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CEO @ MPR demand generation firm
When is the right time to review your go-to-market motions for effectiveness?
When is a change of motions in order?
Many go-to-market leaders get this wrong by waiting until a crisis or downturn and pivoting in a panic.
In this episode of Closing Time, Chris Rack shares his insights from decades of experience in B2B sales and marketing to help viewers audit their marketing strategy and choose the right go-to-market motion(s) for their business.
If there were an ideal number of go-to-market motions that startups should focus on at once, according to Chris, it would be 1.2 motions. In a company’s early stage, it’s not realistic to juggle multiple go-to-market strategies and spread your resources too thin.
Instead, Chris suggests focusing on one primary motion. This could be a channel or partner-focused play since you probably don’t have a massive sales team (see all six motions and their definitions in the image below). Simultaneously, have a secondary strategy that you’re refining for the future. Maybe it’s a direct-to-customer model or experimenting with building credibility on platforms like Google for inbound leads. Essentially, nail down one main approach while strategically developing another.
As you grow, you can eventually handle multiple go-to-market motions at once, but for now, it’s about finding that balance and building your startup step by step. It’s like having a side hustle—your second go-to-market motion is the startup’s side gig.
If you’ve got a more mature business with two or three go-to-market strategies in play, the “set-it-and-forget-it” approach might be tempting. But in today’s dynamic world, that could be a big mistake. Over the past three years, the landscape has shifted dramatically—thanks to COVID, a tech boom, and then a sudden downturn. If you’re sticking to the same go-to-market plan from 2020 or 2021, chances are it’s not working anymore.
Regardless of whether your business is heavily inbound-focused or relies on outbound efforts, Chris advocates for a continuous evaluation process. Every six months, it is crucial to assess the effectiveness of your strategies and remain open to pivoting—perhaps this is where the potential for a “.2” motion becomes evident.
Take community-led and event-led motions for example. The marketing world is in such a state of constant change that strategies like community-led growth were unheard of just three years ago. Today, communities are a fundamental part of many business’ strategies, especially in SaaS.
For businesses that thrived on event-led growth, the onset of the pandemic likely necessitated a rapid shift to digital platforms. B2B events, with their massive budgets and logistical challenges, may prompt a reassessment of their direct ROI. The eyebrow-raising $24 billion spent on B2B events invites scrutiny, suggesting that there might be a more efficient alternative. While the pendulum of remote work has swung, with people increasingly yearning for in-person interactions, the considerable costs and efforts associated with large-scale events often fail to align.
That’s why it’s important to consistently rethink and adapt your go-to-market motions for the ever-changing business landscape.
Chris takes a moment to call out something that B2B marketers often overlook: there’s a whole world beyond tech and SaaS. If you’re active on LinkedIn, it’s easy to get sucked into the SaaS bubble and forget laggard (yet lucrative) industries like manufacturing, healthcare, and finance, which are usually about 5 to 7 years behind in adopting advanced tech and marketing technologies.
Chris explains how his colleague works at a $3.2 billion packaging company with 375 sellers that still rely on in-person events and Excel spreadsheets as their CRM. Surprising, right?
What feels like routine for tech and SaaS now will likely become the norm in these markets a few years down the road.
Take Insightly, for instance—we’re a CRM in the SaaS game, but we also cater to manufacturing, solar, and finance. During tight SaaS budgets post-pandemic, these other industries continued to grow and spend. It’s a reminder that while we might get caught up in the SaaS bubble, numerous other verticals that your product or service may appeal to are out there thriving. It’s up to you, the marketers, to identify those verticals and explore the broader landscape beyond the tech-centric chatter.
Can a company effectively assess its go-to-market strategy on its own, or is an external perspective necessary? Chris says it’s tough to be objective about your own approach. Getting a fresh set of eyes, whether from another department or external consultants, can provide valuable insights. Many companies already have a board or advisory group—use them for this purpose. Consultants are an option too, but they can be pricey.
