If you want enterprise customers, then users are just half your audience. The other half are buyers—executives with budget authority. Many startups focus on the users and forget about the buyers, then struggle to sell.
Free trials, free and low-cost tiers, and open-sourcing are for making users want your product. Popularity is a benefit to buyers, because it will accelerate adoption, but it’s not enough, nor is it necessary. Buyers need to be convinced that your product will solve their most important business needs—their desired outcomes—such as lowering overhead or meeting compliance requirements. That’s what your marketing should be about.
Even if you reach an enormous level of adoption like Slack or GitHub, all the work of attracting buyers and converting them into customers will still be ahead of you. That’s why both Slack and Github have 20+ enterprise sales people and dedicated enterprise sites with buyer-focused messaging.
Gravitational had a popular open-source library with nearly 7,000 stars on GitHub, yet they struggled to attract enterprise buyers. When they changed their marketing to focus on buyers, their enterprise leads doubled. Nothing about the product changed; they just started paying attention to the other half of their audience.
You don’t even need free trials or low-cost tiers: Domino Data Lab grew enterprise leads by 5x without either one, and they continue growing at a sharp rate. They’re making a platform data scientists love, but marketing to executives.
Keep building a product users want, but make buyers want to pay for it.
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