Building GTM Capability with Michael Ilczynski
Startup investor and Clarke Street Advisory CEO Michael Ilczynski shares his expertise on GTM capabilities for Giants Weekly.
Startup advisor, investor and CEO of Clarke Street Advisory, Michael Ilczynski joined us for today’s Giants Weekly to discuss all things go-to-market. As the former CEO of APAC and Americas for Seek, Michael took us through GTM as the process to coordinate a new product from the code being written to the market launch. Rather than focussing on the specifics of sales and marketing, Michael’s insights highlighted the importance of GTM operations, particularly through a single team lead.
Watch Michael’s presentation in full below, or read on to learn his insights and inform your own GTM capabilities.
Driving GTM Success Through Ownership
Using his experience at Seek as an example, Michael stresses the importance of having a specific person to manage the coordination and communication of a GTM strategy. They shouldn’t complete every activity in the strategy, but they do need to be across who is doing them. This is more important as you start to scale, or if you’re a startup CEO or CTO and can’t be involved in every decision.
This should be the same person for all product releases and launches. It doesn’t have to be a full-time role - better to be one person’s part time role than bouncing it between people. This person could come from a range of backgrounds, but they should be organised, strong attention to detail, polite but persistent, and really know the whole organisation.
Their key responsibilities should be:
- Awareness - know everything happening for GTM and when it's happening
- Communication - succinct and consistent across the business
- Coordination - make sure all the tasks that need to be done are understood, assigned and undertaken
So why not individual product managers? In a small team, says Michael, that can work well - for instance, if you’ve got a single product manager, then GTM should be their job. But once you start to have multiple product managers you often find they’re time constrained, may have different skillsets and can create efficiencies across different teams. Instead, Michael recommends offloading the GTM coordination to someone else.
“Learning and building repeatable processes will help make your GTM processes really hum, and it’s much more efficient for the long run if you can have one person do it.”
Building GTM Capability
For building a best-in-class GTM capability, Michael recommends keeping things as lean as possible, requiring fewer higher skiller people, using simple one-page documents and incorporating GTM into existing team working rhythms as much as possible.
“My mantra is “lean lean lean” - keep the GTM approach as lean as possible to prevent the team from ‘doing the doing’” says Michael. You don’t want them doing all the activities eg; sales, marketing, testing - just coordinating those activities. By keeping it lean you can ensure a physical capacity on their capabilities.
Instead of traditional GTM documents, Michael and his team developed a one page GTM Roadmap, grouping key activities into phases; Discovery, Build, Launch and Scale. This works well to show each step between each GTM stage. Under each stage of the GTM Roadmap they developed a Lean Canvas that both the GTM manager and the team manager would refer to as they were going from one key stage to the next.
Michael advises against creating new meetings and processes, instead piggybacking off existing ones as much as possible eg; existing team standups, product meetings etc. This prevents you from creating a different set of meetings and helps break down the barriers between the teams.
Successfully Scaling Your GTM
Once you’re in the position to scale your GTM, Michael recommends your first move should be to appoint a fulltime GTM manager who is connected really strongly with product and operations (if not part of them) as they need to be a physical bridge between the teams. As the GTM begins to scale, your GTM manager might scale up with it, becoming more like a product manager.
As your GTM scales, Michael also recommends staff training. With new products going out to market, your sales, service and customer success teams should be adequately trained in those products before they GTM.
If you do build a really humming GTM team, where can you take it? Michael says you’ll find both opportunities and challenges. At Seek, once new revenue-producing products were launched, they had a small, very talented team whose job was to identify revenue maximisation opportunities from GTM and then work with the relevant teams to build them.
Part 2: WTF is GTMF + PLG? Many Journeys to Success
Blackbird Partner Tom Humphrey digs into the different GTM models and the factors that guide designing your strategy