Much has been written in the last few years about the macro level changes impacting enterprise software. The phrase Consumerization of IT has been used widely to describe how consumer technologies are penetrating the enterprise (iPhones, Skype, Facebook, Twitter), and how enterprise IT products are changing to provide more consumer-like capabilities and experiences (Splunk, Zendesk, Solarwinds, Spiceworks).
Equally important, but less broadly discussed, is the impact this trend is having on the business models of companies that are building large, successful franchises around this new class of IT products. Sometimes referred to as Enterprise 2.0 companies – the successful ones go beyond just delivering products or free trials with a consumer level ease of use. They also embrace the operational, marketing, and sales strategies and tactics necessary to build a high volume, low cost business.
While all aspects of an Enterprise 2.0 company have undergone radical change, the one that has changed most dramatically and significantly increased its importance to the success of the business is marketing.
At Okta we think about several core tenets which will enable us to build a successful Enterprise 2.0 company (they are so core that they are strongly reflected in our company values) , and marketing plays a critical role in delivering on every one of them.
Make it Simple
At Okta simplicity starts with an on-demand service rather than an on-premise product. Further we have an extreme bias towards simply addressing key scenarios vs. delivering an exhaustive set of features. But we understand that a simple, effective service, while necessary, is not sufficient.
Our marketing must be equally simple and effective. Our message to the market has to be easy for our customers to digest, formulated in a language that they understand, and positioned in a way that clearly differentiates the unique business benefits of Okta.
Pricing, like messaging must also be straight forward. In our model, every sale will not involve a powerpoint presentation with the CIO and her team, and an excel spreadsheet with 17 inputs required to derive a “list price” that will then be discounted by 75% to get to a number the customer begrudgingly agrees to. Our pricing must serve to accelerate – not inhibit – customer adoption.
Be Consistent & Transparent
Marketing is the source of truth for our message to the market and plays a crucial role in making sure we are consistently communicating to customers, partners, key influencers, and the press.
Even more important than consistency is transparency. As Todd highlighted in his earlier post, we value transparency externally as well as internally. Marketing owns that external communication and thus must ensure that we are engaging with our key constituents in an open, transparent manner.
Sell When Customers Are Buying
There are tens of thousands of organizations, and hundreds of thousands of IT administrators facing identity management challenges with their cloud applications that Okta can help today.
Marketing must lead the charge, drive the programs, and invest in the tools we need to identify, nurture, and convert users who are looking for such a solution into highly qualified prospects, or even better, directly into users of our service. We must market to customers when they need it the most.
Some of our marketing effort will focus on positioning Okta as a thought leader and expanding awareness to those who don’t yet realize they have this problem – but there is a lot of low hanging fruit out there – and marketing will be instrumental in our picking from those trees!
Invest In Customers As They Are Our Business
The value of customers in an Enterprise 2.0 model far outstrips the revenue garnered from the initial sale. In their post on SandHill.com Scott Abel and Jay Hallberg of Spiceworks referred to the “SMB IT Network” they are creating as even more valuable than the underlying software business.
At Okta, our number one value is customer success. I have already talked about the critical role marketing plays in acquiring those customers (and properly setting expectations up front so that they experience success out of the gate). In our business the nurturing of our customer base, and the creation of a robust, interactive community is essential. Those customers will become our best sales people and will underpin some very exciting things we can do in the business longer term. Marketing is on point and must build and nurture that Okta community.
At Okta we never stop listening and learning. We combine that attentiveness with a commitment to change when it is the right thing to do for our customers.
Marketing again plays a key role in maintaining this agility. The programs they run and the learning we gain from them will inform both what we build and how we sell it. Engaging the Okta community in a two way dialogue about our business and our service provides another critical conduit to enhance our learning and ensure we accurately sense the need for change.
At Okta we are building a world class, Enterprise 2.0, on-demand company. Marketing is clearly at the core of what we are trying to achieve and we will require nothing short of a world class marketing team to help steer this business to success.
If you get as excited as we do about marketing a revolutionary on- demand service for the IT environment of tomorrow, we want to hear from you because, We’re hiring!