Lucy Heskins: Building an Effective Go-to-Market Strategy

You’ve got a product that genuinely solves a customer problem but you don’t know how many customers are out there, how to find them and make them customers. You also realise you’re not certain if you’re charging enough.

Lucy discusses how to create your go-to-market strategy in a way that will help direct your activity and give your team and board confidence in your approach.

In this session you’ll learn:

  • Ways to identify your profitable customers, not those who won’t ever pay for your product.
  • Questions you can ask that actually unlock value for your product and marketing teams.
  • The marketing channels available and how to select the right ones.
  • How to think about price and build in repeat usage.
  • How to think about the wider business model and increase your chances of success from the start.

Slides

Transcript

Lucy Heskins 

Oh, hi. Thank you. Sorry, Hi, sorry, I’m a redhead, not a red coat. Hi. Hi, thank you. Just gonna put my first note down to brief. Hi, I’m Lucy, and I’m the director of Oh blimey. And today I’m going to be talking to you about how to build an effective go to market strategy, I’m going to be providing you with the foundations to start releasing your products with confidence. Now, the actual session itself, I’m splitting into three parts. First of all, how to identify your best fit customers, those ones that will sign up and actually pay not the ones that that ghost you.

My approach here might require a slight mindset. Although based on the talks over the last couple of days, I think you might be a little bit comfortable with it. But ultimately, what I’m trying to do here is just show you and give you focus, how you to unlock a tonne of data. And a tonne of value that is going to give you and your product teams and your marketing teams a lot more focus. Next up the plan to reach these best fit customers, the channels that we’ll be using. I’ll talk a little bit about brand, a little bit about channels, and also the importance of their relationship because they are their intrinsic with one another. I’ll also be talking about the channels that are available, and how you can select a few and align those to your own customers buy in process. And then last of all the foundations for repeat usage. So I’m gonna be talking about all this marketing stuff, and hopefully show you how to align it with product. I’ll touch a little bit on customer acquisition models, and also the true meaning of onboarding. And that’s how we’ll finish the session. Go to market, not necessarily a new topic, you’ll kind of know what it is, we’ve certainly got our own interpretations. Now over the last couple of days, you would have heard from some amazing speakers. And they would have shared a lot of theory. What I’m going to do is take some of this theory and show you how to actually apply it. And this focus on application is important because how many times you’ve gone to a conference, you’ve listened to a speaker, you’ve got all riled up, you’ve got all motivated. Perhaps they’ve answered kind of niggling Question in the back your mind. You’re pumped, enthusiastic, you get back to the office. And you’ve got the best intentions of applying what you learn, and nothing happens. stuff gets in the way. Deadlines get in the way, life gets in the way. You’ve got these intentions, but it just doesn’t really happen. Because growth is hard. Now today’s session is for those amongst you who want more of a focus on tactics. It’s for those people that want the kind of confidence to look at things differently, to test differently. Today’s session is for and this is a technical term, it’s sort of get shit done people. For me, I’ve got an aim for this.

I want to stop you guys from releasing your products too early, or just do a sense check. Now, I’m pretty new to BoS. This is my second imperson BoS. But if if you allow me to just share a little bit about my background, so you can see where some of this lesson or these lessons are coming from. So I was the head of recruitment for a no wasn’t as the head of marketing for recruitment tech provider. We had about 2000 clients, we’re profitable. We released a tonne of features, probably too many at one point. And we expanded from the UK into the US. But I’ve also been the kind of a member of the founding team for a startup as well. So I’ve had to go through some of these motions, where it’s literally blank canvas stuff. You literally just starting from scratch here are some of the products I’ve taken to market have done well. They’ve worked they’ve done really well. One in particular, we ended up selling to customers in over 40 countries and linked and was our first client, which bit of an odd one. And then some of the products that I’ve worked on and taken to market, they’ve tanked. And when I say they’ve tanked, I mean that they they’ve royally tanked. And when I think about the reason why, to me, in my opinion, I think that our processes and our systems work against us, we’ve got these big intentions to apply things. But then all of a sudden, when you’ve got to ship quickly, you’ve got to hit your targets, and you’ve got the head of cells breathing down your neck, what do you do, you cut corners, you cut, you cut research, you cut the most important part of go to market. And when it comes to the day, when you’re going to literally launch that product, and you haven’t followed the basics, the results are kind of mediocre at best. So what I want to do is kind of start off, make sure that we’re all kind of we’ve got, we’re all on the same kind of perspective here, equal playing field. So I’m just going to share with you a couple of definitions and an insight into my approach. So what is go to market go to market is when you release a new product, or an existing product into a new market. And the idea is that you’ve got to ensure that it reaches the right buyers at the right time with the right channels. But think of it as a blueprint.

