Marketing to enterprise is a completely different beast than most other markets where its single person, or a few people, deciding on a purchase. According to SiriusDecisions an enterprise sale can have 10 or more buyers in a committee deciding on whether to purchase your product or service. Most of the deals are over $100k annually, and typically the sales cycle is considerably longer – starting at 3 months and moving up as the dollars increase. I know of a company that has 8 enterprises as their sales base, their average initial sale is over $2M and it takes 2 to 3 years to close a deal. However, for most SaaS (Software as a Service) companies it’s a land-and-expand model, meaning that the initial deal could be considerably smaller, as low as $14k, but the seller has products and plans to expand it after the trial period to well-over $100k and up and the LTV of the customer is $1M or higher. Companies in this realm typically know how large their client base is (in the high hundreds or low thousands) and start with 1 to 3 verticals to focus on.
Here are 7 things that matter when marketing to enterprise:
- Emotions. The enterprise customer has 2 things in mind: will this purchase go well and get me a raise/promotion, or will this purchase go badly and get me fired? Now multiply that by 10 people or more. If there’s even the slightest amount of fear from any decision maker, your product or service will be dead in the water. With that in mind, your marketing needs to inspire. Your message must to be on point with a compelling offer that triggers either trust or fear. A message based on trust means selling your product is trustworthy. A message based on fear means that the motivator to purchase your product is the fear that something bad will happen if you do not. Selling to enterprise also means you need strong PR. Top tier-press coverage, vertical mentions and analyst mentions matter a lot in the fear-driven world of enterprise. Getting good reviews and mentions from media and analysts lowers the fear that your product will not do its job.
- Land-and-expand means that marketing happens both pre-sale and post-sale. In the days of on-prem (on premises) purchasing, Marketing didn’t really worry about what happened post-sale. With the new model of land-and-expand the marketing never ends. You now have SMEs (subject matter experts) who need case studies, white-papers, as well as webinars to understand all that they can do with your product. Every win with a customer needs to be tracked for a Success Story. Those Success Stories need to be shared internally with the customer, mentioning each and every person that helped create the success. You need to build up internal advocacy and educate your customer on why you’re the best solution to reach their goals. That means content. And a lot of it.
- A strong brand is critical. If you’re not #1, then your brand matters. And if there’s a strong incumbent going after #1 – then the brand of #1 matters. Your brand is what your customers think of you. It’s the consistency of your message, the culture you portray inside the company and out, and how good you look. Our visual senses are stronger than logic. If your look-and-feel is a hot mess, what do you think that says about your company. What image does your logo portray? Do your AEs (Account Executives) have a single, cohesive, well-designed deck to use? What about your SEs (Sales Engineers)? Most companies watch the AEs tightly, and then let things go a bit with the SEs since much of what they do changes per customer. Do all of your materials speak as one cohesive brand (sales, events, website, emails, social, etc)? Is anyone going rogue on design? On message? Giving the SEs a well designed Asset Deck can do wonders for the cohesiveness of your brand. Does everyone feel you have the same benefits? Ask your team to list the top 5 benefits of the product and find out. Creating a sales playbook and a design brand book are equally essential.
- The funnel has changed. There are 2 theories regarding the funnel that seem to be prevalent in the marketing to enterprise world – one that the funnel is more of a bow-tie (reflecting the land and expand model):
And the new Demand Waterfall from Sirius Decisions.
Fortunately they are not negating opinions. The SiriusDecisions Waterfall is more on the side of the seller’s experience and the bow-tie encompases both. Either way, things have gotten more complicated than they used to be, thanks to the group of buyers that we mentioned above. That means you need to adapt your tactics for engagement. What are you doing to raise your level of engagement? Is it working?
- The ROI from advertising isn’t as strong. No enterprise buyer is going to make a decision to purchase something that costs over $100k from seeing an ad, but you might be able to get them in the top of the funnel through smart content pushed through sponsored posts. Of course, your content needs to resonate. It needs to be exactly what your future-customer is looking for and arrive at the right time, but when it does your sales cycle is considerably smoother and faster. Thought leadership matters.
- Creating your own events will bring a higher ROI than going to every conference. Nothing beats face-to-face in the enterprise sales world. People want to look the person they want to buy from in the eye. This is why so many companies spend so much on high-end events. It’s why the high-end events can charge so much – it’s where the decision makers are and it makes a huge difference to go and meet people there. But that doesn’t mean you need to be at every single event. Choose 3 or 4 for the year and make sure they are the absolute best for your market. Don’t bother with the trade shows. Instead start creating your own events. A short list of things you could be doing are:
- CABs – Customer Advisory Boards
- PACs – Product Advisory Boards
- Private Dinners/ Breakfasts / Lunches – Have a speaker(s) come and give a talk, or have a panel, about something relevant to your target customers. Bring thought leaders to mingle.
- Bar Nights – Propose a topic and hang out in a cool swanky bar for a night for industry networking. (Make sure you make a limit at the bar)
- Create your own conference – It could start as a small user conference and then grow into an industry event. INBOUND by Hubspot is a great example of this. Dreamforce by Salesforce is another.
- Direct Marketing is back in the form of ABM. Let’s face it, while it’s still a brilliant way to market, email doesn’t convert the way it used to. It’s easy to ignore and it’s hard to stand out. No one sends direct mail anymore, which means what is old is new again. Research the people you need to get in front of and send them something they will find interesting, like an interesting industry book or a personalized t-shirt. Make sure there is something to remember your company by in the package, like a branded bookmarker or your logo on the personalized mug. Send this to everyone on your target list. Yes, it costs a bit and takes some planning to do, but it also has a considerably higher ROI and gets the attention of your future-customer in a way that email can’t.
Selling software-as-a-service products to enterprise often means selling a product that is commoditized, or will be commoditized quickly. It’s crucial to build a strong brand and a holistic marketing department. Do you agree with the 7 points above? What would you add to the list? Please leave your suggestions and comments below.