The face of marketing has changed. Traditionally, building an enterprise software company used to be largely about simply creating a great product, but today a great product also needs to be supplemented with a stellar multi-channel marketing plan, a dedicated sales team and industry expertise. Enterprise software is sourced and purchased by high-level business people and today, savvy marketers need to step in to help charm and convince potential customers, an activity that many technologists and programmers may find unappealing, yet necessary.
Internet-based delivery, SaaS and cloud models have dramatically lowered installation costs, letting individuals or small groups buy software on discretionary budgets or use basic versions for free. As adoption spreads throughout the organization, the value of the software eventually percolates up to C-level business executives who can write large checks to get the vital technology features big companies need, such as administration, security, integration, compliance and support. This "bottom-up” approach was pioneered by Salesforce.com and other companies like MySql, New Relic and Yammer.
While this model seems ideal, not all tech companies have it so easy—companies need to create demand using a mix of old-fashioned and new school marketing techniques. This on-demand model seems ideal for smaller implementations and social software but larger, enterprise-wide systems management deployments demand a more robust approach through distributed IT networks. The fast-paced, quick-deployment models that consumers experience at home have now permeated the enterprise in a way that forever alters how we should think about enterprise IT.
In order to be an effective marketer within the enterprise IT sector, follow these guidelines to properly capitalize on your core value proposition and company assets:
Your Website Is Your Castle – Companies are defined by their websites. Be sure to spend the time to build out the best flow and design to capture and clearly articulate the value your product brings to audiences, convey your company’s personality and organize it in a simple, logical manner. It may be beneficial to identify your key audiences and build out portions of your website directed to each of these audiences. For example, if you are reaching both CIOs and system administrators, create different branches of your website dedicated to each with relevant case studies.
Enable Successful Proof of Concept Development (POC) – All too often, companies these days don’t understand the value they offer to customers. Or they know it but don’t adequately reflect this information on their website or in marketing collateral. Understand where your company fits in the competitive landscape, carve out a clear niche, and focus for your technologies. Also be willing to help aid your potential customers develop a POC by offering an evaluation process to your software. Work with your customers to develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to offer the most effective solution for their custom needs and environment.
Clean Up Your Act with Clear Messaging – Okay, you have your website created and your product sheets published. Take a look back and reassess if you are describing your company and services clearly and effectively to the public. Compare yourself with other companies in your space or another company you like and see how you measure up. Is there a clear call-to-action in all marketing materials? Can you easily change your messaging to reach different audiences if necessary? Do you maintain your brand?
Create a Multi-Channel Approach – Understand where your audiences are spending a majority of their time and target appropriately. Properly evaluate how much of your budget will be allocated to more traditional marketing channels like conferences and webinars, and then drill down deeper to see how you can incorporate new social-media avenues and display marketing campaigns to deliver your messages and reach the influencers and decision-makers wherever they may be.
Shout From the Rooftops Via Social Channels & PR– Now you have all your core product sheets, case studies and website pages completed, you can begin to tackle the fun task of sending your messages out. Are you able to create a clear pipeline of news items, product releases, speaking engagements and social posts to truly insert your company into existing conversations? Don’t be afraid to stand on your soapbox and evangelize your product offerings at the top of your lungs.
Launch, Optimize & Repeat – At least ever quarter or so, it is necessary to take a step back and take a hard look at where your budget is going, and assess what is working and what is not. Dig into your metrics and make sure you are making the most of your investments to optimize results and ROI.
Historically, enterprise software went from being about sales (one-to-one) to being about marketing (one-to-many). Marketing requires crafting a compelling message, figuring out the right channels, and then optimizing, again and again. The most effective marketing comes from having a compelling product that can solve a problem, fill a need or relieve the customer’s pain, and can be easily understood and explained to the public. Once you have this, with the proper marketing strategies, your efforts will turn to gold before your very eyes.
Cherie Wentz Blehm is director of marketing at Adaptiva.