The challenge lies in realizing that even if your go-to-market strategy has worked in the past, it might not be the best anymore. Leaders often stick to a playbook that’s always worked, becoming blind to potential improvements. It’s crucial to question and evaluate regularly.
As a leader, Chris recommends asking your team to prove you wrong. Encourage your team to challenge the status quo and speak up if they believe a better option is out there. Sometimes, private equity investors or boards may involuntarily audit your strategy, providing unexpected but useful feedback.
In the end, staying open to change and seeking diverse perspectives, whether from within or outside the organization, ensures a healthy and sustainable go-to-market strategy.
Imagine your go-to-market strategy isn’t cutting it anymore, and it’s time for a pivot. How do you navigate this change within your organization? Well, first, Chris suggests figuring out if it’s a strategy problem or an execution problem. Surprisingly, 75-80% of go-to-market issues stem from execution challenges, not strategy.
If you decide a change is needed, it can’t (and won’t) be an instant flip of the switch. Progression is key, especially when your challenge is aligning talent with the new approach. Shifting from, say, an outbound-focused strategy to an inbound one requires a team with the right expertise. Specialization matters—someone skilled in product-led approaches might not succeed in a channel-led role.
Transforming your staff to fit the new motion takes time. This is a big miss for many executives who want instant results. For example, jumping on the product-led bandwagon is great, but if your team lacks the know-how or your product isn’t strong in that area, it won’t work. So, when pivoting, remember it’s a journey, not an instant fix. Talent alignment and expertise matter for the new go-to-market motion to succeed.
How do you validate you’re using the correct go to market motions?
Let’s do a GTM checkup in this week’s episode of Closing Time.
Thanks for tuning in to Closing Time the show for Go to Market Leaders.
I’m Val Riley, head of Content and Digital Marketing at Insightly CRM.
Today, I’m joined by Chris Rack.
He is CEO of MRP, a demand generation firm.
Thanks for joining us today,. Chris. Awesome.
Good to be here, Val.
Chris, when we think about the common go to market motions, I think people would
mostly agree the popular ones are product led, inbound led, perhaps outbound LED.
Which have you run in your career with success and which do you find to be
a little more challenging?
Most of my career have been, well,. I would call it an outbound led or a
sales led motion.
You know, given the industries that I’ve worked in, we have a
I want to say a fairly finite TAM, but a very focused group, maybe three,
4000 companies that we know are generally a great ICP fit for what we do.
So, you know, it’s difficult to drive a lot of inbound
right, with a very specific or focused TAM like that.
So but if you know who’s buying,
where they’re buying and how they buy and how often they buy,
an outbound motion generally fits really, really well.
So most of my experience has been outbound and sales led.
We’ve always like to pair that with a bit of inbound
just to kind of try to find that capture versus generate,
because there are obviously, you know, marketers in market buying.
Right. Totally agree.
In our case, you know, we’re in the CRM business which is highly competitive.
So inbound can be challenging,
but we’re lucky that we have like a super intuitive product
so we can lean on product lead growth a little bit.
So I would say, would you agree that, you know, depending on your vertical,
depending on your market, you know,
you really have to kind of pick and choose which ones are the right fit?
Yeah,. I think in most verticals and markets,
a hybrid works in some form or fashion, right?
There’s always going to be a couple
key motions that you’re likely going to lean on like a primary
and then maybe one or two, you know, subsidiaries because it’s just
all eggs in one basket is tough no matter what you’re doing.
You know, product that I found to be probably the most challenging, right?
Because again, to be candid, building really, really great products
enough to where it attracts, you know, a high volume of folks
without a lot of outbound work isn’t easy to do right.
I can count on maybe this many fingers, you know, companies
that have really done it well you know, your Atlassian’s, your Slacks.
Okay, I’m running out already.
So, like, if people think that, like, oh, if you build it, they will come.
Or if you create a freemium,
people are just going to magically show up your website.
And it just doesn’t usually connect that way.
