For most companies, go-to-market is broken. This is what Sangram Vajre told me, and it's why he and his three co-founders decided to start the analyst firm, GTM Partners. I spoke with Vajre, co-founder and CEO, to better understand why they started the company and how his team wants to help companies and vendors fix their go-to-market strategies and processes.
GTM — just another buzzword?
If you're like me, you hear the term "go-to-market" (GTM) everywhere these days. It feels like it's the new marketing buzzword, quickly replacing account-based marketing (ABM ) and account-based experiences (ABX). So, it's a little hard to get on board with the term wholeheartedly (even though it has been around for a long time).
The challenge might be that there are many ways to define "go-to-market." I said this to Vajre, and he agreed it had been defined differently in the past. He explained it this way:
A lot of times go to market was, for the most part, sales. And in some cases, it was how do you launch a product? And it may be that's where most of it in my mind and most conversations I've had kind of lived and died. And now, when we talk about go-to-market, it's the decision of when are you going to go into a partnership? Are you going to acquire a company? That's a go-to-market decision. Are you going to go to the EMEA or stay in North America? That's a go-to-market decision. Are you going to invest in marketing or sales or a combination? Are you going to go PLG? Or are you going to go enterprise? These are all go-to-market decisions that need to be done at the highest level.
It's not your average Joe who's going to be able to figure this thing out. It requires a CAT's process in some ways of clarity, alignment, and team. Like, why do we need to address this now? How does this impact it? There is more than one option we have, it's not just inbound or outbound anymore. So I think it's an exciting time to think through different ways of going to market in pursuit of what I believe is, instead of growth at all costs but the pursuit of efficient growth.
Go-to-market isn't a project or a one-time strategy, and it's not only sales and marketing related. Instead, it encompasses all aspects of your business, unifying the entire company around a common strategy and set of processes. In their guide, The Comprehensive Guide to GTM, GTM Partners define go-to-market as:
GTM is a transformational process for accelerating your path to market with high-performing revenue teams delivering a connected customer experience.
Why do we need an analyst firm focused on GTM?
It has been a year since Sangram Vajre and Brian Brown released their book MOVE: The 4-Question Go-To-Market Framework. Vajre was coming out of his role as Chief Evangelist and co-founder of Terminus and thinking about his next thing. So he joined Brown, Lindsay Cordell, and Judd Borakove to start a new company; they just weren't sure what they wanted to do.
Vajre said they tried consulting around GTM and quickly realized three things:
- They weren't the best consultants because they wanted to help and move on.
- They were good at creating frameworks (like MOVE) and creating thought leadership around a certain element.
- They were very good at creating a movement or bringing a community together, at events, and inspiring people to take action.
Something else they realized was that companies were using outdated frameworks like the Sirrus Decisions demand waterfall, the flipped funnel, and the TOPO double funnel that weren't able to keep up with how business was changing.
And there's more. Vajre said other changes needed to be addressed:
- The metrics have changed. It's no longer about pipeline revenue but net retention rate (NRR), and Vajre said you couldn't fit it into these funnels.
- Marketing has changed. We used only to have inbound and outbound strategies. Today, we have those, plus product-led growth (PLG), community-led, ecosystem-led strategies, and others.
There are many ways a business can go to market, and each approach has a different set of metrics and tactics. Therefore, there was a need for a framework that addressed these.
We walked in when we wrote the book thinking, Oh, we know what Go-To-Market is. I built brand marketing at Pardot; I was at Salesforce, and we built Terminus. Clearly, we know what we're doing from a go-to-market perspective. And I walked out a year later now, thinking, oh my God, there's so much to learn in the world of go to market. There are so many nuances. There are so many different ways to do it. There are so many ways to think about it. And so I become a student of go to market now more than a go-to-market expert in the marketplace.
