Blog | Hugh Kennedy 09.18.20

Happy 7th Anniversary, Enterprisers Project!

Building a Runaway Marketing Success, One CIO at a Time.

Although I’m not particularly prone to quoting the world’s richest man, I do agree with what Jeff Bezos said in 2018 about one of our most enduring cultural myths: “All overnight success takes about 10 years.”

Or in the case of The Enterprisers Project, a thought leadership program our agency launched for Red Hat, it takes closer to seven.

Any marketing timeline over 18 months is probably considered an eternity to most CMOs, which is why we tip our hats at PJA to Jim Whitehurst, now President of IBM; Jackie Yeaney, now EVP of Marketing at Tableau, and Lee Congdon, now CIO at Ellucian. We thank them not only for greenlighting our 2013 idea to track the evolution of the CIO into a full-fledged business executive, but for having the smarts and patience to participate in roundtables, extend their network of IT executives to us, and fund our little website year after year after year. Until, eventually, it began to run on its own momentum.

The origin story has been told many times. Red Hat was having trouble getting into the C-suite with its enterprise open source software solutions and needed to raise its profile. Traditional advertising dollars were few. The idea came to us: why not create a place for Red Hat’s ideal IT buyers, CIOs, to gather virtually, share information and best practices, but never sell Red Hat? Instead, why not let the reflected light shine on Red Hat for acting as a catalyst for these conversations – which, incidentally is a core idea in Red Hat’s mission.

We partnered with CIO and Harvard Business Review to appeal to the technology and business sides of the modern CIO’s brain and started videotaping A-list CIOs at CIO conferences. We asked, Do you see your role as a lot more than keeping on the email lights? Are you supporting the business as a whole? Are you a technology visionary? Do you recognize disruptive technologies and practices that are critical to driving business results? Are you passionate about discovering how to realize them? If they answered yes to all these questions, we had news for them: they were an Enterpriser. At that point, nearly all were delighted to join our project.

We built content and relationships with the star CIOs we met. We asked them to invite CIOs they respected. We held virtual roundtables where they could share their ideas. We refreshed content on the site once a week so people came back. And we watched as the number of CIO participants crept upward from a core editorial group of 5, to 10, to 30, to 50, to nearly 100 today. Monthly unique visits to the site started in the hundreds, climbed to the thousands, and at last count, numbered more than 210,000, with monthly page views topping 360,000. Not TMZ levels, certainly, but a tsunami of interest from CIOs.

From (occasionally) having to scrape for content, The Enterprisers Project today is a magnet for original content sent in by contributors. In the process, according to analysts at Leadtail, it has become the fourth most shared digital publication by CIOs, ahead of McKinsey, MIT Technology Review, and Tech Republic. 

Had smaller thinkers prevailed, TEP would have chugged along for a few quarters and then collapsed, with no one to oversee and drive its growth. Luckily for all of us, Red Hat continued to support the Project, not just with funding but with top-notch marketing, editorial and social staff, who continue to run the site to this day and inject fresh thinking every quarter. It’s an object lesson to every CMO out there: If you have a great idea and the market starts to warm to it, don’t lose interest and pivot to something else for the sake of novelty. Send down some roots. Make investments. See if the idea or concept can stand – and expand – for months or even years. In some cases, it may even grow up to be a movement.