If you watched the 2022 Super Bowl, you saw enterprise marketing in action.
Exhibit A: This BMW ad, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek.
Exhibit B: This TurboTax ad, with its complicated special effects. (We don’t think that woman unzipped her skin in real life!)
Enterprise marketing isn’t always about splashy creative, though. Strong enterprise marketing can also mean highly-personalized nurture campaigns, or smart cross-promotion between brands in the same family.
What really defines this kind of marketing is that it comes from major, well-resourced companies.
Enterprise marketing means marketing efforts for companies worth $1 billion or more, typically with a global customer base.
They can afford expensive strategies — in the 2022 Super Bowl, a 30-second media buy alone cost $6.5 million — and creative with a premium look and feel, up to and including celebrity cameos.
However, enterprise organizations’ also skew more conservative than startups, because they need to preserve the brand and customer base they’ve already built.
An enterprise “already has an established brand,” brand steward Kim Curry told MarketerHire. “You're not starting from zero awareness."
That’s a blessing and a constraint. Major pivots and rebrands for enterprise-scale companies pose major challenges, as Meta’s recent 26% share price slump showed.
Enterprise marketing teams’ big budgets and responsibilities make them a bit unusual. What makes them tick — and sets them apart from marketing orgs at small- or medium-sized business (SMB)?
Perhaps most importantly: Is there a one-size-fits-all enterprise marketing playbook?
The short answer is no — but for the long answer, we asked three people with firsthand experience at enterprises like Adobe and IBM.
- Kim Curry, a brand steward who started her enterprise marketing career at IBM when their global marketing spend was $1M per day
- Stuart Shaul, a brand and growth marketing consultant and co-founder of Soul Spirits
- Jason Chitwood, general manager of MarketerHire’s agency program and an enterprise-level marketer with experience at Adobe, EA Sports and Lifelock
5 ways enterprise marketing teams work differently than SMBs’
The key difference between an enterprise business and smaller ones lies in the added complexity of a large organization.
Billion-dollar revenues usually mean more specialized teams, more consumer touchpoints, more marketing headcount, and more difficulty changing course quickly.
Here’s a closer look at how enterprise marketing organizations differ from traditional small and medium-sized businesses.
1. More marketing headcount means more specialized roles.
At a startup, one person might run multi-channel marketing campaigns across four (or more!) social channels.
“You wear like 20 hats at the same time” on SMB marketing teams, said Jason Chitwood, an Adobe and EA Sports alum.
At an enterprise, though, marketing roles get much more specialized. At Electronic Arts, EA Sports’ parent company, marketing channels and operations got divided up by audience, Chitwood said.
The sporty games team — which promoted the virtual golf game PGA Tour, among other titles — had different resources and tech stack for promotions than the fantasy games team, which worked on Dungeons and Dragons-style RPGs.
2. Internal and external regulations slow execution.
Companies with large international audiences need to consider compliance with international regulations and standards, like the EU’s GDPR consumer data protection law, or Norway’s law that retouched photos need to be clearly labeled.
“There tends to be a lot more legal input,” said Soul Spirits co-founder Stuart Shaul. “You have to think a lot more about what layers of approval you need to go through.”
“There tends to be a lot more legal input. You have to think a lot more about what layers of approval you need to go through.”
Enterprises also have more complex internal approvals processes. At large enterprises like Adobe, IBM or Xerox, “it could take you six months to a year to get a big project out the door,” Chitwood said — compared to a month or less at a startup.
At Adobe, retention campaigns need to get through multiple levels of approvals. Chitwood said the vast majority of Adobe’s revenue comes from existing customers, so it’s very important that Adobe get that marketing right.
“Every marketing plan I had to do not only had to go to my boss and the chief marketing officer … [but] then I had to go and present it to the CEO,” Chitwood said. “The more layers you add on, the more scrutiny you invite and the longer it takes to execute.”
3. Enterprise marketing needs to benefit a family of brands.
Enterprise marketing teams often work with multiple brands under one parent company, which Shaul describes as a double-edged sword. “You can get halo effects from the other brands, or you can get the reverse.”
“You can get halo effects from the other brands, or you can get the reverse.”
How you present one brand could impact how customers perceive other brands under the same umbrella. That means “there’s a lot more to lose” from sloppy phrasing or an off-brand social media post, Shaul said.
But that impact isn’t always negative. Think of how all the subsidiaries under the Walt Disney Company umbrella benefit from the successes of the others.
For instance, Freeform, a lower-profile Disney-owned basic cable channel, ran Disney shows on its channel during September 2020 weekends in an effort to boost viewership.
As a marketer, you need to be aware of the big picture and think through how your initiatives could impact other sub-brands.
