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Who owns Go-to-Market (GTM) Strategy in B2B?
The co-founder of Terminus, Sangram Vajre, threw a question out into the LinkedIn universe: “Who owns a go-to-market strategy?” In a matter of hours, a debate unfolded with professionals siding with the CEO, CMO, CRO, or Product Management (with CMOs taking it for the win with 47% of the votes). Many chimed in that it is owned by all of them. But I have a different take. Yes, I think they are all involved, but I think none of them own it, and below, I explain why.
First, let me clarify.
Go-to-market strategy “is the plan of an organization, utilizing their inside and outside resources, to deliver their unique value proposition to customers and achieve competitive advantage.” (Wikipedia) This definition is key to how I lay out my argument below because I believe that go-to-market strategy should be addressed at the organization level and not the product level. Too many times, GTM is limited to a product, service, or single portfolio, rather than the overall organization. I believe this has happened due to the growing complexity of business and the acceleration of product development. But more on that later.
When times were much simpler.
In legacy business models, responsibilities were clearly defined, and in a product or service business, it looked something similar to this (give or take):
Product Management was the big enchilada focused on understanding the market, identifying a market problem, and working with the other teams to create a product or service that would solve that problem. In B2B, development took years, with cycle times spanning an average of 30 months. Additionally, many companies were only defined by a single product or service. So there was alignment between the market’s expectation of new products or services and the business’s expectation of product management. There was balance in the world.
But things got complicated.
Market expectations changed over time and to keep up with demands, organizations pressured product management to accelerate their cycle times. Instead of years, some launches contracted to 18 months or even less. To make it more complicated, organizations diversified their portfolios. Instead of a single product, many companies started offering complementary products or services. The idea was to provide a seamless customer experience. “Why go to another partner, when we can do it all for you.” It all sounded great, but the business put unrealistic expectations on product management, thinking they could still do everything but in way less time. (How often have you heard that one before?) And so, product management hunkered down and somewhat self-limited their scope to meet the needs of the business and consumer.
There is a saying: “If there is a gap, someone will go fill it.” Because product management had to hunker down to meet super aggressive timelines, gaps emerged. Communication deteriorated. And lines began to blur. The once defined ecosystem became more so looked like this:
Additionally, these groups would roll up into different executives with different goals and objectives: Chief Product Officers (CPOs), Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs), and Chief Revenue Officers (CROs).
Throw in other factors like lack of communication, disjointed systems, and process, and this created a perfect opportunity for misalignment. And if the company didn’t have someone that maintained alignment to the corporate objectives and strategy, you ended up having an organization with disjointed teams, products, and services.
So, who should own GTM?
The Chief Strategy Officer (CSO).
They get sucked into the day-to-day — be it the next big customer, launch, or campaign.
Internal politics. Let’s be honest, none of these executives want their fellow executive telling them how they should run their department.
Companies need an impartial party to help advise and facilitate a strategy for the organization. This gives a clear direction for the company and for all of the teams that are to support that strategy. Alignment and execution of the strategy is their focus.
In many organizations, this role helps identify major market shifts, M&A opportunities, partnerships, and more. A major complaint is that a CSO is too much OUTSIDE of the business. Well, frankly speaking, then that’s a bad CSO. To properly advise the CEO and executive staff, the CSO shouldn’t just be reading market reports but should be in the business. She should have a GTM Strategy team that implements the principles of product management at a company level. That team should work with the other departments to make sure all strategies are aligned to the corporate vision and mission. That would then trickle down to business operations, enabling integrated processes, data sharing, and communication.
It’s not a surprise that CSOs have been increasing in popularity. According to a report from the Harvard Business Review, companies are adding CSOs to their management teams (or at least considering doing so) for several reasons:
“changes to the business landscape — complex organizational structures, rapid globalization, new regulations, the struggle to innovate — that make it even more difficult for CEOs to be on top of everything, even an area as important as strategy execution.
Strategy development has become a continuous, not periodic, process. Successful execution, therefore, depends more than ever on rapid and effective decision-making.
fisted control of execution often eludes the top team’s grasp, as line executives seek to define a strategy on their terms.”
Although CSOs are on the rise, there are still several companies that are missing this crucial role. In other companies, they do have a CSO but GTM is not a part of their responsibility. Either way, a great option is to partner with a go-to-market strategy firm that can actually do the GTM work, align your revenue teams, and accelerate your revenue. If you are interested to learn about Alveo’s approach, check out www.alveostrategy.com.
The article was originally published on Medium.com.