So I found that product led is, it’s probably the most difficult,
but obviously the most attractive given the cost, you know, the different cost
analysis over time from a, you know, cost of acquisition standpoint.
You know, the Dropbox example, everyone loved to talk about that,
you know, ten years ago.
And unfortunately there aren’t that many Dropboxs out there, right?
Let’s not forget the amount of cost, like the amount of actual dollars that Dropbox
put into the market to drive that volume for their free five gig offering.
Like they ran fairly,
they were burning and churning millions each month
you know, on their go to market motion just to get to the point where
they finally reached that
bridge of profitability that they could cross over.
But, I mean, a) not a lot of companies have hundreds of millions of dollars
of funding as a runway to fuel that type of go to market and two,
you know, a lot of investors don’t have the patience anymore.
So it’s an interesting play.
But, you know, again, the amount of marketing muscle that goes behind
a true product led motion on a freemium side is usually larger than most
executives know going into it.
That patience is a key thought there.
So let’s say you’re in a startup.
Realistically, how many go to market motions can the typical startup
And I’m thinking of a startup, you know, maybe you’re 20 people or less.
I would say
1.2. Your primary go to
market with again, a something else that you’re working on.
Like something that you’re perfecting and something else
that’s like in the hopper for the next round, as an example would be
you know, your primary go to market might be,
a channel or a partner focused play out of the gate
because you don’t have a large selling organization.
So you have one really great seller who’s great at connecting it to the channel.
But your 1.2 is figuring out how you’re speaking to the end customer
for when you eventually bypassed that into a general,
you know, go directly to customer stream versus the channel or again,
you’re heavy outbound, but you’re slowly starting to test
and build up your credibility with Google to start driving inbound and understand
the cost metrics that associated with that.
So I would say at that level, when you’re a very early stage startup,
it’s hard to do more than one, right?
you can’t boil the ocean, which you just don’t have the people power to drive it.
But working on one that’s like your primary
while you’re thinking and driving towards that second and then obviously third.
you know, until you get to the point where you’re a robust organization
and you have four or five active go to markets happening at the same time.
I love that answer.
1.2, it’s just it’s indicative of the startup life.
You know, you always have something else that you’ve got in the back of your mind.
So that’s a great answer.
It’s like a side hustle. Yeah. You know.
Your second go to market motion is your side hustle.
I love it.
say you maybe you’re a little bit more mature, more of a mature business.
You’ve got two or three go to market motions going.
I think a lot of businesses would be like, okay, great, set it and forget it.
Right? The outbound is working, the inbound is working.
Maybe we are doing a little bit of community led growth
or whatever, so we’re good.
But you might say that’s a mistake. It’s
I mean, just look at how much the world has changed over the past
three years, right?
You had COVID turn the world on its head.
You had a post-COVID technology boom driven by low interest rates.
And a lot of free capital and free, almost free money
hitting the market, driving a massive amount of investment.
And then you hit the top of that and everything fell off a cliff.
So if you’re using the same go to market you were using in 2020 or 2021 or 2022,
there’s no way it’s working.
And a lot of
unfortunately, a lot of leaders are finding that out the hard way right now.
You know, if you’re an inbound driven go to market, you’re like there’s less
So your cost per acquisition and you’re pay,
all of your paid acquisition inbound are significantly higher.
You’re not driving enough volume that you could.
If you’re an outbound motion, there’s
infinitely more buyers in the market,
sellers in the market, automation, generative AI driving
higher volumes of emails, higher volumes of LinkedIn message, all of that.
That’s just creating so much noise that makes the average, you know, like
I mean, I would generally put a, a six month
go to market evaluation touchpoint in the ground right?
Like what is what are we doing, Is it working?
Is there something else we could 1.2 when we can start thinking about
is there something new that we haven’t
heard about that other folks are kind of jumping into?
I mean, like three years ago,. I don’t think anybody would have
would have even used the word community led growth.
I wouldn’t even know what that was, you know.
So but now it’s becoming a more of a staple of growth strategies from there.
