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Why it’s so hard to market enterprise AI/ML products and what to do about it


Mike Tong

Mike Tong has over a decade of experience leading GTM strategy and operations for tech and data companies as part of McKinsey TMT, AtSpoke, Splunk and the VC firm B Capital.

In 2019, I led the sales team and growth strategy for a venture-backed AI company called atSpoke. The company, which Okta ultimately acquired, used AI to augment traditional IT services management and internal company communication.
At a very early stage, our conversion rate was high. As long as our sales team could talk to a prospect — and that prospect spent time with the product — they would more often than not become a customer. The problem was getting enough strong prospects to connect with the sales team.
The traditional SaaS playbook for demand generation didn’t work. Buying ads and building communities focused on “AI” were both expensive and drew in enthusiasts who lacked buying power. Buying search terms for our specific value propositions — e.g., “auto-routing requests” — didn’t work because the concepts were new and no one was searching for those terms. Finally, terms like “workflows” and “ticketing, …

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