GTM III – What doing it correctly actually looks and feels like

Aimbrain: A Go To Market (GTM) case study

Over the past 3 blogs, we’ve explained:

Now we’ll hear from the CEO of one of our Portfolio companies – Aimbrain – on how we worked together on GTM and sales strategy that has transformed the way they engage with their customers. The process has helped the company rethink its approach to the core market for its Biometric Identity Platform.

Here, CEO and co-founder Andrius Sutas explains the impact this has had on the business:

Going after the right customers

Originally, we focused on Tier 1 banks, because there is no doubt that they will increasingly use biometrics. What we found, though, was that this market wasn’t a good fit for our strategic aim to be a high-growth company. The problem we had was that to close deals with big banks meant going through a huge amount of due diligence and procurement processes and such like. In some cases, they were asking for five years of accounts plus audits. We’re not even that old. Being a new startup seemed to represent too high a risk.

So, while Tier 1 is still a good market, they are just too slow for our high-growth goals. The point is, we want that exponential curve and if we kept our focus there it just wouldn’t happen in any meaningful time. Plus, it could allow competitors to close on fast-moving companies like challenger banks or automotive industries, giving them the exponential growth. So that’s why we started looking at developing our Go To Market strategy and widening our potential market.

As founders our background is as engineers. While we had been doing ‘sales’ for the last few years, we hadn’t really been doing proper customer development and we weren’t getting the results we wanted. When Siobhan from Episode 1 came in to help us out, she brought in a very structured approach which was all about understanding what your customers actually want. In fact, in the two weeks of doing proper business development with Siobhan’s help, I learned more about my own market than in two years of doing ‘sales’.

Sales without the selling 

Siobhan got us to go and speak with our customers without trying to sell our product – to actually understand what their priorities and problems are and how their processes work. Those problems and priorities can be two different things. It was then a question of tailoring what we sell, and how we sell it, to those needs.

Quite often, the customers themselves don’t actually understand their own priorities. For example, a customer might want to reduce the amount of fraud and doesn’t really care how they do that as long as they get the result, while a customer such as a challenger bank wants to differentiate themselves through a cool user experience that doesn’t require users to remember passwords. The fundamental solution to those problems could be biometrics delivered by exactly the same product. However, the way you pitch the solution and sell the product – and measure success – is different.

The whole Go To Market strategy and business development strategy is about understanding what the end goal is and then changing your language or introducing new language around solving your customer’s needs. When you talk to people without trying to sell your solution, when you’re just there to listen and understand, they share a lot of non-obvious things. It also gives rise to use cases that hadn’t even been thought of before. That’s far better than just trying to sell the same use case to lots of people.

We’ve found that companies are usually very receptive to this approach. We go in with a lot of questions, probing parts of their business to understand where they have bottlenecks, where they are losing money or customers, how they could do better in certain areas. Siobhan has helped us focus those questions to learn what problems they have, but also those they might not have thought about. It can actually be a really valuable exercise for the company as well as for us.

Riding the sales cycle

We have also learned that you need to understand where your customer is in their sales cycle. Your solution might be exactly what they need and well priced, but they might not be ready to buy. Or they might be past the decision-making stage regarding how they solve their problem. The sweet spot is to come in at the point at which the customer knows they have a problem and are looking for a solution.

Making it personal

We’ve learned that business development is not just about identifying verticals but also understanding the personas within those verticals. What you find in a single company is you have different personas that buy different things even though the product might be exactly the same. They are measured against different KPIs and come from different backgrounds. For example, the needs of someone in security will be different from someone in customer acquisition.

In the Go To Market strategy that we did with Siobhan, we understood the verticals we were going after but also who, why and when the people were buying within those verticals. Tier 1 banks are still very much part of that strategy, only now we understand them better.Siobhan’s approach does have a very strong structure but it hasn’t been imposed on us. That structure adjusts to the way you, your company and the market works. It’s flexible. It’s almost like a manual of doing business development and sales properly. And that manual is always changing specific to the company or the market.

Having Episode 1 in your corner

When we were raising our seed round, it wasn’t the financials on the term sheet that convinced us Episode 1 was the right VC firm for us– it was the people behind the term sheet. When you have a good business, getting money is quite easy. It’s getting the right kind of money that is hard. Episode 1 have proved time after time that it was the right kind of money. They never micro-manage you, but if you ask for help they will bring the full power of their network to bear. Siobhan feels like part of our team.


Over a series of blogs, we’re focusing on the Seed to Series A step of GTM and share what it means to think through the customer experience:

  • INTRO – Why we’re all in Sales 
  • 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?

Coming next:

  • 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. Working with a wider ecosystem of expert partners and existing expertise within the Portfolio Companies, we’re embedding customer culture into the heart of success for startups.

We welcome input from you; expertise, or areas to hear more about, tweet us at @sioclark

#GTM  #SalesDoneRight #CustomerExperience #startupsuccess