In my last piece, I shared some of my high-level thoughts on why enterprise marketing is persistently challenging but also engaging and interesting. To complete my thoughts on the subject, I’d like to add two other key tenants that enterprise marketers need to hold dear, particularly given temptations enterprise marketers sometimes face.
Never forget the value that enterprise marketing contributes to the company’s successful go-to-market approach. Be relentless in filling the role that no one else in the organization can or will effectively.
Specifically, I want to address why marketers should:
1. Hold the line on “fake news.”
2. Focus on customer segments and buyer profiles.
Don’t Get Sucked Into ‘Fake News’ Versus Relevancy
Enterprise marketers, by their very nature, get excited about the possibilities inherent in bringing new capabilities to market — to have the potential to reshape how work gets done and how people create value in their organizations. At the same time, we must hold the line on what has interesting potential versus what is ready for prime time.
A recent example is artificial intelligence (AI). Amazing AI-based technologies are being introduced to the market with massive potential to change how companies in every sector operate. But let’s be real — in general, we are still in the early days of the effective application of AI in our business lives. However, because of the market buzz, we see companies jump on the bandwagon, sometimes with an ill-defined positioning of exactly how AI is being leveraged to engineer improvements in their products or services.
Designated thought leadership activities are when we talk about emerging technology. But don’t confuse thought leadership marketing, where we help the market understand early trends and their potential, with product marketing and demand generation, where we articulate the value customers should expect from the current product and committed roadmap. If you do, you run the risk of engaging stakeholders with the enterprise marketing equivalent of “fake news.”
You may ask, is hype marketing really all that bad? I would argue that it can create confusion for customers, prospects and your sales team. In turn, this translates to longer sales cycles, extended trials and evaluations and an extra burden on sales and support teams. It essentially introduces vaporware to the enterprise where it has no place. The enterprise, at its core, is well-grounded and demands products with real, demonstrable value. Your company’s reputation will be impacted if there is a large enough difference.
Resist the urge to co-opt the latest shiny object and, instead, do the hard but real work of understanding the use cases where your product adds the most value. Be clear on what it is as well as what it’s not, and be able to share why it was designed that way.
Enterprise trust and relationships are long-lasting and have to be earned with more than provocative marketing. Be creative and aggressive in leveraging thought leadership activities for emerging topics and technologies that have the potential to transform your market space — but don’t overhype the promise.
Focus On Understanding Your Customer Segments And Buyer Profiles
I can’t tell you how often I hear about the importance of “knowing your customer” and “personalizing” each experience. I hear pitches every day from companies assuring me that they can help my marketing organization reach nirvana with each customer and prospect. But beware of the pitfalls.
Yes, you have to clearly understand who you are trying to attract, but when it comes to enterprise marketing, it’s not about one specific customer and a short-term transaction. Marketing’s contribution to a company’s growth centers around finding the broader use cases and segments that add up to a large, relevant target market.
Marketing is best at identifying market segments, buyer profiles and the pain points that need solving. Sales and customer service teams are best at deeply understanding a particular customer situation, environment and need. Enterprise companies tend to have complicated problems and environments that require expertise that can help them get the most from the solution for their environment. This is personalization at its best.
Enterprise marketers need to be looking for emerging patterns — what are the use cases for the product and how is the product being applied? — not only at the feature and functionality level but at the business value level. When emerging “blueprints” or patterns look like they are repeatable to a larger customer set, that’s when the marketing team should go all in to make it global, scalable and programmatic.
Market to a large market segment that has money to spend to solve the problem. It will fuel growth because your company will be able to solve a problem not only for an individual company but also to a set of look-alike companies that all have similar big problems to solve.
So, once you formulate your master marketing plan (and revisit it often), stick to that plan in the face of temptation. Marketing the enterprise is difficult. The subject matter is complex. The rush to simplify it is often rooted in the inability to understand the technology at a sufficiently deep level.
Great marketers and storytellers don’t rest at the surface of a complex subject, they dive deep and return the most salient and interesting messages. Identify trends but don’t hype for the sake of corporate ego-stroking, which will only disillusion the buyer. Develop pattern recognition for your buyers so you can move quickly to help them.
These are important priority areas for the enterprise marketer — a vital corporate weapon for an organization that aims to disrupt and lead its market.