Is Your Go-to-Market Plan Solving the Right Problem?


The Three Pillars increase Go-to-Market ROI by putting your focus on improving the customer’s business, learning why customers select your offering, and understanding the science of decision-making so you can help your customers make better decisions.

The product marketers at the recent Boston Product Marketing Community conference created a list of their top challenges. They were:

  • Harnessing the trusted customer voice

  • Creating messaging that rises above the noise

  • Measuring product marketing ROI.

Product marketers can address all three challenges by re-framing the issue as: “How do you improve your customer’s business?”

Winning a customer requires more than solving a problem. To win a customer over the long term, you must help them improve their business. To most marketers, this represents a shift in how they think and market.

The Three Pillar approach helps makes this shift feel natural. The Three Pillars lock your focus on:

  • Positioning – Adopt an Outside-Looking-In point of view

  • Less Is More – Learn on why customers select your offering

  • Get Selected Faster and More Often – Accelerate the sales cycle by understanding how people make decisions.

Far from being difficult to implement, the Three Pillars create a virtuous cycle of marketing that improves execution with each iteration.

The Three Pillars are commonly overlooked because they don’t tie directly to your company’s tangible product or service. They are a foundational approach that improves any product or service. Because the Three Pillars integrate with traditional go-to-market strategy and planning activities, big gains don’t require new investments or technology.

Pillar 1 – Positioning: Adopt an Outside-Looking-In Point of View

Pick up a piece of marketing collateral and, with few exceptions, it will talk more about the vendor than the customer. This “inside-looking-out” point of view is natural but turns off customers who want to talk about their business, not yours.

Shifting your focus away from your product and how it is used creates the alternative “outside-looking-in” point of view. Instead, you ask, “How does working with my company improve the customer’s business?”

Start thinking this way, and your customers will notice and love you for it. Even if your product is unremarkable, simply speaking in terms of the success of their business rather than yours causes buyers to gravitate to your company.

A common point-of-view prepares you to identify the real reasons why your customers buy from your company.

Pillar 2 – Less Is More: Learn Why Customers Select Your Offering Customers select your company for reasons that can be quite different from why you would select your company. Your customer’s buying decision depends less on the finer points of your offer than you think. You work hard to offer a quality product with lots of capabilities. So do your competitors. Customers expect quality, so quality is the cost of entry. Ditto for many features and capabilities. The downside of poor quality or missing a key feature is much larger than the upside from superior quality or a longer list of capabilities.

It’s not so easy to figure out what matters. Beyond hard sales data, most customer buying information is riddled with confirmation bias, wishful thinking, and guesswork. Uncertainty leads to “throwing mud at the wall” to see what sticks. The Three Pillars replace this kind of guesswork with confidence.

To figure out what drives selection, you must dig deeper. Be careful, surveys are ideal for validating hypotheses but are a poor choice when you don’t know what you don’t know. An open mind and an expert third-party will guide you toward insights you are unlikely to discover on your own.

Seeing your business the way your customers see it and knowing why they select your company prepares you for Pillar 3: shortening the sales cycle by understanding how your customers think and decide.

Pillar 3 – Get Selected Faster and More Often: Accelerate the Sales Cycle by Understanding How People Make Decisions

You don’t have to manipulate or even influence customers to gain a competitive advantage from aligning your marketing with how they make decisions. By understanding how your customer thinks, you can help them make better decisions. It’s counter-intuitive, but less information can drive faster, more confident decisions.

People are less rational and more emotion-driven than they believe. This includes complex purchase decisions. They strive to be logical, but processing gobs of often ambiguous or conflicting information from multiple vendors flies in the face of how humans make decisions.

People make an initial decision based on emotion, then cherry-pick facts to make their decision seem logical. A growing body of research shows that making an earlier emotional connection with the buyer gives you an advantage. Once they decide they like an option, the buyer’s thinking falls in line with their emotions (Raghunathan, University of Texas).

Take away the emotional component, and we struggle with decision making. That’s what researchers found working with people who lack emotions due to brain injuries (Damasio, USC). Good decisions balance emotion and logic; both are required.

The perception that a better logical argument wins the day undermines your marketing efforts. Nothing derails the buyer’s decision process like a long list of features—even benefits—when it causes them to reconsider their initial, emotional decision.

Connecting the Three Pillars

The Three Pillars infuse the entire go-to-market process, especially positioning & messaging, documenting the Buyer’s Journey, and sales enablement. Together these activities create clarity by re-casting critical marketing activities from the point of view of the customer.

When I teach the Three Pillars to marketers, they are surprised to find the Three Pillars work especially well with complex B2B offers involving multiple people. These types of buying processes are full of uncertainty, and the Three Pillars create clarity and focus. By clearly aligning with your customer’s business success, buyers and influencers find it easier and less risky to select your company. Internally, the phased approach allows for a virtuous cycle of marketing that reinforces and improves execution over time. The Three Pillars quickly collects additional adherents based on demonstrated results.

Using the Three Pillars to understand and align with your customers’ business success builds a more effective Go-to-Market plan that accelerates the sales cycle. Your company becomes an easier choice for customers because you are authentically aligned with the customer voice. Outside-In messaging rises above the noise because it is both unexpected and better. Finally, linking your success with that of your customers is extremely attractive positioning to customers.

About Bruce La Fetra

Bruce La Fetra is a Partner with Eastwood Strategy Advisors. He positions companies and products for growth by aligning Go-to-Market plans with their customers’ success. Marketing leaders benefit from insights gained during his 20+ years in product management, product marketing, and hundreds of customer interviews for dozens of clients. Prior to consulting, Bruce held product management, product & service marketing, and business development roles for leading software, hardware, and financial services companies. Contact Bruce at Bruce@EastwoodStrategyAdvisors.com or connect with him on LinkedIn.


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