Because if you do it right, all of a sudden, you’ll learn how to position your product against your true competitors, your know how to kind of put your inbound and outbound marketing strategy together. And you’ll also understand how to ensure that you’ve got repeat usage, customers keep on coming back and actually adopt your product. Now, I’m very aware that I’m stood here as a marketer, in front of a largely product audience. So you’d be forgiven if you think that I would kind of be focused more on sales and marketing today. But I think having had the startup background, I know how crucial or how important product is to this to this actual talk. It drives everything, it influences everything. Product influences your market, your channels. Now there are a number of different motions that go to market can kind of follow. For this talk, I’m going to focus primarily on these two here, sales lead, and product lead. And yes, others do exist. Things like we got marketing, Lead Community lead, customer lead, there are new ones popping up. But for the sake of simplicity, is these two I’m going to look at. So sales lead, when would you use a sales lead motion, probably. And again, this is all very generalistic. And it depends. But it’s when you’ve got a product that is complex, it needs a human to kind of open up opportunities or help guide that that person through the process. And then there’s product lead, pretty obvious. But it’s when you rely on the product to act as a vehicle as a vehicle to look at the kind of acquisition, the retention in the monetization side of things. Now, whichever one you choose will depend on a number of factors, the complexity of the product, the maturity of the business, the maturity of the market, whether you are selling bottom up or top down, there’s a number of things to consider.

What I’m hoping I’m doing here is just planting a seed to say that actually, there’s a lot of moving parts here. You cannot create go to market in isolation. It’s the sum of moving parts. And if you forget kind of some of these basics, well, there might be a reason why 45% of products do not launch on time. So this is the kind of five fits framework from demand curve and reforge. And whilst it’s typically used in a growth perspective, I think that illustrates the point I’m hopefully making right now that you’ve got all these different parts, and they talk to one another, they influence one another. So products influences your model channels, influential market market influences your brand. Brand has a saying as well. As you can see, there’s a number of moving parts here. But market markets, the central most important part here is right in the middle. So I was talking to somebody the other day, and I said I’m doing a talk for BoS on going to market and then went grey. There’s probably going to be a lot of theory, but what’s the stuff that actually makes it effective? And to me, it’s a mindset thing. So first of all, you need the confidence to go out and speak to your customers. If you can hang out with your customers and see them using their products within their own environment and to the chaos that is their everyday working day. Understand what you’re called implementing what you’re remedying? You also need curiosity, curiosity to understand what unlocks a customer motivation. What makes them switch from one product to another. Don’t just settle for, oh, it’s the way we’ve always done things. If you want this stuff to work, you need to let your customer dictate this not your complacency.

And then last of all shortcuts, there are no shortcuts whatsoever. So going into this, you may be familiar with the market, you may have worked on a similar product. But the way that customers derive value from our products change over time, is because we live in this big bad world, there’s a number of external factors. So you’ve got to check in with customers regularly, you’ve got to iterate regularly. Okay. What does good look like then? I’ve just mentioned that market here is kind of the central focus for go to market, what does a good fit that like? We sell to everyone. Now, I still hear some of the most experienced leaders say this most experienced leaders and first time founders who think that if they say that the investor is going to really get interested, they don’t realise it’s a red flag. Now, if we sold to everyone, what would the world actually look like? What progress would we make? Now, when I think about this world, for some reason, I conjure up this apocalyptic wasteland, something like an episode of The Last of Us, or my personal house or something with a Kardashian and we sell to everyone? What would what it looked like? If you employed a strategy like this? You’d have annoyed team members, you’d have disillusion team members. mediocre results, high customer acquisition rates, just doesn’t make sense. Okay, I’m gonna turn this frown upside down, because I do feel a little bit negative there. So what does this best fit ideal customer look like? What is the holy grail? So in my experience, is the person that pays the most to get the job done the best. Of course, we need good market conditions, they’ve also also got to be a joy to serve. That’s so important. You’ve got to like the customers you work with and the relationships that you form. And they need high urgency. So they need a pain that they want solving. And they need low ability. That’s why they’ve come to you.