I was just thinking about community led when you were talking because, boy,
did it emerged during the pandemic where all of a sudden we had no events to go to
and we were seeking online communities, peer to peer discussions.
And really those businesses who staked a place in those communities
really are probably still enjoying the fruits of that work.
It’s difficult, you know, but definitely
it’s kind of one of those scenarios that kind of keeps on giving back.
If you can build a place that people go to, that’s a trusted place of peers
that they want to.
A lot of great communities, people just want to be a part of, right?
And then if you can find that balance
between wanting to be a part of and then monetization,
which is where most communities tend to struggle,
everybody loves wanting to be part of something
until the vendor has to start monetizing it.
And it’s like, Oh, okay,
this feels a little ickier now, there’s a sponsor, you know,
there’s a sponsor we’re talking to or there’s more, there’s more vendor
sponsored groups inside of the community and all of those sorts of things.
But there is a balance.
I think it can be found.
When all of a sudden there’s the community and then there’s the premium community
and that costs money.
It does shift people’s perception a little bit.
I was also thinking about if you are a business,
you know, primarily relying on event led growth, I mean, forget it.
You know, the pandemic just crushed you.
So if your 2020 marketing plan was,
hey, we’re going to go to seven trade shows, boy, you had a shift pretty quick.
And it did.
I mean, a lot of
those those dollars and those plans went to digital.
And I think a lot of companies saw a lot of great success.
I mean, I don’t want to say it baffles me, but it still baffles me that,
you know, the B2B event space is really a
$24 billion TAM,
like the amount of money spent on B2B events
where people are actually going to a place and sitting and doing the conference
thing in the hall of vendors and all of that.
And like from a cost perspective, there’s got to be a better way to do it.
You know, the amount of. I mean, just think of the people hours
it takes to go to an event,
I don’t know if you’ve ever planned an event,
but the hundreds of hours you have to jump on calls just to figure
out who’s going who’s buying tickets, how many do we have a hotel?
Do we have a hotel block, is it available?
What are we bringing?. Have we done the creatives?
That’s just for a smaller type event.
I can’t even imagine if I was some of the premiere sponsors
for some of the premiere B2B events that have, you know, seven figure booths,
the amount of logistics that goes into just showing up in time and costs,
hard to imagine that there’s a whole ton of direct ROI from that.
But again, they keep happening over and over. Hmm.
I almost wonder sometimes if it’s the pendulum
swing from remote workers who are so isolated and then they see
an opportunity to do an in-person event and they’re like, Well, that’d be great.
You know, I could put on pants, get on an airplane, see some people.
So I wonder if that’s part of what’s feeding it.
Because you’re right, the economies of scale
there don’t really add up when you’re looking at the amount
of effort and dollars that go into in-person events.
It has to be something else going on there. And
the one thing that
no one talks about a lot is there is an entire world of B2B
selling and marketing outside of tech and SaaS, right?
I mean, you go on LinkedIn, there’s this buzz bubble where everybody thinks
that the world is just this consortium of technology and SaaS companies.
But I mean, I have a friend and a colleague who works
for a $3.2 billion packaging company, right.
With 375 sellers that sell obviously a whole lot.
But most of those industries are about 5 to 7 years behind Tech and SaaS, right?
So they’re still doing events because they don’t know
there’s anything else they don’t know about intent data and
some of the automation platforms and some of the sequencing softwares.
And I mean, I know companies that are outside of software
and tech who use, their sellers still use Excel spreadsheets.
Mm hmm. Like, this is my CRM.
It’s a color coded Excel spreadsheet with names, numbers and phone numbers.
And again, these aren’t small mom and pop shops.
These are multiple seven figure companies who are managing their
go to market via. Excel spreadsheet and events.
You know, it was actually quite a blessing.
You know here at Insightly we are a CRM and we sell to SaaS,
but we also sell to manufacturing and health care and finance.
And during the pandemic or even post-pandemic,
when SaaS budgets have been a lot more tight, it’s been nice
to still have those manufacturing audiences to talk to
because they are still growing and still spending money.
