How to sell enterprise software to businesses
By Jef Bekes, Hero Digital, User Experience Strategist
For decades, enterprise software was the ugly duckling of product design. Product features were the primary focus, with little to no attention given to usability or aesthetics. End users were an afterthought and considered a captive audience with few alternatives, so strategy for how to sell enterprise software to businesses fell by the wayside. The “consumerization of the enterprise” shift that we’ve seen over the past 10 years has emphasized design, usability, and go-to-market strategies more similar to consumer products.
Reality check: Does your marketing strategy align with this recent human-centered focus? When promoting enterprise software, you toe the line between B2B and B2C tactics, yet your users should always be front and center.
Identify your users before selling enterprise software to businesses
As a digital marketer, you’ve likely spent hours creating personas for your end users—their roles at work, what makes them tick, what other products they use—but have you also planned how to tailor your marketing efforts to this unique set of enterprise product personas?
- Trial user. Don’t assume that the person trying your enterprise software product is your target end user. Sometimes, the person tasked with evaluating solution options may not use the product at all after the sales process is complete. Identify and speak to their needs by streamlining the demoing and decision-making process. For example, the trial user for a data analytics product will need to see how the product works and if it meets the requirements of their solution search. You can make this easier by offering pre-loaded demo data or providing an easy upload option, otherwise, they may hit a wall when they don’t have access to actual data that an end user might.
- Buyer. The person who makes the final decision to purchase a product for a company may not be the trial user or the end user. However, it’s still important to consider their concerns when selling enterprise software to businesses. They want to ensure they’re getting their money’s worth, so it’s important to highlight value, ROI, and the potential of the product, even if it means optimism for the sake of sales. For example, you may create visualizations that demo well and catch their eye but are flashier than most day-to-day use cases for your product.
- Champion. Many modern enterprise software products use a free trial or freemium model aimed at converting end users into champions who will make the case to management that they need this product and convince them to buy it. This bottom-up approach to selling enterprise software to businesses is a way to “land and expand” within a company, so supporting them is highly worthwhile. You can create “champion support kits” that provide these evangelists with materials and talking points to take to their bosses, such as PDF reports of the unique insights the product can provide if their higher-ups authorize the spend. Providing value—for free—to champions builds your credibility and makes it easier for them to talk up your paid value, as well.
Combining B2B and B2C techniques for selling enterprise software to businesses
While enterprise software products definitely fall into the B2B space, there are elements of B2C marketing that you can’t ignore. B2B products—like your enterprise software—tend to be more expensive and involve greater consideration, requiring more touchpoints addressing various decision makers while selling enterprise software to businesses. Consumers of enterprise software seek deep knowledge and often need to prove ROI for their purchase. So your marketing messages should focus on how your enterprise software utilizes their expertise and saves them time, money, and resources. Yet it’s important to remember that B2C tactics can support your B2B communications, too. B2C messaging tends to be simpler in pointing out a product’s benefits and more emotional language that speaks to the problem or pain point that your software solves. Combining the two is especially crucial when speaking to the champions of your product; offer B2C-style simple solutions to their work problems to pique their interest in your product, then back them up with the B2B expert-level case for ROI that they’ll need to get executives on board.
Delivering user and business value in an enterprise software sale
As a marketer, you’re used to the balancing act of user value and business value. Providing free content or product features is great for the enterprise user, but not so great for your company. Charging for each feature is better for your business, but user value may decrease. A common pitfall in enterprise software products is rapidly growing the user base and worrying about monetization later, but a savvy marketer knows that navigating this tricky tradeoff is key to business success.
Enterprise software products are primarily priced either by the user or by the amount of usage (as a function of time or data). Whether you control how much your company charges for these levels, you can grow the number of users or entice them to deepen their usage.
A great strategy to increase the number of users is a combination of top-of-funnel content marketing that raises your leads’ awareness of products advantages with a bottom-of-funnel customer success marketing approach that supports customers’ needs and deepens their product adoption. For example, if you create data analytics software, educate potential users on how to analyze key metrics before eventually directing them to your product for more benefits. Keep the unique enterprise personas in mind when you do this, including content for C-level buyers and non-expert trial users in addition to those all-important champions. For existing users, you can also share tips in-app by alerting users to features that make it easy to share work they’ve created in your product with others in their company who don’t have a login. For usage-based pricing models, these prompts can remind users of tools they don’t frequent and teach them how to use them most effectively to guarantee their efficacy and satisfaction. These methods can increase visibility and generate further interest in adopting the product companywide, which provides user value—by deepening their knowledge base or facilitating easy communication across departments—while increasing your business value.
Yet sometimes business value and user value are at odds. For sharing work with non-users, for example, the best business value is requiring everyone to create a paid account to see shared content. The best user value would be that everyone can see and edit your product’s outputs for free. You can strike this balance in many different ways, but this is why the freemium model is so popular: Because it creates champions with word of mouth while maintaining business value that leads you to grow, expand your impact, and continue improving the lives of your users.
Jef Bekes is a user experience strategist at Sitecore Gold Partner Hero Digital, the independent customer experience agency that designs and executes omnichannel strategies that get results for brands like Western Digital, Sephora, and Salesforce. You can follow Hero on LinkedIn and Twitter.