Is Your Go-to-Market Strategy Built Around Focus or Luck?

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Editor’s note: This post is the first in a series diving into the specific steps that growing companies need to take to incorporate the principles of design into their go-to-market strategy. Read the other posts in the series below:

Let’s imagine for a moment that you were a fisherman, instead of the founder of a technology company. How would you approach your job?

Would you fire up your boat, navigate it out to a random spot in the ocean, cast your line, and wait, hoping blindly for a bite, until you caught some fish?

Or would you be a bit more strategic about how, when, where, and why you fished — researching the types of fish that would net you the largest profit, identifying the fishing holes that were most likely to house those fish, using bait that you were sure attracted those fish, and casting your line only when those fish were most likely to be looking for food?

Obviously, you’d go with the latter approach.

Naturally, that strategy would allow you to more effectively and efficiently target, locate, and catch more of the precise types of fish that you wanted to catch. The alternative approach, by contrast, places an inordinate amount of trust in factors that you cannot control. Yes, you might get lucky and catch a boatload of Bluefin tuna one day, but you’re just as likely to catch nothing the next. Over time, is that really a sustainable approach?

After all, almost all growing technology businesses (and fishermen, for that matter) share one universal goal: Get more customers.

Whether You Sell Fish or Software, Your Strategy Should be the Same

Yes, fishing and selling software are very different professions. But the similarities between how fishermen approach their trade and the ways in which growing software companies target, engage, and acquire new customers is very similar.

After all, almost all growing technology businesses (and fishermen, for that matter) share one universal goal: Get more customers (ideally, a lot of them), and get them as quickly and efficiently as possible.

And like the two different approaches to fishing described above, expansion-stage companies often do that by executing one of two very different strategies:

  1. Blindly experimenting with a variety of marketing tactics and executing a shot-in-the-dark sales approach that, very simply, is geared toward acquiring as many new customers, as quickly as possible — regardless of whether those customers really align with the company’s ideal customer profile.
  2. Intelligently designing a systematic process for identifying, reaching, and engaging the right buyers, influencers, partners, and indirect sales channels in the right target market segment, and leveraging that process in a way that efficiently delivers consistent impact over time.

The first option can, of course, yield batches of new customers, but it’s hugely dependent on luck and happenstance. Not to mention, depending on how long it takes you to identify the sales and marketing channels that have the greatest influence on your ideal customers, that shotgun approach can be hugely cost-inefficient.

By contrast, the second option provides a framework for bringing your product to market in a way that allows you to meet your expansion goals in a much more targeted, focused, and predictable way.

In essence, that “framework” is go-to-market strategy design.

The Key to Go-to-Market Strategy Design Success: Maintain External Focus

Over the course of the next few months, we will publish a series of articles aimed at helping expansion-stage software companies understand and embrace the principles of go-to-market design. Those articles will cover a range of topics, including when it makes sense to design a go-to-market strategy, how you should go about designing and executing it, and why the tools of design (insight, innovation, ideation, etc.) play an important role in that process.

As you read those posts, however, it’s critical to keep one thing in mind: Maintaining external focus is imperative to executing a successful go-to-market strategy. In other words, you should always be able to answer questions like these:

  • Who are the buyers, influencers, and partners that we need to target?
  • What do they care about?
  • Which marketing channels or tactics are they most influenced by?
  • What can we do to stimulate specific behaviors among those audiences?

Ultimately, if you’re able to create that company-wide external focus and integrate it into your go-to-market approach, you’ll be able to zero in on your best customer segments, deliver messaging and content that’s contextually relevant to them, and quickly iterate if something isn’t working.

At the end of the day, doing that won’t just help you to acquire more customers. It will allow you to acquire more of the right customers, and drive the kind of smart growth that is scalable, sustainable, and cost-efficient.

  • Brian MacIver

    Great Blog, this cannot be used too often with Sales and Marketing people.
    Perhaps we should talk of “Hunters” and “Fishers”?

  • Boris Geller

    Great idea to drill-down on GTM strategies and tactics. Thanks, Scott! To add a bit more color on the pros & cons of two approaches — learning market and customer dynamics to hone-in on a scalable GTM execution model is a critical core competency, especially in a young company. Experimentation without a framework does not help much with developing that. Whether it brings new customers or not — you can’t tell why, nor can you build a scalable/repeatable business around that.

    On the other hand, systematic GTM approach falls out of the overall business plan / investment thesis and uses underlying business models to validate or prove wrong some of the assumptions. With that approach, if you ramp up the new logo acquisition — you know why and how to scale it. If not — you’ve learned that some of the assumptions are incorrect and are in a better position to adjust business model, operating plans, GTM / partner strategies, etc and continue evolving the maturity of the overall organization.

  • Craig Bartlett

    Something’s wrong with your Fisherman analogy. Technically, the fish do not represent consumers as they are inputs in this business.