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Executing an effective go-to-market strategy is one of the most impactful areas within the PMM org, and in its simplest form, it all revolves around the what, to who, and how?

Here I want to share some lessons learned through my career on how to deliver an effective go-to-market strategy by adapting based on the market you’re looking to penetrate and nature of what it is you’re trying to sell. I’ll finish off with my top three tips for PMMs looking to be acknowledged as the strategic function they truly are.

My name’s Pallavi Vanacharla and I’m the Head of Marketing, IoT, at Twilio. I'm not going to share anything dramatically revolutionary here but what I am going to share though is some things I've learned over my career.

A lot of this stuff you might have heard before, but I'm going to put it together in a neat little package that when you get back to your jobs, you can bring it back up whenever you're faced with a go-to-market strategy.

GTM strategy

When I think of go-to-market strategies, I'm just thinking of broadly three things. Here's the simple way of thinking about go-to-market strategy, essentially:

  • What are we going to sell?
  • Whom are we going to sell it to? And,
  • How are we going to sell it?

If you simplify everything that you have to do along these three vectors, then I think all the various things actually ladder up against these and you can think more at a forest level than getting caught up in competitive analysis, target markets, and all those things.

In this article, I want to unpack each of these, and I want to give you examples of some of the strategies within each of these elements that have really delivered exponential growth.

What to build?

How many product marketers reading get involved with the question of what to build? I'm not talking about the road map, I'm talking about the actual product itself?

The reality is not many do, and I want to give you some things that I've tried and tested in my career that have helped me from becoming an execution arm to a much more strategic player in the organization who's helping define what products we take to the market.

Ansoff matrix

I want to start with this Ansoff matrix. It's a pretty popular matrix, it was defined by the famous Russian American mathematician Igor Ansoff 60 years ago. It is as relevant today as it was back then - this is one of the most brilliant and simplistic models out there.


It talks about the product-market fit. So on the y-axis, you have the market you're trying to target whether it's a new or existing market, and on the x-axis, you have whether you're building a new product or you have an existing product, and the grid in the middle talks about the various strategies you can take to go there.

For building a new product, I want to focus on the right column here, the new products, because you want to think about what's the new product you want to take to market?

The two strategies that are within that is either developing a new product, or diversifying your product.

  • If you're going after an existing market, you typically will think about developing a new product.
  • If you're going after a new market, you're essentially diversifying your portfolio.

There are two strategies within each of these right column quadrants that I've seen in my career work very well. There's lots of ways to go about each of these, but I'll talk about two examples.

*You can google and you'll find other methodologies, other best practices as well.

Winning strategies

The things I've seen work for the very first quadrant here on the right, if you can think of a critical need that is existing in the market. What I mean by critical Is that something that is so painful that customers are willing to pay for it, that is the critical need I'm talking about.

Oftentimes, if I take examples like the iPhone, and people say, "Well, that need didn't exist before, that was a need that was discovered". I actually think that's not quite true. We all have a critical need for simplicity, for beauty, for excellence, and that's the critical need that product exploited.

So when you think of this critical need, think of - what is something that is valuable that customers are willing to pay for? And those are the things you're thinking about when you're developing new products.

The second quadrant here at the bottom right corner is, if you're targeting a new market it is a really long cycle if you want to develop your own product, the strategy that I've seen work over and over again with pretty much most companies out there is acquisition, and I'm sure you've seen many examples from your own careers as well.

I've got two examples here.

Square

This is my career’s biggest failure. I actually worked at Intuit when Square launched in 2009. I joined Intuit and took a product to market which is a competitor to Square in 2010. It was called Go Payment. We didn't succeed as well as Square did, but it taught me a lot of things.

Jack Dorsey is brilliant, the founder of Square, he's the founder of Twitter as well, but what's brilliant about how he's approached this is he's taken a very complex, expensive market, and that was a very critical need in the market - to have a simple solution.

