is one of the organisation's sponsors, said it was "high time the IT industry grew up". For example, "for a vendor to segment its markets according to its own infrastructure constraints, rather than buyer needs, is absurd".

Stan Woods, director of another sponsor, the high-tech marketing consultancy A Plus Group, added: "IT industry customers range from large organisations spending vast sums of money on technology to individuals who want basic solutions for everyday needs. We have to work to get a clear picture of how and why they purchase."

Consequently, an early priority of the organisation will be to research and develop some truly European market data with the aim of suppliers learning about "customer dynamics". The idea will be to identify the attributes that are critical to the overall success of an IT or telecoms vendor selling in Europe so that companies can define the best criteria for European market performance, positioning, sales and distribution.