Okay, so that’s what our ideal customer looks like, where do they exist? So logical step then is to look at your market. So I’m assuming here, you kind of know who you’re selling to, let’s just say it’s the HR market or ed tech, for example. Where does the ideal client live? You’d probably look at some look at using something like tam Samsung, if you’re feeling a bit crazy, you might overlay it with a beachhead. But when we’re looking at something like market here, we’re looking at that broad group of people that are involved or interested in a product. So this is your potential customers, your competitors influences is that ecosystem. Okay, so so far, so simple, straightforward. What about your ideal client, excuse me, you’ve got bit ahead of myself there. So ideal client or ideal client profile, that’s the person that operates in this ecosystem that is most likely to buy. So typically, if you were going to try and find them, you would look at something like demographics firmographic, psychographics, all of those. But the one tool in my opinion that does the most harm is the buyer persona. Simple Sally is 65. And she’s left handed lives in Cambridge and go skiing. Cool. Lucy is 30 years old, lives in Cardiff as a couple of dogs, and really loves RuPaul drag race. Thank you. What does this tell the head of products at delivery? About the reason why every every other Thursday night at about 1030 I ordered a cheesecake in secret from my partner, who is now looking at me. What does this tell the Head of Marketing at Zoopla about how they should target their next campaign because I’m fed up of living in Cardiff and I want to move to England. I don’t Don’t worry. Now these are great for targeting. But the snag is they don’t unlock the why. And the problem is because we misuse tools like this. So how do we get to the why? I think you might have come across a concept called jobs to be done. I heard Bob did a very good talk on it yesterday. And I also hear that there’s a workshop as well. Now, as a recap, if you weren’t around, what I want to do is share what jobs is from a marketing perspective, and how you can apply this to your go to market. So people do not buy things that random.

We hire, and we fire products meet progress in our life. And it’s all rooted. It’s all rooted in this idea of the struggling moment, the first four, there’s a timeline, but it’s all connected to that day that where somebody wakes up and goes, today’s the day, I’m gonna buy this new product. And this is really, really good stuff. I’ve used it in startups, we’ve used it within established markets. I work with Bob, we did a project recently, where we did jobs on his clients that do jobs, it got very matter. But what was really what I’m trying to the point I’m trying to make here is that it’s powerful stuff. Because all of a sudden, you know what to say to people, you know how to hook them in. Because it’s not about features. It’s about what your product does, and help what it helps your customer to become a fluff that didn’t know your product is not what your product does. It’s what it helps your customer to become a few examples. Salesforce doesn’t sell CRMs Salesforce sells the progression route to become a marketing or sales director. Yeah, the features are there the features there to help you realise where the leads are, and how to close opportunities. But actually, the progression could be becoming marketing director one day. What are intercom they don’t necessarily just sell kind of pop up Chatbot. They help us to reduce churn. They help us to grow our businesses, as they go into new markets or hire new people. I’m gonna go back to this one. Because when you apply this to your go to market, right, and you’ll likely get this information from running interviews or surveys. There’s a tonne of data that comes through. But the three things that stick out the most for me, which I think that you should apply to your go to market, are these. The first one? Yes, we’re going to learn about the progress. Yes, we’re going to learn about the first for the first four and also the kind of forces of progress here. But when someone is talking to you, and we learned this from the interview yesterday, as they’re going through that process, all of a sudden, you realise that you’re learning about the tools that they use to educate themselves. And actually by all of a sudden, these interviews open out the foundations of your channel strategy.

Next up the context, the context that somebody might use your product. So Bob, I’m name dropping you a lot here. But it’s because what I agree with what you say. So Bob, and Greg angle, they’ve got a bit demand side sales. And they say when it comes to thinking about your product, it’s not the total solution. Don’t think of your product as the burger, it’s the mustard. It makes up this bigger, bigger solution. If you have interviews and you learn the context, all of a sudden, you start unlocking complementary brands, that your customers are using complementary brands and potential audiences, which can be great for things like CO marketing. And then last of all, it opens up who your true customers are. So customers come in, sorry, not customers, competitors. So opens up the door to competitors, we know that there are three different types direct, indirect, and replacement. But the problem that we’ve got is that we tell customers who our competitors are, they should be the other way around it then that gets to decide where we’re bucketed.

Okay, how are we going to reach them? So, with this section, I want to kind of share some kind of ideas on what to say, and where you’re going to be saying it. And this kind of first part really digs into brand because brand is intrinsic to the channels that you use. So we know that you can use brand to differentiate your your business, tell customer stories, and if you get it right, you create this connection where all of a sudden you don’t need to talk about features anymore. But here’s the killer. It’s your audience that decide what your brand is, is the market’s perception. You can’t tell them what you are You have to see how they respond, right? So it’s your brand that helps you to compete. It’s your brand that helps you realise if you should be on LinkedIn, if you should be on Tiktok if you should actually attend that golf day, because that’s where all business happens, apparently. And it also, once you know your competitors brand helps you tell your story. Now, if anybody’s ever visited, oh, blimey, you’ll know that I’m a little bit sarcastic, and very, very honest about some of the mistakes that we’ve made. So I’m going to share a quick example. So a few years ago, I worked for a startup called Career cake. And what we did was we were an online learning platform, and we created a series of videos to help young people navigate the first in their career journey. And when it came to our kind of go to market, we needed to release this first set of products. And if anybody has worked in careers, you’ll know that it is very, very, very busy, there are a lot of things going on. So in a bid to kind of differentiate ourselves and stand out, we actually started saying, where the Netflix in careers.

