10 Golden Rules Of Enterprise Marketing

By Philip Levinson and Marc Ladin

This article was originally published on August 30, 2016 by Business Insider

What is the key to effective enterprise marketing?

Given the complexity of today’s enterprises and the variety of prospective marketing tactics, this is the ultimate Rashomon Effect question. The answer: it depends.

Ask 20 experts, and you might get 20 different answers. Or, in the case of this Docurated article, you may end up with 33 different responses.

We think we’ve heard them all — and we’ve now boiled them down to ten.

Rule #1: Own Your Personality: Decide on your company’s personality based on your core value proposition — and embrace it

SaaStr VC and editor and former EchoSign founder Jason Lemkin discusses the development of an early Mini-Brand: “What a Mini-Brand is, is when at least a handful of folks in your core, target customer audience begin to hear about you…From there, you’ll accelerate, if only slowly at first.”

Lemkin adds, “And that’s when the next bit of magic starts.”

Rule #2: Be Concrete: Concrete always beats Concept in the market

In their book Made to Stick, the Heath Brothers summarize this point as follows: “How do we make our ideas clear?…This is where so much business communication goes awry.”

There’s a reason why JFK’s stated goal was “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

It’s also why Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff all have very specific cloud-based revenue goals. They know concrete is better.

Rule #3: Be Fast: Flexibility, innovation and speed will win out every time

As Tom Wujec illustrates in his popular TED talk, there’s a reason why young children always beat expert adult groups in the Marshmallow Challenge: they spend more time experimenting, prototyping and implementing — and they spend less time talking and planning.

Your company should consider following their lead.

Rule #4: Bottom-up Focus: Shift your marketing and sales orientation from top-down to bottom-up

Successful SaaS companies (e.g., Salesforce, Slack, New Relic) use bottom-up marketing to penetrate enterprises quite differently today. Koho founder Joshua Bixby addresses these changes over the last ten years, saying, “Instead of new technology coming in by way of the CIO or IT department, employees [are now] driving the adoption of new tools.”

Rule #5: Make Better & Easier-to-Try Products: Bottom-up marketing requires really great and easy-to-try products

Easy-to-try products mean that there are very low costs for testing and using them. Why is this important? Below-the-line influencers make initial using and buying decisions, which eventually motivate those executives with above-the-line budget authority.

As Apperian CMO Mark Lorion says, “The bottom-up approach involves reaching below-the-line influencers. Many of today’s B2B products sold into the enterprise are growing quite well by staying primarily below the line.”

Rule #6: Communicate One Thing at a Time: Don’t try to communicate lots of things to lots of targets

Don’t fall prey to the Curse of Knowledge, which the Heath brothers explain as companies over-communicating based on “enormous information imbalances” about their solutions. Stick to one core message for one segment at a time. Nexsan CMO Ken Rosen summarizes this point: “Talk to someone. If you try to talk to everyone, you usually connect with no one.”

Rule #7: Get Your Whole Team Singing the Same Song

This one is self-explanatory — be sure you and everyone in your company can articulate what you do, your value propositions and your target segments clearly and concisely. Enterprises are constantly challenged by message transmutation and dilution throughout the customer lifecycle. Your prospects should hear 90% of the same message, starting from their first touch point to every subsequent product and sales discussion, from the receptionist all the way up to the CEO.

Rule #8: Emphasize Informing, Not Selling: Enterprise marketing is about providing relevant and timely information

Gainsight’s VP of Marketing Anthony Kennada discussed a key to his company’s early success: “Early on, Gainsight invested heavily in content marketing, thought leadership, and educating the market on ‘customer success.’”

With a more sophisticated and cynical enterprise buyer today, this content marketing and informative emphasis worked for Gainsight — and works for many other enterprise-focused companies.

Rule #9: Distribution is Key: Your channels need to completely suit your product and your target customer

Unlocking the right distribution or channel sales strategy for your product and target segment can boost sales exponentially. As Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie put it, “Optimize your distribution channel for the kind of product and customer you’re building.”

Rule #10: Eliminate Marketing-Product-Sales Gaps

Spend just as much time with your product team as you do with your sales team — a lot. Tech companies suffer when the frontline sales team faces competitive or marketplace challenges that are not communicated effectively to — or received effectively by — the marketing and product teams. Develop processes to make sure this does not happen at your company.

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Philip Levinson is a Vice President at Sapphire Ventures and previously served as VP of Sales for WaterSmart Software. Some of his previous Business Insider pieces focused on Uber, Cloudflare and Nike. Follow Phil on Twitter here.

Marc Ladin is Chief Marketing Officer at CallFire and previously served as CMO for enterprise start-ups TigerText and Everbridge. He is also the founder of Chief Marketers L.A. Follow Marc on Twitter here.

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The information set forth herein is not intended to constitute investment advice and under no circumstances should any information provided herein be used or considered as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy an interest in any investment fund managed by Sapphire Ventures. Sapphire Ventures does not solicit or make its services available to the public and none of the funds are currently open to new investors. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.

Any portfolio companies referred to above do not necessarily represent all of the investments made or recommended by Sapphire Ventures, and were not selected based on the return on Sapphire Ventures’ investment in them. It should not be assumed that any specific investments identified and discussed herein were or will be profitable. Not all investments made by Sapphire Ventures will be profitable or will equal the performance of any of the companies identified above.