B2B Startup Success: Run go-to-market sprints, not marathons
It is widely understood that not getting to market quickly enough is a recipe for disaster.
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Still, startup teams often spend a considerable amount of time developing complex campaigns only to find that the target audience doesn’t want or need what they’re trying to sell.
When startups run around with a single marketing tactic for weeks on end, time is monopolized and often wasted. A much better approach for early stage companies is to run go-to-market sprints, not marathons.
The benefit of running sprints
Ash Maurya wrote in Running Lean: “Successful startups are those that can iterate enough before they run out of resources.”
Iterations require experiments, small tests that improve on previous attempts. This is why doing go-to-market sprints rather than running a marathon makes sense in the startup world, especially when testing market demand for products. While this approach has been widely adopted in product development – with Agile and Lean methodologies becoming mandatory in the last 10 years – the application of these principles on the go-to-market side has lagged.
After a period of founder-led sales, where the people they know are key customers, most newly funded companies embark on “marketing marathons” where they expand their marketing and sales teams. This takes a lot of time as the team builds their demand generation system and the complex plans that go with it.
On the other hand, during sprints, which last a maximum of three to six weeks, a marketing tactic is tested on a segment, such as specific content for chief compliance officers in well-defined target accounts in a team-based approach. If deemed successful, the tactic is repeated. The tactic itself can also be tweaked. For example, different messages can be used in future iterations to find what is most effective.
The idea is that the startup that has achieved product market fit, but has not yet built a repeatable go-to-market movement, will keep running sprints until it finds something that works, and then repeat that pattern of work. Similar to the way engineering teams run short sprints to change course quickly, sprints help startups scale and grow sooner rather than wasting precious time investing in long marathon-like campaigns.
Best practices for running sprints
Sprints require a combination of marketing skills, simple management processes, and an agile mindset. Among the skills needed: The ability to identify your ideal customers, the problem you solve and the value it offers over the competition; create effective messages and engaging content; perform output demand generation to publicize; and sales experience to convert interest into a new customer. If you don’t have all these skills on your team, you can find consultants and coaches who can contribute.
The best process for running sprints is a team-based approach that quickly identifies the attributes of an ideal customer and creates a manageable target account list of companies that share those attributes. Then develop an understanding of the purchasing committee and the process in these accounts.
Then create one or two pieces of content, like a webinar or a video, that resonates with that audience. Identify a channel to reach these people, whether via email, phone, direct mail or social media, and get started! Track results and make sure you keep a record of what you’ve done so existing and new team members can quickly get context and learn from past market tests.
Ultimately, adopting Agile and Lean go-to-market methodologies to deliver your first “minimum viable marketing test” is a great way to move faster toward results than getting bogged down in the marketing marathon.