Enterprise Marketing: The 2023 Edition
- This year’s flavor of uncertainty: economic headwinds and evolving customer motivations.
- Be nimble. Revisit efforts and KPIs more often than ever before. Give your team more “at bats” to hit targets and refine strategies.
- Move beyond simple lead harvesting. Content marketing excels in building long term relationships especially with the developer decisionmakers.
- Events will be a key focus across the board in 2023. Nothing but upside for in-person meetings.
- GPT3 might make for a smart efficiency tool but real experimentation is happening with personalization and ML-driven intent marketing.
By most analyses, startups and enterprises alike are counting on a deceleration of spend in 2023. Gartner and IDC reforecast this year’s spending on consumer and enterprise technology to grow 2.2 and 4.4 percent respectively. Citi Group’s annual Citi CIO Survey revealed a similar 2023 forecast of modest growth on enterprise tech spending. All three growth rates are projections that come in well below both the Covid peak and historical average.
That doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom, however.
“Enterprises continue to increase spending on digital business initiatives despite the world economic slowdown,” Gartner analyst John-David Lovelock said in a statement. Case in point, Vijay Sankaran, CTO of the century-old building controls company Johnson Controls told the New York Times, “We have to continue to invest. You can’t do what we’re trying to do without technology.” Bright points also include cybersecurity, a sector that Canalyst predicts will see a spending increase by 13% in the year
Still, the turbulence means that the marketing executives managing the sales pipeline and brand efforts will need to be canny with how they allocate their budgets and resources. We spoke with a group of senior marketing execs including Melissa Machay at Bodo.ai, Erin McDuff at Exotec, Jonathan Symonds at MinIO, Justin Augat of Druva, and Suda Srinivasan at Yugabyte to understand their strategies for excelling in this year’s flavor of uncertainty.
Agility Continues its Reign
For Bodo.ai a leaner 2023 is about focus, intent, and ruthless prioritization. “It’s better to react quickly and well than slowly and perfectly,” Melissa Machay, Bodo’s head of marketing, says. “That doesn’t necessarily mean cranking out landing pages and emails—it’s about making your learning and optimization cycles faster.”
“It’s better to react quickly and well than slowly and perfectly. That doesn’t necessarily mean cranking out landing pages and emails—it’s about making your learning and optimization cycles faster.”
If a ship is navigating unsure waters, she says, the captain needs the ability to make dozens of small turns rather than one giant spin of the wheel. For her team that’s meant shifting from quarterly goals to weekly goals, giving them “twelve times as many at-bats to get the most out of our budgets, resources, and campaigns,” she says.
Erin McDuff, VP of marketing for Exotec says his teams have found the same nimbleness by turning the org chart upside down. “Rather than a top down approach, we allowed different functions—content, digital and so on—and different global regions, to take the lead on planning. That allows these areas to have more ownership as we move forward into the new year.”
“Rather than a top down approach, we allowed different functions—content, digital and so on—and different global regions, to take the lead on planning. That allows these areas to have more ownership as we move forward into the new year.”
Justin Augat, vice president of marketing at Druva, adds that his team’s actual marketing goals for the year may not change at all. “But we have made a concerted effort to build an ‘expect the unexpected’ element into the plan.” For the Druva team, this means reviewing messaging, marketing activities, and KPIs more often to make sure they are focusing on the activities that are resonating and pivoting quickly when they are not.
“The mindset of our customers has changed,” said Jonathan Symonds, chief marketing officer at MinIO. “While it is unclear how deep the downturn will be, the mentality of preparing for that downturn has altered their perception of making purchases.”
This means you should anticipate that how customers will assess buying a technology is changing. As Augat puts it: “Given economic uncertainty, budget constraints, and other potential headwinds, customers will be even more discerning in their decision-making. This year they will evaluate products and solutions based on more criteria than in the past.”
For buyers, this can translate to worrying less about signing on for the the “latest” or “best” technologies and focusing instead on which known and trusted solutions will bring the quickest ROI. This means educating the buyer on the potential total cost of an engagement. It’s like buying a car, Augat says. There’s the sticker price but then there’s also maintenance, insurance, fuel efficiency and all the expenses in between to consider. For 2023, Augat’s team plans to focus some of their messaging efforts on the idea that Druva’s cloud protection and data security services provide enterprises with the best long-term cost model.
“When budgets are scrutinized but goals remain constant,” he says, “focusing on total cost (as a differentiator) can provide a marketing and competitive advantage.”
Startups often spend significant energy on appealing to innovation initiatives within larger companies. This year, “A lot of speculative projects will be put on hold,” says Suda Srinivasan, vice president of strategy and marketing at Yugabyte. But because infrastructure, particularly databases — the space where Yugabyte sits — are in the middle of a modernization shift, he sees plenty of opportunity for the company. “We should expect established companies in verticals like banking, retail, pharma and healthcare to use the downturn to buy with an eye on their ten- or twenty-year innovation roadmap.”
