Going to Market

Go-to-Market Strategy is a misnomer. GTM is more an advanced form or project leadership than a form of strategic consulting

Go-to-market aka GTM.

Is this jargon or lingo? 

The entire text of a recent Seth Godin newsletter is as follows:

Jargon is intentionally offputting, and lingo reminds us how connected we are.

They might look similar, but the intent is what matters. Jargon is a place to hide, a chance to show off, a way to disconnect. Lingo, on the other hand, allows us to feel included.

This is 100% correct. “Ace in the hole” is lingo because non-poker players are welcome to use it and often do.

But “Go to market” is jargon. “Go to market strategy is even worse – it’s both jargon and a false concept.

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To understand human behavior, it’s tempting to look to our “simpler” past for a simple explanation. I tried to explain the theory of thinking outside the box by looking back to our ancestors 1.5 million years ago when the first technology consultants and tech companies roamed the earth.

What did going to market look like then?

  • Trading one form of nutrition and calories for another, perhaps, with new or at least distant people
  • Or trading information with such people

Now money, mass communication, and mass anonymity make this kind of behavior more complex.

Even in a simple case – imagine bringing your food product, such as honey or artichokes, to the local outdoor Saturday Market. There’s some branding work involved (maybe even personal branding), some practice required in articulating a value proposition, and (if you want an advantage) some positioning work too.

Usually, I am satisfied to explain any human behavior by looking at our Paleolithic (or older) past and seeing it there, staring us back as obvious and common sense. Of course, something valuable usually has an element of surprise for millions of years of human history. Of course, creativity and productivity have been at odds for millions of years. Etc.

But nowadays, going to market for a sophisticated B2B/B2P product, such as ML software or consulting services, requires more time-compressed thought, orchestration, and skill than we’re anthropologically used to.

In fact, time sensitivity is an important part of the definition of GTM:

Time-sensitive positioning, branding, targeting, and publicity activities bring a new brand, product, or service to market. GTM is usually oriented around a launch date and consists of two primary phases of pursuing visibility: before-launch and post-launch.

Because it’s an inherently challenging form of marketing, GTM (a) focuses on the ideal, early adopter segment of its total addressable market and (b) relies on advertising and other forms of paid media that may eventually be discarded in favor of earned media and word-of-mouth marketing.

That definition helps understand what GTM but what if you are leading or consulting on a GTM initiative.

Also, GTM:

  1. is based on strategy but depends more on tactics 
  2. requires a special kind of multi-campaign project management
  3. makes relationship-building extremely important
  4. requires coordination of product development and marketing
  5. forces you to trust your gut

In other words, neither strategy nor planning is enough (though they’re prerequisites).

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When someone says, “we need a go-to-market strategy,” reframe that immediately. It’s a Go-to-Market leader that is needed.

Leading a GTM initiative is a matter of rapid humility and empathy. Can you help 2,3, dozens or even 100s people on your side be better at what they do? It’s also the ability to cut problematic people out immediately, trust new people immediately, and apologize over and over for having to “change the date.”

Not every strategy consultant is cut out for leading GTM, especially if you prefer solo engagements over team activities. Nor will every project manager thrive here, no matter how well you understand complex B2B technologies and the markets for them. Instead of relying on strategy or plans, you rely most on people and intuition.

You love and find calm in the chaos.

The secondary question is, “what’s the go-to-market strategy?”. The most important question is, “who’s leading the charge?”.

Hmm.. maybe there’s a stone-age analogy here after all?

Have a great weekend (: