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Rocket GTM 🚀 - The Ship Analogy

Alfie Marsh
Alfie Marsh
Sailing your way to Go-To-Market Success

⛵️ Sailing Your Way to Go-To-Market Success
PMF in your sails
Think of your go-to-market motion like sailing a ship.
You can have the greatest ship, made with the greatest materials, operated by the best people in the world. But if you have no wind, then you’ll make no progress.
A weak gust of wind is like having a weak product-market fit (PMF). No wind, no movement. Lot’s of wind, lot’s of movement.
A strong wind can overcome poor execution. But even the best operators will fail in the absence of a killer PMF.
Revenue leaders are not responsible for creating the wind. But they are responsible for harnessing the power of it.
You’ll feel it the exact moment your sails turn to face the wind and there’s an almighty force propelling your ship forward. That’s the feeling of product-market fit. The moment your product responds to your customer’s problem correctly. The moment you stop pushing your product onto the market and it startups pulling it out of you.
Harnessing the wind may include activities like:
  • training and hiring sales reps
  • improving the product demo
  • iterating messaging and positioning
  • codifying common objections and responses
But make no mistake, none of these efforts will matter if there is no wind in your sails.
When the CEO asks you: “Why haven’t we hit our revenue goal?”
It might be wise to pause and ask: “Are we sure we have a strong enough PMF to scale yet?”
Enough fish in the sea
Imagine your sailing ship is in fact a fishing boat. You have a large net in the back that trawls through the ocean. If you go fishing in a small area with not many fish, there won’t be much fish to catch… obviously.
The size of your sea is your TAM (target addressable market). It’s an important growth factor. Having a strong product-market fit in a small pond is not that attractive to investors unless you can get them to pay a lot of money. Far better to have a large addressable market to fish from.
Otherwise you’re better off bootstrapping. Lifestyle business can be great for founders, but rarely are they financially interesting for investors.
Nets or spears
Once you’ve chosen a big ocean, and the wind is in your sails. Half the battle is won. Now you just need to capitalize on the opportunity.
How will you actually capture these fish? Will you use a net? Or will you go spear hunting?
Having a great product is useless if you can’t get into the hands of your customers. This is the distribution question.
Innovative distribution models are the secret sauce behind some of the world’s best success stories. It’s what Amazon, Google, and PayPal all have in common.
Amazon, Google, and PayPal have basic value propositions e.g. pay for ads to get front of your customer, buy a new TV, and spend money. Basic value propositions aren’t what’s needed. Powerful distribution models are.
Google’s value proposition is boring as hell (buy ads to get in front of your customers), but the way they executed it was incredibly novel (paying for ads on internet search results instead of billboards).
Amazon’s value proposition is nothing new (buy your favorite books), but the way they executed it was (buy your favorite book online and receive it the next day).
PayPal is the same. Spend money. Nothing new. But the way they leveraged network effects to get viral distribution meant they could get to a critical mass far quicker than their better funded competition.
In my opinion, innovative ways of attracting, capturing, and retaining customers (aka distribution models) are the most exciting parts of a go-to-market.
We’re seeing an exciting new method evolving today with product-led growth which is creating exceptional amounts of value for companies like Zoom, Slack, and Dropbox.
Monetizing your catch
Sending the Titanic out to capture a gold fish is not the most profitable way to catch a fish.
You shouldn’t burn a hundred dollars to make a buck. How well you monetize your catch is crucial to success.
Some companies are fantastic at capturing the value their product creates, others are not. Twitter doesn’t capture all the value that’s created on it’s platform. They make revenue through ads, but there is a ton of missed opportunity.
For example, most content creators use Twitter to build an audience that can then be monetized by selling digital products, which they create and sell on Gumroad. Those dollars are leaving Twitter and going directly into the pockets of Gumroad. That’s a missed opportunity for Twitter to capture the value that’s created through their platform.
On the flip side you have companies like Zapier who were recently valued at $5bn with over $140M of revenue while raising only $1.4M in funds. They’re basically bootstrapped. Their product-led growth model has enabled them to create fantastic wealth and capture a ton of value.
Segmenting the ocean
We’ve all heard the expression “you can’t boil the ocean”.
In the same vein, you shouldn’t try and catch all the fish in the ocean at once.
A small ship with 20 people cannot cast a net the size of the ocean. The ship wouldn’t move! You’re far better off choosing a small area with a rich density to fish from. As Mark Cuban says on Shark Tank “you can drown in opportunity”.
Better still, choose an area that lends itself to your strengths. If you’ve got a harpoon it’s a waste of time catching salmon. You should always ask yourself “what segment are we in the best position to capitalize on today?” and “are we spreading ourselves too thin trying to capture all the opportunity in our market at once?”.
Wrapping it up 🌯
Taking product to market is much like sailing a ship. First you need a strong tail wind. Then you want to sail in a large ocean. Once you find your perfect fishing spot you got to use the best, most cost effective methods for capturing them and bringing them to market.
How effective is your sailing ship?
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Alfie Marsh
Alfie Marsh @alfieisamarsh

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