Company Design for Category Leadership is a Continuum NOT an Isolated Event

Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together — James Cash Penney

My love of category design is well-established. I have been a strong proponent of the fundamental ethos of category design. Which is to look into the future and to design a different one. But as I have said countless times. With great power comes great responsibility. Category design when done right has the potential to create a behemoth. Right now, though the world needs impact-driven categories that are sustainable for the planet, the communities, and the consumer.

A few months ago, I made a conscious decision to join the PEAK community. An invite-only marketing community that has helped me find my tribe. My people as I call them. Naturally, as with any tribe, we support each other. We lend our voice to each other’s causes. One of the early sessions conducted by PEAK was centered around GTM. And I remember distinctly Sangram Vajre saying “we should stop seeing GTM as an isolated event and start seeing it as a continuous process and strategy”.

Source — Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

This struck a chord in me. While intuitively it made total sense to me. I still had to go through a process of unlearning. You see companies that I had been a part of always looked at GTM as an annual or bi-annual event. It was always tied to a big release, upgrade or launch of a new product.

GTM was never seen as a continuum. Yes, thinking back, it saddens me that we were so naive.

And what’s even sadder is whilst Company Design is an inherent part of category design, in my mind I had tied that to operations and culture and not so much GTM.

And then something happened to help me further align my thoughts around GTM and company design. Sangram posted in the PEAK community requesting for volunteers to review his book — MOVE: The 4-question Go-to-Market Framework.

I read the book and light bulbs started going off in my head. Part of the confusion for me was:

1. No one could agree on a definition for GTM

2. No CEO I reported to owned GTM

3. Because GTM was seen as an “event” it was usually marketing and customer success that was involved

I had always instinctively:

1. Trained internal teams

2. Created revenue channels

3. Aligned the tech stack and metrics

4. Ensured sales, marketing, and customer success were on the same page.

But I too didn’t do it in a continuum. I didn’t set it up to be continuous. It was always a one-time thing, and each was left to their own devices so to speak. Even when I advise companies on category design, I do advise them on company design and building in the success of the category into operation, processes, and technology. But I failed to see it as an engine room.

Company Design a.k.a GTM is the beating heart center for the growth and scaling of the company.

Take a look at this 4 Question Go-to-Market Framework from the book.

Source — https://terminus.com/the-move/

Before you think of your product or your organization. Think of yourself. Your human body. Your heart is the essence of your existence. If it beats too slow or too fast it’s a problem. If the blood vessels get clogged up it’s a problem. If the heart muscle isn’t strong enough it’s a problem. In short, if your heart isn’t functioning properly, it affects your physical and mental health. And its function is solely dependent on how you treat it. From what you eat, to how much exercise and sleep you get, to how happy you are. This is a continuous ongoing cycle.

GTM is like the human heart of the company. If it’s not functioning optimally then it affects the growth and existence of your company.

Now think of politicians. We all love to hate them. Part of the reason for that is they view GTM as an isolated event. One that they only carry out when there is an election around the corner. Once they are elected to office their GTM essentially grinds to a halt. Until the next election cycle. And that’s the reason why most politicians fail to keep the promise of their “product”.

Designing a category doesn’t automatically guarantee success. There are plenty of category creators who didn’t end up becoming category leaders. Now part of that of course is because someone else offered a more compelling point of view, but the other part is because their GTM was broken.

Hello Eloqua and marketing automation.

Hubspot is the well-established category queen of marketing automation. It can’t be a coincidence that that apart from having a great product the company looks at GTM as a continuous process. Hubspot is a great example of a cross-functional approach to customer experience and GTM. They put the customer at the center of the GTM approach. And hence they continue to scale and grow.

Let’s look back to when the pandemic hit and there were mass lockdowns. Zoom became our best friend. But those first few weeks were riddled with problems. From zoom bombing to wrong meeting IDs to webinars disappearing completely, the problems were endless. Many a marketing leader was reduced to tears due to the stress of managing zoom.

But. Within a few weeks, they ironed out the kinks and continuously solved problems. Today zoom isn’t just a web conferencing and meeting tool, it’s an ecosystem. One that is vital to the existence of companies. How did they manage to do it? They improved their GTM. They improved their product and company design.

The reality is no company is ever going to have a perfect GTM. It’s always going to be in a continuous improvement loop. There is always going to be another problem to evangelize, a new channel to conquer or a new threat to neutralize.

But just like the human heart, we need to keep it beating optimally and work on it every day.

Impact-Driven Category Designer | Working group member Wicked 7