Thanks for Spotify, that for job hunting. Now, obviously, this creates an initial buzz, but there’s a massive misalignment. When somebody comes to our platform, they sign up and expect like hundreds or 1000s of videos, and there are 14. And I’m talking topics like how to write CV, phone interviews, what to do if you don’t get the job. This misalignment was just, it just showed that we didn’t care about the entire journey, we were just thinking about getting leads, and we didn’t think about the product adoption bit. And so understandably, our churn was very high. And apparently nobody wants to Netflix and chill in front of a TV workshop. Now, people that do this, they don’t know who what their value proposition is. They certainly don’t know who their market is. And they don’t think about the progress that their customers want to make. Now plus ideas, we did turn it around, because Creo Kate was acquired last year. But this is how we did it. I swear that’s a song. I’m not gonna go into one. Okay, so we conducted jobs to be done interviews, we left all those buyer personas and the targeting tools, we wanted to unlock why our customers were buying us what progress they wanted to make. So it turns out that our biggest competitor wasn’t the careers teams in schools. It was LinkedIn learning. So at this point, we are a two person team in Cardiff. And we’re going to try and pinch business from LinkedIn learning. What do you do in this instance, you use their strengths against them. I’ve nicked that from April Dunford read her book, it is amazing. So the data that came out showed that LinkedIn just offered way too many courses. At one point they had, I think it was 14,000 courses that were available. Now the courses that were available to our particular segment, just really boring. They didn’t speak to young people in the slightest. So okay, so what do we learn? How do we go to market with all these new learnings? So brand, that was the first thing we changed. We changed our brand, from this dull, kind of boring grey type logo thing that was designed for the investors by the way, we changed it to talk to the NP and person.

Now I don’t if you’ve changed jobs, and I don’t know if you were looking for your first job during the pandemic, but that was a really, really tough time for people like really emotional people. In that instance, our target user wanted a friend, somebody to be supportive, somebody to get them from A to B and not offer them 1000s of videos. The next thing that we learned was from these interviews, we had three clear jobs to be done. And we focused on one, the one that we thought was the most profitable. So in the onboarding process, ask them a couple of qualifying questions. Soon as they gave us that we directed them to three, three courses. And the last thing we did was brand influenced our channel. So before, we were kind of using sales and email marketing, to try and get leads in which in hindsight is a bit bonkers now, but all of a sudden, we learnt how our customers educate themselves and how they engage with this. So we ended up switching to content marketing. We would do things like LinkedIn and YouTube. We’d use YouTube to create these kind of small two minute bursts, helping someone just navigate that initial pain in their journey. And then that was connect It’s a kind of a free trial conversion as well.

This approach, bear in mind, we did this whilst we were still small. Previously, we were signing annual contracts of about 1500 pound, this approach, increased it to 55k a shot, this stuff does work. Okay. We’ve looked to the market, we know who we’re going after. We know when we speak to them when we actually need to unlock the why. And we know that we need brand to differentiate ourselves and tell our story. Let’s now talk about channels. To be successful, you must match the way you market your product with the way your prospects learn about and shop for your product. So this is a quote from Brian Halligan of HubSpot. And to be fair, I don’t really need to finish this part of my talk, because I think this kind of sums it up, but I will, I will dissect it. He says that, yes, there’s a large number of channels available. But if you actually think about the way that your customers research or type of product and engage, all of a sudden, you’re taking this massive kind of number of tours, and you’re able to start reducing it down to two, three or four. Now, you’re not in the dark, when it comes to stuff like this, because you’ve done the jobs to be done interviews, you’ve got a feel for some of the channels that people are going to be using.

Okay, so just bear this in mind, because now we’re going to walk into what we’re going to say. Okay, so this is a kind of smushed version of the buyer awareness matrix. And I use this to kind of demonstrate the the process that people go from when they are problem unaware, all the way through to most aware. Okay, so if someone is problem unaware, they don’t know that they have a problem. So what kind of marketing message what do you need to say, to start engaging that type of person? Stories, things like podcasts, interviews. Now, at this point, somebody might not know that they’ve actually got a problem. But they’ll listen to the story. And if it resonates, they’ll start to put themselves in the main character’s role, you’ll kind of start that process will open up these spaces for questions. Now, let’s say that somebody realises that they’ve got a problem, and then they need to go and look for and buy a new solution. The type of marketing has to change. So let’s say you’re solution aware, let’s say, you know that you’re looking at about five or six different alternatives here. Things like case studies, case studies, make sense here, because all of a sudden, you’re battling all these types of anxieties need the social proof to actually tell you whether this is the right solution or not? The marketing changes from indirect to direct. So this should give you a feel for where things live.

And I personally really, really liked this matrix, because it is the definition of that thing that marketers always like saying, You got to be there at the right time with the right message. It actually kind of makes sense. Sometimes we make sense. Okay, growth lanes. When I refer to channels, I’m talking SEO, in organic, organic social media and talking podcasts. Engineering is marketing, email marketing, you name it. And if you’ve ever watched, or if you’ve ever read the book traction, you will know that there are about 1919 channels that come with their own quirks, 19 channels that you can target people differently. They come with their own pricing structure, the intent that a customer might use them as different as well.

