Enterprise marketing during COVID-19

Enterprise marketing during COVID-19


Yes, enterprise marketing still needs to market and sell. Without it businesses will die, and then we’ll have people out of work on top of dealing with a pandemic and self-isolation. So let’s talk about work, shall we? (Adapted from my post on LinkedIn)

The markets are in Bear Market territory for the past few weeks. The new question isn’t whether we’ll be in a recession at the end of all of this – but instead, ‘How bad will this recession be?” I know many of my friends in Marketing are nervous. This has been frightening for many.

This is ‘…the black swan event of 2020’, according to Sequoia Capital. Nassim Taleb insists it’s a white swan event. Regardless of what you call it, there have been several viruses that have gone global previously, none that have affected the markets so quickly, and to this extent. I had expected a recession this year, but I was expecting a blip like 2000, and not 30% down markets in a matter of weeks.

Having lived through several downturns I’m obsessed with what brings value. With value comes more work. So what brings value in a down market? What kind of marketing works when we have to all work from home?


What companies last through recessions?

The Great Recession saw a bit of sales shrinkage for most SaaS companies, but not the mass wipe-out of the dotcom bubble bursting.

According to research done by SaaS Capital, “There were 17 public SaaS companies prior to the start of the Great Recession. One of those companies, Omniture, was acquired by Adobe in 2009, but the other 16 all remained in business and independent through the downturn and into the recovery.” To be fair, SaaS Capital focuses on SaaS. So this article offers some alternatives.

For marketers wondering what skills they should be focusing on, Jeremiah Owyang from Kaleido Insights recommends, “Automation will become a business requirement as companies need to reduce costs and also become more productive. Become an expert on marketing automation, advertising automation and data analysis. This is classic recession strategy for marketing.”

I know lives are at stake, and I’m not lowering the importance of that, but livelihoods are important as well. And the layoffs have only just started. That’s why Product and Sales are the most important departments of any business. Product, because without a good product there’s nothing to sell. Sales, because without them nothing is being sold. Without revenue there are no jobs.

It’s safe to assume that this crisis hasn’t affected product development much. As such this post is focusing on Sales. Marketing and sales, to be specific, as in most Tech companies Marketing supports Sales.


Technology sales

Selling technology to enterprise is generally a complex sale, meaning it takes a long time, has many people involved, and goes through multiple stages before it’s finished. The average software sale takes a land-and-expand approach, aiming to close the first deal as a proof of concept and then expanding the account throughout the enterprise. This means both pre-sale and post-sale marketing. Pre-sale is typically done with an Account Executive, a Sales Engineer, and the Marketing Team. Post-sale expansion is usually handled by the Account Executive, Customer Success, and the Marketing Team.


Initial deals will change

Leads happen through direct outreach, but many become solid through face-to-face meetings at events.

As events go down, online will go up. Marketing will need alternative ways to find the leads to build and convert. I see online research, SEO, content, LinkedIn, Twitter, and webinars increasing. Video and non-video calls will help as people start to go stir crazy at home.

Making marketing personal will increase, as people will desire an increase in human connections. Sales will take longer, as companies look to see what is happening in the world and how that will affect their bottom line. We’ve seen some budgets being cut due to the industry being affected, and heard about others being expanded as companies see this as an opportunity to gain market share. Either way, marketing and sales will need to show direct results to all efforts made.


Sales will need more support

When sales take longer, Account Executives need more reasons to reach out and have touch points with the prospect. Inbound will be even more important than it already has been. We’re all working from home. It’s Saturday as I type this. I’m going to be home with my husband and sons for the foreseeable future (they are out of school for the next 23 days at least, heaven help us all) I’m online more than I would normally be on a weekend, and I’m working, because what else is there to do? We’re not going out. Neither are most other people we know. Some of our friends are going to their weekend homes in Tahoe, but most of the adults are working while their kids go ski. If anything, people are working more as everyone is wondering if there will be work in a few more months.

This is an opportunity.

Don’t look at this as a way to sell. Look at it as a chance to be helpful. And there is a huge difference. I was in a webinar this past week where I expected helpful information. Instead it was a sales pitch and I gained zero insights. How likely do you think I am to use that product now? Not very.


How to be helpful?

Sales needs touchpoints to build mindshare. If marketing is doing an account-based marketing campaign, these touchpoints could be: email, social outreach, social ads, webinars, direct mail, and more. The email campaigns will need helpful content — so think blog posts, white papers, case studies, ebooks that are industry related, videos, and podcasts. The webinars should not have 5 minutes of selling in the beginning. Keep the credits to a minute or less and get straight to the helpful information. People will generally want less conceptual information, and more instructional. Action helps us feel like we’re being productive, and productive feels good.



Marketing budgets die during downturns, which means having to work smarter with less. Inbound marketing will become a main focus and sales will work even closer with marketing to help get qualified leads in the door. Delivering work that fills a requirement won’t be enough. What value are you providing to your customer? How are you helping their success? Focus on that. #behelpful


Special thank you &
be in touch

Thank you to Erik AndersenPaula Kiger, and Suze Carragher for reading the post and offering advice and edits.

I’m doing a series on marketing and sales to enterprise and am looking for people and articles to interview, quote, and reference. Feel free to reach out to me.

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