He simplified the whole thing, every aspect of their entire payments business was simplified. The three things that strike me in his solution are:

  1. He has simplified the pricing. Payment pricing is really, really complex. It's runs pages and pages and if you're a small-medium business it takes you hours to even read the pricing and understand the pricing, comprehend it and forget about predicting what your bill would look like. So he simplified the pricing, he made it one price point, no matter what you're doing, which is beautiful.
  2. The second thing he did was the hardware for payments is extremely expensive. A small-medium business has to invest and even learn how to use it and it's very hard for the likes of mom and pop shops out there who are not very tech-savvy. So he made the hardware absolutely easy to use, the mobile app you get for free the moment you sign up.
  3. The third thing he did is he removed the ambiguity, the uncertainty, the complexity for a simple, small-medium business. They don't have to read up literature to understand it's a mobile app, you download it, you have a reader, you scan it, and the rest is history.

So a beautiful example of how they found a critical need in the market and they went after it by simplifying every single element of that and building a unique product in the market that essentially disrupted the whole space.

Twilio

The second example I want to give you is from my current company, Twilio. I joined Twilio four months ago so I'm new to the company. For those of you don't know, Twilio has API platform for communications - by communications, I mean the SMS voice calling chat functionality so app developers can embed these API's into their apps to enable communication.

Now Twilio had pretty much all the communication channels except email, a very critical and important communication channel. So instead of investing years and years into building an API platform for that channel, they simply went out and acquired SendGrid, a really massive acquisition that closed this and was extremely successful.

Even in the short period that they've completed the acquisition, we're targeting an entirely new market, will acquire a massive customer base and literally now we're at a run rate of a billion dollars, hitting a billion-dollar run rate this year, which is to large extent enabled through SendGrid.

Whom do you sell to?

Here I want to dig a little bit deeper into the methodology. When you are thinking about whom you sell to me, think about you starting from a completely blank slate - nobody's telling you what the target market is you have to come up with the whole thinking behind whom you target.

Complete solution

So, the first thing I like to do when I'm doing that is I like to map out the entire solution for the customer. Notice I said solution and not product, most of the time, nearly 100% of the time unless you're a system integrator, your product is only a piece of the puzzle, so it's important that you map the entire solution stack.

Think about the customers’ problem and what is the solution they need to solve that entire problem. A lot of times, you'll find that the customer is actually packaging professional services from say, companies like IBM or other companies in order to create that complete solution. So you need to know all the elements of that.

Once you have a full picture of that entire solution that it takes to truly solve their need, that's when you have a good idea of what is the pain that they're trying to solve? Otherwise, you're focusing on that narrow piece of a pain point and just solving for that with your product.

Complete economic solution

Once you do that, you want to now understand the economic solution. You want to map the dollar, there's $1 that the customer gives out for that problem, how does that map against every element of the solution? And there are multiple people taking pieces of the dollar, it's getting cut into smaller and smaller chunks.

Opportunity size

At this point, you want to also think about opportunities, what is the size of the players in each of these areas?

If you think about the big circle pictured above, that might be a supplier, the end circle is, of course, the customer, the circle below might be a professional services firm. You want to understand the dollar value against each of these people and the economic value of this entire solution so you can understand where you play and what is the value you get from each and what's the size of that?

That's when you can truly figure out whom you want to target. I want to give you an example from my personal professional career.

Cisco Jasper

I was at Jasper which got acquired by Cisco, so it's now Cisco Jasper, it's an IoT platform. When I joined Jasper, I was taking a new product to market and the intent behind the new product and there was a lot of push for us to go direct to the customer.

Now, had we gone directly to the customer we would have succeeded, I think mildly, but we took a different approach. We actually figured out, mapped out the entire solution stack and we went to the service providers, carriers, like the at&t's of the world and we went to the customer through them.

What does that do for us? First, we went to a point in the purchase cycle where there was zero competitors, literally no competitors when we went to that stage of the buying cycle. The carriers were giving this platform to customers to use, this was the default platform they would get with their IoT connectivity service, so the second thing it did is it turned our product into a default solution.

Default is beautiful. How many of you use something that's default? I'm sure many of you do. But default lets you get access to a customer base without spending so much effort in sales and marketing. Think like a CEO rather than a marketer - how do you get to market faster, cheaper, better?

The third thing it did is it enabled us to integrate with carriers that helped us deliver some unique capabilities that nobody else in the market could. So it was a beautiful model, we adopted this and Cisco Jasper today is actually the number one IoT connectivity platform in the market, the largest player in the market and just primarily because of these strategic decisions of how they went to market.

How do you sell?