4. Small, gradual wins can make a huge impact.
“What you’re striving for from a goal standpoint is very different depending on the company scale and the raw dollar impact,” Chitwood said.
At Adobe, lifting the retention rate by half a percentage point could bring in around a billion dollars in revenue.
Compare that to a startup, where marketers are typically looking to improve key metrics by 30-40% when they make a change.
It’s not just the quantifiable goals that are different in enterprises — they achieve them differently, too.
“At smaller companies, you adopt that fail-fast mentality, which means you don’t put a massive amount of time, effort, [or] money into something,” Chitwood said. “You just try it. And if it works, then great!”
Not so when it comes to enterprise marketing management, which involves heavy up-front research. A single commercial is likely informed by three months of consumer research before it even starts taping, Chitwood said. Then, after taping, it gets run through consumer research again.
After that kind of up-front investment, success is an expectation, not an added bonus.
5. The org structure can include “centers of excellence.”
Enterprise marketing teams sometimes take specialized marketing experts and turn them into “centers of excellence” across the whole organization, Shaul said.
So Procter & Gamble might have one media buying team that works across across all of its 65 brands.
That team would decide what the whole organization can spend on digital marketing channels like Facebook and Google, but also on traditional channels like television and radio. And they’d execute buys for all those brands.
One month, depending on what the center of excellence for media buying decides, the marketing team for fabric care products like Bounce and Downy could get a television budget and need to produce commercials. Later, that budget might switch over to baby care products like Pampers and Luvs.
“Think of it as you would HR or a finance [team],” Shaul said. “Those tend to reside separately within the organization, but they support all the different groups.”
“Think of it as you would HR or a finance [team]. Those tend to reside separately within the organization, but they support all the different groups.”
4 reasons there’s no single enterprise marketing playbook
No two companies are the same, but two enterprises are typically even more different than two SMBs — especially when it comes to the marketing team.
“There’s pretty huge variation” in how they’re organized, Curry said, even though “the things that ultimately need to get done are kind of the same.”
According to Curry, every enterprise marketing organization needs to do:
- Consumer-to-product engagement
- Social media marketing, or some daily communication with customers
- Long-term marketing strategy
But the way teams accomplish these three major tasks varies across organizations and over time.
Here are a few key things to understand when transitioning to the role of an enterprise marketer.
1. Enterprise marketing team structures vary widely — and change often.
There isn’t usually just one catch-all marketing team. Enterprises may have separate teams for product, customer relationship management, consumer insights, social engagement and brand strategy — and their org structures shift constantly.
Enterprise organizations “perpetually cycle through having… standalone divisions versus centers of excellence to support the different divisions,” Shaul said.
Even at one enterprise marketing organization, where Shaul spent most of his career, he saw countless organizational configurations.
While he preferred the level of control and autonomy of having an internal team — much like a SMB inside of a larger parent company — he also said the centers of excellence model has its advantages.
Ultimately, the ideal enterprise marketing team structure depends on factors like:
- What you’re selling
- How related your product lines are
- How much your different lines’ target audiences overlap
- The size of each company arm
And all of that can change over time.
2. Enterprises make marketing decisions in idiosyncratic ways.
The organizational complexity at the enterprise level means there are a shifting array of stakeholders in each marketing decision — and it’s hard for a newcomer to guess who they’ll be.
An added layer of complexity: In enterprises, “you have fragmented marketing budgets — different product lines, different divisions internally, maybe different languages,” Curry said. “So you just have more wheels turning at the same time.”
“You have fragmented marketing budgets — different product lines, different divisions internally, maybe different languages. So you just have more wheels turning at the same time.”
Knowing what metrics each stakeholder cares about can be challenging, too. Core KPIs differ by level and department. For example, the sales team may focus on lead generation KPIs, whereas the branding team might be more interested in customer experience indicators.
3. Relevant marketing regulations vary by industry, audience and country.
Each enterprise needs to follow regulations specific to their industry and audience.
Any enterprise making products for American kids, for example, faces a slew of special marketing regulations.
A much broader range of creative counts as deceptive marketing when you’re advertising to children — so a doll dancing unassisted would count as a deceptive performance claim in an ad geared towards ages 12 and under, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Meanwhile, an enterprise selling cannabis products in the U.S. needs to avoid saying “cannabis” and depicting marijuana leaves in their ad creative on certain platforms.
Overall, few enterprises’ marketing compliance concerns are exactly alike — especially because companies at that scale often span multiple countries, each with their own regulations.
4. Each enterprise marketing team works with a unique constellation of brands.
Enterprise organizations may have several product lines or even different brands under one parent.
That makes it “more of a challenge to ensure that brand umbrella is consistent across all the subcategories you have” at the enterprise level, Curry said.