So yeah, sometimes we can be in this SaaS bubble, but
there are tons of verticals out there that are still really growing.
Yeah, really, really fast.
Manufacturing, health care, packaging, you know, all of these,
I guess you would say the legacy, you know, type
not even technologies, but solutions that and there’s
a whole service, you know, there’s a whole B2B services industry that
are highly competitive
and again still emerging their go to markets
and they’ll likely be where technology is in probably 5 to 7 years from now.
So a lot of the stuff that we’re, that feels like old hat for tech and SaaS,
It’s like, you know we’ll start emerging into these new markets
and they’ll start seeing the fruits of some of the labor.
And I would assume that a solid part of that B2B event
TAM is going to start digitally transforming over the next 5 to 7.
So do you think a firm can effectively self audit its go to market motions
or do you think that they need to bring someone in from the outside
or have someone maybe from an outside department
because it is hard to look at, you know, your go to market objectively sometimes.
I mean,. I think it needs a separate set of eyes,
whether that’s a different department
in a larger company or I mean, that really. I mean, most companies
in some form or fashion have a board
or advisor group, which is really what they’re there for, right?
There are consultants who do it as well.
But, you know,
obviously, you know, consultants are can be expensive and costly.
And that’s something that not a lot of companies have the budget to be bringing
a consultant in to go through there.
But I do think I mean, again, from my experience, it’s hard
to it’s really hard to see that sometimes your baby is ugly, right?
say if you if you’ve built this go to market and it’s worked and it’s done
that where most leaders
fail, especially on the go to market side is they have that this is my playbook.
It’s always worked. I’m going to stick to it. Right.
And they just get blind to the fact that there might be better ways to do it.
And again, myself included,. I’ve had those conversations with myself
a lot over the years, like, is this this really the best way to continue going?
You know? And then sometimes it is.
But again, I’ve done a, have
built a fairly decent job of having that conversation with myself.
And I think any go to market leader should. Right.
Is this working?
Should we at least
should we start researching other ways or even kind of
put it out there to your team,. Like somebody prove me wrong.
I used to do that, but that’s one of my favorite exercises.
Prove me wrong.
I think this is the play.
if somebody in this room can prove me wrong in some form or fashion, let’s go.
Let’s have those chat. Mm hmm. Yeah.
Sometimes when you’re in a startup, it’s the private equity guys who come in
and they audit your go to market, even if you don’t want them to.
So, you know, sometimes that’s that’s how you get that type of feedback.
Yes. Boards, investors, lots of fancy,
really intelligent people with Excel spreadsheets.
So yeah, you mentioned, you know auditing.
If your go to market, like let’s say you have a motion and it’s
no longer effective and it’s time to pivot to another.
What does that look like inside an organization?
Because you have sometimes folks who are steadfast in, hey, this,
this is the way we do it.. This is what we do.
And then you have someone coming over saying, Hey, I really think we should add
a partner led growth strategy here or a channel led growth strategy here.
What what are the change makers inside an organization
that would lead that type of change?
The first thing before any sort of change happens is to identify
whether you have a strategy problem or an execution problem.
I would argue that 75 to 80% of all
go to market issues are execution focused and not strategy.
So and that’s where the biggest myth is, is like, oh, this isn’t working anymore.
We to change our go to market or we need to change a motion or
do something completely different.
Really, really, you know,
something happened in the organizations where you just stopped,
you just stopped executing it well, you know,
So that’s the first thing I would do is audit execution and or strategy.
And again, 85% of the time, my contention is
you’ll find execution issues over strategy that you’re going to want to do.
Should you have to make the change, You have to realize that it can’t be instant.
Like there has to be a progression
because most of the time your challenge in
go to market motion changing is the talent that you have in place.
If you’ve built a go to market motion all on outbound,
you can’t just magically hit
the inbound button with a bunch of people who have no experience in inbound.
you can’t just magically
hit the channel button with someone who has no experience in building
and or running a channel. Like generally
humans tend to
humans in the go to market world tend to specialize in one of the above.
