Why engineering your Go To Market (GTM) is as important as building ground breaking software

You’ve built an amazing product. It’s faster, better, cheaper  – and returns massive amount of Karmic goodness to the universe to boot. All you need to do is put it on your website, launch an email campaign, hire a sales team, and voila, cash flow positive by the Holidays! Result!

If only it were so easy  –  if only people were smart enough to beat a path to your door.

In fact the whole process of thinking through what your offer is and to who, how it is differentiated from other ideas competing for customer mindshare, what the best ways to reach the target customer are, which use cases to address, and how to price…well that’s a bunch of really hard stuff that you will be constantly revising and updating as your company grows  – and you need to take it at least as seriously as the product development itself. There is a reason why most large tech companies have enormous sales and marketing operations.

In our experience, many early stage companies hire the wrong sales teams too early. For example, they bring senior skills in before they have really figured out who their customer is, what they are going to sell to them and how they want to buy it. This leads to frustration all round – sales teams tend to be coin operated, you give them a target and they will move the company to try and reach it. This can lead to wasting engineering time, trashing pricing plans, inventing new use cases on the fly and generally wasting a lot of energy and good will. A properly developed and considered GTM can address all of that - but you need to take the time to do it.

Effectively a good GTM strategy addresses the use of resources to get the product and/or service created out into the market - and into the hands of customers. It sounds so simple - it is anything but - and common mistakes that often happen include:

It’s just sales , we’ll hire an awesome sales dude and they’ll figure it out”

“We’ll simply use the channel,  we don’t need a big sales team”

“Our customers will come to us, we have a great product, they’ll just find us”

“We already talked to customers while we developed the product, it’ll be fine”

“We’ll advertise on xxxxx and that will work”

“Whats GTM? What’s Google got to do with it?”

Of course, our belief is that our portfolio companies would never say such things (ahem…!) and are all well versed in the details and intricacies of building a solid GTM by working directly with customers. Why? It’s a foundational part of the company’s strategy we seek to start building even at the first meeting - an open discussion on the possibilities and challenges with a GTM.


Essentially we’re attempting to answer a series of related questions - which use cases, which customers, how much should we charge, what value do we bring, what demand generation techniques should we use, what should the sales process look like, which groups within the customers should we be targeting, and how do we support them after they’ve committed?

The first trap here is assumptive bias - believing what we already know about the market, our product and our own insights to create a GTM that is logical and very well suited to the business and yet has limited real connection with customers that derive the greatest value. That’s a game of internal flattery. The second biggest trap is over focus on one specific step in the process - could be pricing, the actual transaction, demand marketing without conversation - and in doing so we can miss the integrated cycle from our customer’s perspective.

GTM is a holistic external game. It’s getting out and meeting with customers and learning about their problem as they experience them, seeing and feeling the world through their eyes, across all aspects of the lifecycle - from how they are measured and rewarded internally, to how they understand and describe a problem, to how they find out about you, how they buy and indeed consume your offering, and then how the relationship and mutual success evolve together.

Over a series of blogs published via The Startup Network, we’re going to focus on the Seed to Series A step of GTM and share what it means to think through the customer experience:

  • GTM I The Detail: What are the individual areas we should think about?
  • GTM II Playful Customer Dynamics: Connecting with customers
  • GTM III What doing it correctly actually looks and feels like?
  • GTM IV  What tools should we use and where can I access advice?
  • GTM V  Pitching to VCs — What to tell us about your customers.

We do more than just blogs - after all, the writing of theory is easy. We work with our portfolio companies at a deeper level on an accelerated approach to crafting a properly and considered GTM that delivers results. It’s one of the reasons I joined Episode 1 - to translate years of practical experience for day-to-day benefit to our portfolio.


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