How do you align? Or how do you decide which of these 19 Are you going to focus on? Well, Brian Halligan, in that quote, has already told us kind of, he’s got us halfway. But this is a framework that I love referring to because it groups channels by sentiment. Now, I’m certain you are aware of this name here. But this framework is from Lenny Richard ski, and Brian hockey mile, Lenny wretzky, does the product podcast. And what he says is that you can actually group these channels into sentiment. So we’ve got four different types. We’ve got performance, viral content, and sales. So let’s say you’ve got a product that a customer is not naturally looking for. More than likely, performance is the first channel you you should start testing or you should start considering. And that’s why things like Google ads, Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, they get grouped into that section. What about viral marketing, viral marketing? This is referrals, word of mouth. This works best when you’ve got a product where you need a lot of people using it, you’ve got to find a way to leverage network effects, content marketing. So when somebody wants to educate themselves, learn more about the solution, things like SEO, editorial, SEO, YouTube, that kind of makes sense there.

And then sales. So let’s go back to that idea of having a complex, complex product, something like sales is going to make sense. So here are a few brands that I’m sure that you’re aware of. But what I’ve tried to do is kind of go back to their original story and see what they started to do. So you’ve got things like Amazon, SEO and Google ads, you can see that there’s a slight blurring in the growth channels here. The previous slide was just to get you thinking about where to start. You got Salesforce sales and events, HubSpot, engineering as marketing, content marketing. Now, what I want to leave you with this is, they’re not using all 19. Here, they’re using a handful at most, there’s a handful that are aligned, by the way that their products, their customers use their product. Okay? We’re in the homestretch.

And I’m now going to be talking to you about building the foundations for repeat usage. So this bit looks at kind of the arc between signup and activation. And the reason why I kind of want to give this its own section is, more often than not, some of this stuff is actually left out go to market, because some people think that go to market is all about the launch. And that’s not the case. Now, the point of this is to design, orientate your kind of product and your marketing in a way that it gets the customer closer to their jobs to be done. Yes, there’ll be ways on hooks you might use to kind of help them realise their aha moments, but we are, we’re working towards the customer getting their job to be done. So let’s just take a step back, look at the bigger picture here. Okay. So until now, I’ve kind of focused on kind of this section, maxing targeting, this is kind of where all of that lifts. But we all know that actually, to make our go to market successful, we need to consider things like retention, and conversion.

So this is a framework that was kind of a version of a framework that was created by the team at forget the funnel. If you’re into SAS marketing, check out, forget the funnel, they are brilliant. And what they do is they provide a deconstruction of what people were thinking, saying and doing at each stage of this process. So we’ve got struggle, evaluation and growth. And there’s companies as marketing and product teams, we should be running these programmes underneath, we should be helping to meet our customers where they’re at, and understand how we can make things easier, whether that’s through channel marketing, customer acquisition, or onboarding. Now, I’m not standing here to talk about the whole thing, just hopefully trying to get across the message that if you follow the steps that I’ve kind of covered so far, if you look at who your best fit customer is, if you do the research, what you put in this end, is only going to be great, when people activate, if you put rubbish in at the top, you’re gonna get rubbish out at the end, it’s a waste of money. So just just think about that. Okay, whether you operate a sales lead, or product lead motion, today’s buyers expect to try out products. They also expect to be able to kind of kick the tires. And it’s just assumed that now a lot of the education process happens from a customer perspective, even if they know what to do, or they don’t. And this is where customer acquisition hooks come in. So these are also known as things like product lead models. But I like them because they they think about the journey and the sign of that someone’s going to come into right, these aren’t pricing models. And what I’m saying here is not new. Patrick Campbell talks a lot about this. But there are ways to kind of get people in. Now you’ll be familiar with some of them.

So freemium things like opt in and opt out trials. And your choice, the one that you decide to pursue is a strategic decision here. And just like some of the other things I’ve kind of covered, it all depends. It depends on things like your market. So I probably suggest that if you sell a highly complex product to very, very small market, it’s likely that you’re not going to use freemium because the traffic isn’t The interest isn’t there. Let’s say you’ve identified a really cool way to hook someone in HubSpot for example they did the website grader, that’s that there is getting people to kind of initially engage with it. Another thing to consider is how to categorise the type of problems your customers have. So where’s Bush from product lead, he talks very openly about his experience of veg yard. And he pretty much says that when it comes to deciding which customer acquisition model or hook you want to use, how easy Are you making it for people to engage?