You know things like product lead
or you know like somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing in a product
led motion can go really, really awry and spend a whole lot of money
without a lot of return. Right.
So just the transformation of your staff, right.
To have the right people in place
to execute the new motion will take time.
And I think that’s the biggest, most executives
miss too like oh,. I’m reading about this product led stuff.
We should do that.
Okay, great. Cool.
We don’t have anybody here who does that.
Or we don’t have a strong product that, you know, that just that motion
is just not going to work for us.
So that leads me to my last question.
I feel like it’s the big question that everyone always asks.
You know, is it the CEO that owns go to market?
Like who at the end of the day calls the shots?
I would think so.
I think your CEO is the chief growth officer, the go to market leader,
all these fancy titles that are popping into the market now.
Like there has to be a singular person who looks at the entire picture
across, can we afford it?
Do we have the people to do it?
Do we have the culture to do it?. Do we have the time to do it?
Does it align with the long term goals of the organization? Like
every individual business
owner inside the business is going to see a different view of that.
And then there needs to be a singular person who collects the data
from all individual segments of the business
and makes the decision on which way you’re going to run.
It’s collaborative, but it’s, I don’t believe it’s a decision
that could be made by consensus and or, you know,
there’s no way that a, there’s not a lot of CFOs
who are going to agree with an increased amount of spend.
You know if the end goals of the company is based
on, you know, EBITDA margin and things of that nature.
The other thing is, well, like
compensation and targeting drives action, right?
So if there’s not
somebody who’s aligning the compensation and the targeting of your business
units across a singular go to market, everybody’s, you know, chasing the wrong
That’s I had a LinkedIn post this week that kind of speaks to it,
that’s where most sales and marketing misalignment happens.
It doesn’t happen because sales leaders
and marketing leaders don’t communicate well.
Most of them communicate really well.
The problem is that Marketing Leader. X is targeted on forward facing metrics
Sales leader Y is targeted on backward, you know, end basic metrics
like revenue and etc..
And there’s no you know, there’s nothing that connects the two.
So marketing person thinks they’re doing a great job,
they’re getting bonuses and raises and target achievements, and high five,
sales is getting the same function and there’s nothing that
collaborates them together.
So that’s where as a leader and especially the CEO role like understanding that
what people, making
the definition of doing a good job is aligned across all of the units,
which will really kind of cements the go to market,
whether it’s changing and or evolving.
That’s why I really love talking about go to market
because I feel like it does align everybody under the same goals.
And I think, Chris, you nailed it, the buck stops here, it’s
the CEO who has to call the shots.
Which, you know, which is difficult because it’s
you’re getting in the trenches enough
to understand all the different motions and, you know, like it’s changed.
It’s changed a lot.
Right. You know, and
even as you get to the really, really, really large companies, right,
when you’re trying to manage five separate individual go to markets
that in some cases are $100 million individual businesses of themselves.
You know, like you think of the large I.T.
vendor like a Cisco,
you know like their channel go to market is hundreds
of millions of dollars of revenue.
Their direct to customer go to market.. They’re inbound.
Like these are like you know like and to have a singular person or group
at the top who has to understand all the levels of those
and pull them back, pull them in together is really you know, there’s a reason why
there’s a reason why it’s a very difficult job to do,
especially at that scale, because you’re really looking at, in
some cases, dozens of individual 50 to $100 million
businesses driven by completely organic go to market, which is fascinating.
I love it like it’s that, those types of puzzles are what
you know wakes you up in the morning.
But it’s truly, truly a unique challenge.
Chris, that’s all the time we have for today.
But I really appreciate you joining us.
Awesome. It’s been really, really fun.
Thanks for having me, Val. Great.
And thanks to everybody out there for tuning in.
Remember, you want to like this video,. Subscribe to the channel,
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And we’ll see you next week on Closing Time.