This one I think I can spend less time on, you're all marketers, you know how to do this. But let me go back to the Ansoff model.


So the column that we left earlier on the left side that talks about how do you get to new markets or existing markets? If you have an existing product, you're essentially either penetrating the market or developing a new market and the two strategies that I've seen work here typically is switching customers.

Winning strategies: switch customers

If you have an existing product and you're going after an existing market, you're essentially playing in a space where the customer base is pretty mature and so this is a great opportunity for you to really start switching customers.

There are so many companies, you've heard the famous Coke and Pepsi wars, there's a lot of service providers or carriers out there who are constantly trying to switch customers onto their platform.

If you are an existing product but you're trying to go after a new market, the strategy that I've seen work very well and so many companies are doing this extremely effectively is to go to the market through a channel.

Winning strategies: via channel

Now cultivating a channel, training them, enabling them is hard, but it's no harder than training your own sales team. So I believe this model can work extremely effectively to very quickly get to a new market and land grab before your competitors take hold.

That really brings a conclusion to the gist of my content but I was to briefly talk about how to turn product marketing into a more strategic org.

PMM as a strategic org

What I find is that there are three areas where product marketers should focus on and I will talk about those three areas here.

#1 Make ‘thinking big’ a habit

The first one that I observe and notice is as product marketers, there's so much we have to do, our roles are so broad, that we get caught up in the day to day execution and we're not really pausing to step back and think big. So every time there is a task we're executing on the incremental changes.

But if you make thinking a bigger habit, you're constantly pausing and saying, "How can I take this to 10 X or 20 X or 200 x?" If you constantly think about that with every element, I think that it gets you into the habit of thinking like a CEO or a business leader rather than a product marketer.

#2 Empower yourself and your team

The second thing I find is product marketing tends to be a very lean org in most companies. Most of the companies I've been in there are a few product marketers like one product marketer per product or sometimes doubling up products, which is very hard for you to really be strategic if you're that slim.

Build a team

So the first thing I would say is, push for building and expanding your team, really push for that because this is a very key strategic org. And you need to make the case to add more product marketers, what does that do? That frees your mind to actually sit down and think about a strategy, otherwise you're just running, running, running.

Own data & insights

The second thing you want to do is own the data. So a lot of times data is managed by competitive insights teams, by PMs, and if you bring that into the product marketing org, or if not, at least you're closely aligned with data where you are the expert on the market data to the customer data, then you have a lot more insights than compared to the rest of the org.

So you become the expert, you become the go-to person for that.

Be proactive

The third thing that I want to suggest to you is, take this time and knowledge that you're now gaining if you do this right, to raise and suggest things, talk about acquisitions you can have, talk about go-to-market strategies, say 90% of your ideas may be ignored, that's fine, but at least 1% or 10% of your ideas may be explored.

You need not do the whole due diligence on that strategy, but you can be the first person to raise it and bring it up. Then you can work with different people to actually execute on it. That would elevate your visibility in the org where you're seen as somebody who's thinking beyond just the tactical aspect of marketing and thinking beyond as a strategic leader.

You'll be brought into conversations when they're thinking about acquisitions and things like that.

#3 Be the change

Lastly, I want to leave you with this thought: Foster a culture of testing and create a safe space to fail.

There are a lot of companies who talk about "We embrace failure", and "Failure is accepted and celebrated", but in reality, when somebody fails in that organization, they're typically shunned.

How do you overcome this? What I've found to work best is if you start creating a culture of testing. What happens with the testing mindset, when you start positioning everything that you're doing, (and I don't mean the marketing position, I'm mainly talking about the tactics that we're doing) as a test, then it becomes a scientific exercise.

The executive leadership’s mindset changes, they expect failure, because they're like, "Okay, 50% of this will go wrong, that's fine because it's a test".

The acceptance of failure becomes better, so constantly use the word test, use it liberally with everything. You can go and test your messaging, go and test your business impact, go and test pilot your products - do everything in a test mode, and come back and report on those results.

It becomes a scientific exercise rather than a personal failure. So if you fail, it was a test we tried, AB tested it, multivariate tested it, and some things worked and something didn't and this is what we learned about it.

The chances that you're taking in the market, the risks that you're taking in the market become more acceptable and the failure of that is not associated with your personal brand.

That's all I have, thank you.

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