Now, he says that you can categorise things into beginner, intermediate and advanced problems. But he was like, if you’re making it so hard, if somebody needs additional level of expertise, additional level of knowledge or even infrastructure, you’ve got to work out how to remove these obstacles, make this whole thing much more simple. uses the example of Vinyard where the hook was to offer, I think there’s like three videos, or video recording that you can sell to prospects. But the problem they had was the market at one point that they were targeting didn’t even have webcams, there was this beginner problem. Okay. What do you do when they come in? Then? How do you keep people around? How do you show them the good stuff? How do you reduce that time to value? For me, it’s onboarding. And again, onboarding should be very much kind of engineered around your customer fulfilling their job, but also, individual aha moments, we know how important product experiences here. Now, I’m not going to go into product adoption principles, that is not my game. But when it comes to go to market, it’s not about acquisition is it? It’s about keeping people’s keep, it’s about keeping the right people. So there’s a stat from intercom that says, I think it’s between 40 to 60% of people that engage with the platform and sign up, never come back to how do you make sure that you’re not one of these failed statistics, two things.

First of all, onboarding does not start at the signup process. Onboarding starts way above the campaign process. If anything, we’re talking right down this end, you’ve got to consider all of that. And then also, when you’re thinking about your onboarding, and your onboarding your new customers, in your go to go to market, think about what product bumpers, what kind of conservational conservational conversation or tools we’re using to edge them further, how we can reduce that time to value. So I’ve given you a few examples here about how to approach your go to market how to make it much more effective. Some of this might not be new, but I’m hoping that it would have given you a different kind of framework.

Now we’ve covered how go to market is a sum of moving parts. If you want to make it really work, you’ve got to unlock why a customer is going to switch from one product to yours. We know that there are 19 channels with all their different quirks. But actually, there are a few ways that we can actually understand how to align them to our customers buying process. We also need to know that repeat usage comes into this because go to market is not a launch strategy. It’s a much bigger thing than that. Thank you very much.

Mark Littlewood 

Questions, a lot of the way bringing some of these ideas together and some good call outs on some great books there. I think we’ve got most of those authors represented somewhere in the BoS talks archives. If you want to go and have a look at previous talks, business of software.org/talks.

Lucy Heskins 

Can I get the ball rolling? If I was going to ask a question here? I would say what’s the difference between a go to market and a marketing strategy?

Mark Littlewood 

Yes, that’s a very does that mean that you’ve prepared? Yes. I say I say I say this see what’s the difference between go to market

Lucy Heskins 

Go to market strategy all around the new new product, new market for example. And it’s something that brings in channels, the market the product, multiple business units here. Marketing is actually around developing the kind of profile and getting the interest in for the business entirely entirely. So a marketing strategy is most likely to be 12 months whereas Go to market might be maybe six to nine months. That’s the end of my staged questions, by the way.

So it wasn’t sure. On Yep. Okay. I wasn’t sure whether to bring it up. And then you kind of brought it up yourself with the you saying go to market as about the new thing, right? When I think about go to market, having been to business school is this like all your consumer brand, you’re launching this new product that you’ve been working on, in quiet in, and now you’re finally going to show the world? And I feel like, especially for software, this is not how we work? I think we show them like, ideally, we show them something partially working, or something that’s still broken very early on. So do you think that the concept of a go to market strategy is then still? Like timely? And you would apply it to this very broken version? Or is it then something you would do over and over again, but then it would be a marketing strategy again, right, like you just set? So what do you make out of this?

Lucy Heskins 

Yeah, no, no.

Mark Littlewood 

Question. I’m curious, who here has an MBA? Three? Wow. How? I guess the second question is, how much of that stuff is relevant to what you do in software, but

Lucy Heskins 

instead of the imposter syndrome has just kicked in with a number of MBA students in? I think your question is a great question. And I think that when you are an early stage startup, I do think that go to market and marketing strategy do blend. And it’s not until you get to a point where you’re established, perhaps you’re scaling, you’ve got product market fit, that this takes on a completely different guys. And the timeline for Go to Market is a lot shorter than marketing. But I definitely think that right at the beginning, there’s definitely some bleed there. And I think when I’ve worked in startups, sometimes I’ve gone What am I marketing and my a product person, like, what am I it’s, it’s pretty scary. So I think at the beginning, when you are kind of working out what your product is, whether you’re actually solving a proper problem, whether you’ve got things like message market fit. That’s all kind of like early stage, and I think that’s why the two can get blurred. But no, I think it’s a fair a fair point, because I’ve been in that position where I’ve gone. Oh, God, how are they different?

Mark Littlewood 

Were another Muslims when I heard of growth? Is that a marketing thing? Was that a something else thing?

Lucy Heskins 

Personally, I think head of growth is different to marketing. And the reason being is marketers are typically targeted with things like acquisition, getting the lead in, whereas head of growth. And I maybe say this, because I’ve been ahead of growth for a very short amount of time. It’s the whole activation, acquisition all the way through to referrals. It’s the Pirate Metrics is the whole kind of model itself. But I think that you would get ahead of growth in when a business has matured as well. I think people tend to get marketers invested kind of generate that initial interest. But yeah, they have very different kinds of KPIs.