The messaging enterprise marketers use for brand awareness campaigns, inbound marketing and content marketing needs to take big-picture consistency into consideration — it can’t just only make sense for a particular sub-brand or product.
3 lessons enterprise marketing organizations could learn from SMBs
Enterprise marketing teams might seem like they have it all: bandwidth for focus groups, premium CRMs, omnichannel strategies and data-driven expectations that their marketing efforts will work.
But often, at enterprise marketing departments, “one of the main goals … is to actually act like a startup,” Chitwood said.
Here are three things our panel of enterprise marketing experts said the Goliaths could learn from the Davids.
1. It pays to move fast.
“The challenge with enterprises is they feel very comfortable with long timeframes,” says Chitwood.
“The challenge with enterprises is they feel very comfortable with long timeframes.”
They tend to take their time with research and focus groups — but that can actually make the insights they glean less relevant, because marketing trends and channels come and go faster than ever.
“I’ve largely retreated to mass marketing instead of data-driven marketing because customer behavior is changing so fast I can’t trust my historical data and models,” a CMO recently told McKinsey.
Moving quickly and failing can be scary, but it also means you get real data in relatively real time from your real audience.
2. Integrated data makes it easier to strategize.
Large companies often struggle with data silos, Shaul said. Clients may come to him with “eight different systems for collecting customer data and need to bring it into one that’s accessible to the marketers.”
Chitwood had a similar experience. “You’d be surprised,” he said. “Even super large companies don’t always have it all together in terms of actually having data available.”
“Even super large companies don’t always have it all together in terms of actually having data available.”
At EA Sports, for example, data on how customers played games was presented to the product teams, but not to marketers, Chitwood said. Marketers had trouble getting insight into how customers were actually using the product.
Once the teams shifted their workflows to start sharing data, “it opened up a lot of insights on how to market to the audience better,” he said.
3. Keep one eye on the big picture.
Lifelong enterprise employees are used to feeling like “a cog in a very big set of wheels and gears,” Chitwood said. “It’s very difficult for some of those folks to zoom out.”
Startup employees tend to have broader-scope responsibilities, which makes it easier for them to see how different channels and campaigns can support each other.
3 signs of a strong enterprise marketer
Not every marketer belongs in a sprawling, global organization. At the enterprise scale, marketing efforts move more slowly, and there’s less room for spontaneity and autonomous decision-making.
Here are three signs a marketer is ready to make an impact at a major org.
1. They understand the company’s customer base.
Most successful businesses are customer-focused, but big enterprises are customer-obsessed, with enough data to really understand their target audience. To work with an enterprise, a marketer needs to understand its target audience intimately.
“You get called out quickly if you don’t know your audience very well, no matter if you’re working with social media, CRM, or PR,” Chitwood said.
“You get called out quickly if you don’t know your audience very well, no matter if you’re working with social media, CRM, or PR.”
2. They have a clearly-defined specialty.
Enterprise marketers don’t need to wear ten hats. They need a specialty.
It might be account-based marketing (ABM), content creation, search engine optimization (SEO), or email marketing.
It could also be something even more specific — like building email marketing automations with popular marketing software, like Hubspot and Marketo — or something more customized to your talents.
Curry, for example, likes to refer to herself as a “brand steward.”
3. They stay on top of rules and regulations.
Established brands want to grow, but they also want to protect what they have. That makes them hyper-aware of the rules and regulations that could threaten the company.
While businesses of all sizes are subject to regulations, regulatory bodies often focus on holding large companies accountable. For example, “big tech companies” — like Facebook and Google — are“facing a lot of legal scrutiny from the justice department,” Curry said.
“Big tech companies [are] facing a lot of legal scrutiny from the justice department.”
Enterprise marketers need to stay educated on the top regulatory challenges facing marketing programs, such as data protection regulations and accessibility standards.
How modern enterprises stay agile
When Curry first started working with IBM in the mid-’90s, the company was spending $1 million per day on television campaigns and other marketing to change the brand’s perception.
“IBM’s not doing that anymore,” Curry said. “That’s not how you market anymore.”
Billion-dollar businesses like IBM still do splashy TV campaigns — as we all saw at the 2022 Super Bowl — but they also aspire to behave more like fast-moving, scrappy startups. Just with bigger budgets, more internal divisions, and a larger audience.
One way enterprise marketing teams can stay agile?
By supplementing their full-time teams with freelancers. They help marketing teams pivot more quickly, 83% of marketing leaders who’d worked with freelancers said in a MarketerHire survey.
MarketerHire can connect enterprise clients with vetted freelancers that understand large-scale business needs — in as little as 48 hours. Try MarketerHire today.