Three GTM frameworks
GTM Partners was created to help companies bring together their sales, marketing, product, and customer success teams to create "transformational go-to-market strategies." And it starts with a set of frameworks that help companies think about how to go to market:
MOVE framework (Market, Operations, Velocity, Expansion)
The MOVE framework is the subject of the MOVE book. There are four questions to answer in this framework, organizing your company's thinking around who you market to (market), how you operationalize effectively (operations), when you can scale (velocity), and where you can expand (expansion).
This isn't a one-and-done process either. You have to revisit the questions in this framework at every strategy and planning session. From the guide:
Regardless of the size of your business, which stage you are in, how much revenue you have made, or how many products you have launched, the questions will remain the same. Your answers will differ. And you keep revisiting these questions at every strategy and planning session.
GTM Operating System
The GTM Operating System is an 8-pillar framework your company can use as a blueprint to manage the execution of your GTM motion. It helps each team in the company understand their role and how other roles impact and are impacted by their work, providing clarity and alignment across the entire company. Below are the eight pillars. Vajre told me that most traditional funnels miss two pillars: Customer Time-to-Value, and Customer Expansions, which are critical to a successful GTM motion.
Here I think it's good to mention that a GTM strategy or motion is not just for new companies. The guide talks about the "valleys of death" that all companies face, regardless of size or age. Things such as new competitors, changing market conditions, changes in buying behaviors, leadership changes, and new products can affect a company's growth. The key to getting through these valleys is knowing them and planning to navigate them. The alternative is to blame marketing, sales, or an executive (we all know how well that works).
CAT stands for clarity, alignment, and team, and it focuses on building exactly what it says, clarity and alignment among your teams.
When used together, these three frameworks help companies create a GTM motion that brings the entire company together to execute strategically and ensures they always keep a pulse on changes that affect how they move forward.
How do GTM Partners work?
Vajre walked me through GTM offerings, including a Member and a Vendor program. On the Vendor side, there are already a number of vendors signed up, including companies like Drift, Hushly, Vidyard, and Goldcast. For these vendors, GTM Partners creates "perspective," which is an analysis of where that vendor is in the marketplace.
Perspectives are written with insights from G2 data, discussions with the vendor's top three customers, and identifying the use cases the vendor can go to market with. The perspective helps the vendors think through where they fit in a category and guides them through the GTM process. In addition, vendors can use these perspectives as demand-gen content.
GTM Partners partnered with G2 to provide the data they need to evaluate vendors. According to Vajre, GTM Partners is a "data-driven" analyst firm, meaning they need more than small surveys to understand where vendors fit in the market truly. G2 is the first of several other data-based partnerships the company is working on, including Bombora, HG Insights, and SalesIntel.
So we're going to create a ton of different data partnerships that allow us to truly become a data-driven analyst firm that is looking at what's happening at the macro level and also go quickly at the micro level for a particular category. And if you don't do that, I feel like we'll do a disservice of being a modern data to analysis firm.
Vajre told me that most companies signed up to work with them are sub $500m and don't have third-party validation or an analyst firm helping them. But they do have an analyst line item. He said no analyst firm out there right now can spend time with these vendors and have conversations at the operator level, which is what GTM Partners does.
On the other side, GTM Partners provides a GTM Assessment for Members. They run a survey with the executive team to help them quickly see that everyone is looking at the challenge differently. Vajre said when they do this, the CEO starts to understand why things aren't getting done. From there, they run a GTM workshop that identifies top objectives and how to achieve them, and then work for the company over the next year as an advisor on top accelerators or blockers they've identified through the process.
After talking with Vajre, my view of GTM has been clarified. The GTM guide explains a lot and will help companies step back and think about how they bring together their entire company to build a successful GTM strategy – one that will evolve as things change.
I look forward to reading some of the Vendor perspectives to see how they compare with the reports from analyst firms like Forrester and Gartner. One thing Vajre said you wouldn't see are grid reports, which I feel aren't valuable anyway. Instead, it's the use cases that companies need to understand if a vendor can support their needs.
The GTM Guide also had a section on GTM technology. I'll cover that in another article – technology is a story in itself.