Hold your horses, Spartacus. Is go-to-market (GTM) another box to tick? Give me a break!. GTM is a rite of passage, a transformational experience that’ll either make or break you. It’s a battlefield, a ruthless war where you come out on the other side either as a scarred veteran or a faceless casualty.
I first became aware of GTM in 1992 when I joined Wind River Systems from working for a government agency. In those days, there was a perpetual conflict between siloed Products, Marketing, and Sales. I pushed my beloved boss and mentor Bob Wheaton, SVP Sales and CEO Ron Ableman to take a risk and let me bridge the gap between Product, Sales, and Marketing to focus on a vertical GTM strategy for our products, which had very publicly successfully landed the Mars Rover into Telecom, Automotive, and Printing/Copiers. We were a small team, Lee, Syeed, and myself leading the charge. Our efforts helped get our languishing stock into the darling of NASDAQ for over 20 straight quarters in a row, with stock going from hovering around $4 to over $133 by 1998 when I was recruited to a company that formed the backbone for VoIP.
Let’s be crystal clear: GTM is not some sanitized PowerPoint slide you breeze through in a board meeting. No, dear reader. It’s the gory, mud-soaked trenches where you learn the true meaning of terms like ‘customer acquisition cost,’ ‘lifetime value,’ and ‘competitive differentiation.’ Do you think you’ve got what it takes? Many have thought so and perished in the abyss of obscurity.
You’ll learn much more about yourself, your team, and your market in the pit of this war than in the cozy corners of your office. You’ll discover what you’re made of when faced with desperate customer complaints, relentless competition, and volatile market dynamics. Forget about your polished business plan; war does not respect plans. Here, you improvise, adapt, and overcome.
This is where your strategies are tested, your theories are validated or crushed, and your assumptions come to die. You’ll identify the weak links, the overlooked opportunities, and the things you never knew you never knew. Trust me, by the end of this, you’ll be a different entrepreneur. One who has felt the heat, weathered storms, and still stands tall—or one who’s been humbled by defeat, ready to start anew with hard-earned wisdom.
Don’t take it lightly. If GTM does not change you, you didn’t do it right. The wounds, triumphs, and close calls are the marks of a true warrior in the business realm. To sign off, remember the words of Sun Tzu: “In war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.” Similarly, in GTM, avoid the strongholds of your competitors and strike where they least expect. It’s not just a strategy; it’s a transformation. Get ready to change, or get prepared to be forgotten.