Appealing to those buyers though requires communicating differently today. They are not going to not modernize but they need to understand when a technology investment will begin to pay off. These are projects that when done right can deliver clear economic value. You’ll see messaging that’s less about speeding up time to market or lowering competitive risks and more about time to value.
Down the Gates!
“The interesting thing about 2023 it’s not happening in a vacuum. The financial uncertainty and everything else we’re talking about is coming on the tail of two, two and a half years of the craziest business environment we’ve probably seen in our lives,” Srinavasan opines.
When events and in-person engagements dried up in 2020, Yugabyte turned to experimenting across all other available channels. Yugabyte builds and manages YugabyteDB, a leading database for cloud platforms. In the past, executives made the purchase decision; today, he says: “Developers are picking databases.” So, his marketing team focuses on building and maintaining a solid developer community through forums and content.
One big change coming to Yugabyte’s approach to content marketing: no more gated content. While that may feel risky, Srinivasan’s theory, based in part on the performance of their Yugabyte University initiative, is that an increase in access to content from the company has more value in building the pipeline than capturing an email address that kicks off a generic drip campaign.
“Email is not dead but blanket email is dead,” he says. “Open rates are dropping, the spam filters are catching everything. That stuff is not going to fly anymore. Contact with potential customers needs to be personalized, and customized. The moment the email looks like something two-thousand other people received, people tune out.”
Additionally, Yugabyte is shifting and shortening the types of content it publishes. In the past they put out a lot of long, in-depth white papers. But Srinivasan says quicker-hit content fosters more consistent discussion within the community, on their Slack channels, LinkedIn and elsewhere online.
Events Events Events
Every executive we spoke to expects 2023 to be the year tradeshows, conferences, networking events and productive get-togethers fully come back online.
“Events are back. We’re seeing 2023 conferences that haven’t happened in three years selling out months in advance,” said Jonathan Symonds.
The return of conferences, meetups, and customer dinners will be critical for a lot of sales cycles that depend on personalized touch or answering in-depth questions. Bodo.ai uses compilers and message passing interface parallelization to power an SQL and Python data processing platform. It’s a technical sell. The company depends on face-to-face interactions to demonstrate and discuss the finer points of the software. By the end of 2022 Machay’s team saw considerable boosts in attendance at the company’s events and expect that trend to continue.
Exotec’s McDuff points out that conferences signal the return of an opportunity to build deeper, meaningful relationships with customers in 2023. “People want to be around people. Plain and simple,” he says. “We want to make sure that we connect with people in-person as much as possible.” A sales process can only go so far with PowerPoints and video demonstrations. “Our solution has a certain wow factor when people see it in person,” he says.
GPT3 And ABM Experiments
Any experienced marketer has become accustomed to hearing how the latest fad in technology will “change the way we do business forever.” GPT3 has been the most recent darling, promising anyone who uses text in their operations—be it for technical documentation, customer profiles, blogs and anything in between—that they now have a low-cost, instant-turnaround copywriter at their disposal.
Today at least—and no one knows how GPT3 will evolve—the reality is a little closer to a copywriter who can crank out (very) rough first drafts or help with brainstorming.
“ChatGPT has certainly been fun to play with,” Machay says. “And I think it will be something that we actually leverage in 2023. But it won’t replace a copywriter yet. It can make us more productive, especially on creative block days. And we’ve already used it to generate ideas for content, to shorten text for platforms with character limits, and write jingles about our product (for our internal enjoyment, at least right now). It’s a practical tool to help us move a little faster.”
Srinvasan adds, “GPT3 does well in terms of framing the conversation, the way it says things, the style of writing—it gives you the scaffolding to put the facts in. But would I trust GPT3 to put something out in public? Probably never.”
Experiments closer to traditional marketing include MinIO adding more Account-based Marketing (ABM) capabilities to their marcomms tech stack. Jonathan Symonds says the experiments in ABM they kicked off last year look promising. “Our tech stack is in a state of constant evolution and we’re currently experimenting with ABM-driven intent engines,” he said. MinIO, which has no sales team and focuses much of its marketing efforts on content and community, is building out in-house developed capabilities for listening to the market.
“Our tech stack is in a state of constant evolution and we’re currently experimenting with ABM-driven intent engines,” he said.
“We are beginning to use more ML and that’s an area where I’d like to do more. We should be refining our tool set and targeting our fire,” Symonds said.
Stay Strong and Carry On
While they are all bracing for leaner times, all the executives we spoke with reiterated they still see 2023’s landscape as one of opportunity.
“We know that economic pressures will be a reality in conversations,” says McDuff of Exotec. “But we also know that labor shortages and other factors will keep demand high.”
Justin Augat added, “I’m optimistic. Not because I think the year will be smooth sailing from all perspectives, but because I think we will get through it and come out the other side smarter and more resilient. That’s a good thing for business, and a good thing for our careers as marketers over the long term.”