Mark Littlewood 

So the growth as a second hire to a head of marketing

Lucy Heskins 

I would say so yeah.

Mark Littlewood 

More questions?

Audience Member 

what do you look for when you’re hiring early stage marketers?

Lucy Heskins 

I know, it’s just brought back so much. Okay. So if I’m looking to hire early marketers, for early stage companies, it’s people that know, to ask what stage are companies, because we all know when you are validating a startup marketing doesn’t actually exist. It’s customer development. So when it comes to hiring the right marketer, it’s somebody that wants to talk to customers, you get a lot of marketers that kind of shy away from customer interviews. It’s people that understand what kind of market you’re going into. I mean, I’ll talk to some marketers and they’ll go, Oh, we’re creating a category. Why would you seems really, really hard? So I think it’s someone that speaks to customers but knows what kind of market you’re going into. They know the dynamics whether you are creating a new category or your RE segment and an existing one. It’s someone that has that appreciation of the dynamics there. And it also helps if they know the kind of KPIs they’re working towards. So when I joined career cake, I was offered Head of Marketing for a startup that had nearly product market fit. So I went in with my spreadsheets. I left a team back in Exeter. I was like, ah, brilliant, this is going to be amazing. And then very, very quickly, you realise that we haven’t got message market fit, we don’t really know who we’re going after. And the segment that we were going after, didn’t really want to pay. So it’s, it’s having someone that kind of understands that. And this is quite a kind of emotional perspective as well. Because you, you kind of go in and you you, it feels like you’ve taken a battering all the time. This hasn’t been proved this hasn’t been proved. But it’s because you’re kind of coming in, and you’re helping that founder navigate validation. So I think that helps. I think also, beer helps like beer whiskey, like that definitely got me through. I went very grey, the first like proper startup I joined in. So yeah, I hope that gives give some perspective.

Mark Littlewood 

Questions, Ivan? Number goes,

Audience Member 

Hey, thanks. So took to work on that question, how smarter stupid is for an early stage startup to take the whole business to an agency.

Lucy Heskins 

This is a really good hook, because I did a podcast with mark on this. So there’s a few things that I kind of called the rules of play book when engaging in an agency. So I think that at the beginning, use agencies use freelancers use consultants, because they’ve got the scars and stripes, they know how to kind of speed up this process. But you cannot leave strategy to an agency, you can’t it’s not their business. They’re not there every single day talking to customers, realising what works, what doesn’t work. And I think understanding kind of that tipping point, when you hire that first marketer, instead of using an agency is is crucial. Because all of a sudden, as a founder, you know a lot more about your business, you know about your go to market. But I think if you run the startup, you need to be confident in understanding what that looks like before you bring someone in. So um, agencies are great, I may run a consultancy myself. My lovely client might be in the audience right now. But yeah, that’s my gut feeling like bring them in just to speed up the learnings initially at the beginning. Thank you.

Audience Member 

Hi, can I do a non question? Yeah, I think in that agency question, the it’s great to have agencies and freelancers to do things, but someone still has to manage them. So at the end of the day, you’d need someone you know, who can actually knows knows what to do with the marketing and can manage those people to get the best results for you. And that would be my concern about depending on who’s who’s managing them. And who’s doing that, because that’s, that’s a big job in itself.

Lucy Heskins 

So I just wanted to say that, you know, I think that’s completely fair question, because I was working with a client recently. And they brought on this agency, and the agency said, oh, yeah, we’ve worked with startups. And the client was like, Cool, we’ll hire them. They know exactly what we’re going through. And then it wasn’t until we dug into the fact that they didn’t know what kind of market they were going into. They knew kind of the audience, but they part of their offering didn’t involve you in speaking to customers. There was like that misalignment. But I do take your point, managing agencies, man, managing contractors, that’s a whole different ballgame as well. But yeah, yeah, I agree.

Mark Littlewood 

Just to add to that, we’ll go to Brian in a second. Hiring external contractors for anything is a fantastic way of wasting a load of money. If it doesn’t matter if it’s marketing, or sales, or unless you really know what you are looking for. You cannot magically outsource that strategic piece of it. Yeah, that’s really important. Thank you, Ryan.

Audience Member 

Talking about helping startups with marketing. And you know, it’s there. It’s obvious that there might be a point when a startup is saying, like, we’re not getting the results that we need from Marketing, and we need help. And then they would go to a firm or someone for help with marketing. But I know what it’s like when you are a small startup and you think that you have all the answers and you think that the whole world does things wrong, and you don’t want to hire outside people to help you with things. Do you have any experience with that kind of tension of there’s this kind of DIY attitude, but then like, when when is the right time as a very, very early startup to actually kind of bring in outside people?

Lucy Heskins 

Yeah, no, I think that’s like Great question. I think that there is a, and forgive me for kind of saying the obvious here. But there’s a very different dynamic with working with a first time founder and a second time founder. I think that that’s definitely what i’ve what I’ve picked up. And what’s weird is that I’m really attracted to working with first time founders. But I think it’s because I’ve experienced, like some of the highs, the lows, looking at the run rate and things. I think there’s one person I’m thinking in particular, won’t say his name. But he was very much we need LinkedIn, we need LinkedIn, we need LinkedIn to get us demos. And for a while, he wouldn’t accept that you would use LinkedIn as a channel to get an email, you didn’t quite understand, understand the kind of change. And yes, he was very open to talking about how we unlocked by persona and how we unlocked why customers buy, but it wasn’t until he kind of failed and he had the resources to kind of waste this money with LinkedIn where he went, do you know what I’m not getting results? But I think there’s also a misalignment where another one of my clients will only use organic social media. And they’re like, Well, why aren’t we getting leads? Like, why aren’t we and they don’t quite, they haven’t quite come to the realisation where, if you’re paying, you’re paying to be in someone else’s audience, you’re paying to kind of get involved in someone else’s timeline. So I think there’s a few kind of things to pull out there. And I hope I’ve answered the question, but I think it’s when they failed a few times, maybe they are in that mindset, and they go, do you know what, actually, we do need to kind of get kind of get some strategy.

There is that question about strategy taking too long. Because some, some founders like instant results straightaway, and that can be a little bit uncomfortable. But it is very much an education piece, I think the worst thing you can do as a marketing consultant is go and say I’ve got a strategy for you. Because they’ll be like, great, what the hell does that mean? And I think as long as you can break it down to kind of relevant KPIs, KPIs based on the stage that their startup is at. So there’s some startups that I work at where I wouldn’t talk about Leeds, I’d say we’re working towards message message market fit, you are, you have now got product market fit. But let’s look at how we can run your campaigns and understand the terminology that people need to use to start engaging. That’s what you’re paying for. You’re paying for this kind of evidence in the testing. So yeah, I rambled.

Mark Littlewood 

But I hope that kind of helps on a lot of questions, but we are running very tight on time. I’m gonna give Max the very last one here.

Audience Member 

Thank you, Lucy, I’ve got a question actually around brand and the evolution of identity as the startup grows, and kind of connected to also what Kevin said in his last talk about no IC at the end. So as an early stage on, especially here in Cambridge ecosystem with lots of science and tech brand in the early stages, often what the founder does, and how the founder kind of is perceived on channels like LinkedIn, when and how in kind of the growth evolution of a startup, does that have to change?

Lucy Heskins 

Okay, great question. A couple of things to unpack there. So are you aware of Steve Blanks? Stages? Yeah. So I think that’s a really good framework for me, because I think that you shouldn’t invest too much in brand at the beginning, what you’re trying to do is validate the problem that someone has, and whether they’re willing to switch from one product to another and whether they’re willing to pay. And I think there’s an interesting tipping point where if you start kind of scale of building repeatable channels and getting more money in, then that’s when I would say, Okay, well, brand is actually brands, pretty important, but I wouldn’t, at the early stage, I wouldn’t put too much into it. Now, with career cake, we invested in a brand because all of a sudden, we realised that we were trying to engage a segment of the HR market, that we’re people experience and people engagement, so kind of niche within the UK that works within a certain sector. And we realised that the brand that we were using for education was totally misaligned for working with fintechs and things. So at that point, we kind of had this evidence to say Do you know we need to start investing a bit more. In terms of the point you made about found a lead people buy from people like it’s one of the most thing that everyone knows, and chances are, you’re going to engage with that founder on LinkedIn, you’re not going to engage with their company profile. And I recommend people using company profiles on LinkedIn, because there’s an element of due diligence. If someone’s early stage, you want to kind of check to see if they’re, they’re not fake. Do you know what I mean? But I definitely think that kind of the founder led approach in early stage startups is one of the most crucial because they’re, they’re telling the story. There are a few kind of clients that I work with where they’ve scaled and the founder is still crucial and is still a very big part why people use them. So, yeah, I’d never think that they should be absorbed they’d like absolutely should work together

Mark Littlewood 

was that a preemptive clap? Our take was it was both pre emptive and absolutely correct. Thank you very much.


Lucy Heskins

Founder, OhBlimey

Lucy is an early-stage startup marketer who works with founders to validate, create and build their businesses, primarily in the b2b tech industries. She was the marketing lead and employee number one at subscription learning platform, Careercake, a video learning platform that achieved 400x growth, supporting 10 million learners, from over forty countries that was acquired by the world’s leading e-learning platform, SocialTalent in 2022.

Check out her take on her first BoS Conf in 2022


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