We’ve worked with, advised and engaged with hundreds of founders at BIAS in the last seven years and we consistently see them behave in ways that hinder their go-to-market and overall growth. GTM is broken, and honestly, founders are a major part of the problem. These behaviours mean that they often act as blockers instead of enablers within their businesses.
An example includes a founder who had built the company website and even though it was unwieldy and difficult to navigate and update, he felt that since he’d built it, everyone else should try to figure it out. He overlooked the benefits of having a customer-centric website that was efficient for his team to update and acted as a blocker instead of an enabler for his business. Worse, he called out members of his team for not being able to do what he could do, fomenting a toxic environment.
This is a note for technical founders: you must enable your teams beyond your own capabilities.
Enable your teams beyond your own capabilities
You may be a tech Einstein with a brilliant idea and product, but your coding genius doesn’t enable a marketer to excel at their job. Or a salesperson. Or a customer success agent. Another example of this is a technical founder we know who built his own CRM. Brilliant. However, that CRM didn’t integrate with anything else. He didn’t see this as a problem, but as you can imagine, his sales, marketing and customer success teams did. He continually saw them as the problem, leading to high turnover.
The common thread here is not the team, it’s the founder. Just because you can build it or do it yourself doesn’t mean that’s the best option for your staff. Your expertise is only one cog in the wheel that makes a business successful. You are not the hero. The whole point of building a business is to see it flourish and grow, and that path becomes harder when you don’t enable the people and invest in tools that can fuel it.
You're so eager to please the few, you don't build for the many
The vast majority of products we see are built backwards. What do we mean?
Products are getting built on an idea, a concept and then when they’re launched they’re shaped around four or five design partners. And then there are still a bunch of accelerators out there saying, “Get it out there, see what sticks.” So, there is no go-to-market strategy, no target market or customer research.
So then you build it and your first few customers will say, “We like it, but we need it to do x, y, z.” And you make it happen. But as a result you're not building a tool that is useful for the masses. You're building a tool that serves particular use cases of your first handful of customers. That’s a problem. So how do you solve it?
You go back to the basics. And we did this so often with founders, we created our own GTM product, ARISE, to streamline the process. This involves being truly customer-centred and building with service design principles.
Firstly, you need to identify who your target customers are and go talk to them. A lot of them. What do they need? What do they want their lives to look like after they have your product? What are they looking for? How are they looking for it? Where do they go to look for it, how do they talk about? What’s going to reward them? What isn’t? This is your starting point.
You’re not going out for external expertise early enough
One of the biggest blockers founders perpetuate is not getting the help they need early enough. Often you choose price over experience and that slows down your go-to-market success. Ego gets in the way here too. There can be an attitude of, “I know my product, I designed it, I built it, what do you know about it? What can you tell me that I don't know?”
Guaranteed you know little to nothing about product marketing. You won’t have the first clue on how to optimise your CRM, craft an SEO strategy, or build a brand. You likely aren’t a sales enablement or retention expert either so you’ll duck this and shift ownership to your sales hires.
And then you’ll often bring in grads to save costs. A marketing grad won’t know much about a CRM (believe it or not, this often isn’t core to their curriculum). And they’ll never have built positioning or messaging in the real-world so they’re figuring things out. You’ll pay them £10-15K more than you would an agency over 12 months instead of getting results in three (from experienced professionals). That’s not value.
Price is not more important than experience.
You keep thinking not spending will get you the results you want
Costs are always top of mind for founders, and understandably so. But NOT spending the right money in the RIGHT place WON’T get you the results you want.
It isn’t fiscally responsible to hire the wrong levels of people or cut corners on tech. These two things in particular, are vital to your growth engine. Working off of Excel spreadsheets and a cobbled-together tech system doesn’t work in today’s world.
Yet so many founders will baulk at spending on a CRM like HubSpot. Yet they can get 90% off in their first year, something like £90 a month. But you advise that and they’ll complain that they can only get 75% off after their first year.
A couple of thousand pounds a year for a unified system that gives you a 360-degree view of the customer when properly implemented is not a lot. This means that every team works off the same data set, with the same view of the customer. And that means that you understand how your deals work, how your onboarding works, and what messaging is or isn’t working. That is an unmistakable and unmissable ROI.
Your spreadsheets and optimisation tools will cost more than that - and won’t give you those valuable insights. Founders, you must understand where it is you're trying to go and spend the money that you need to get there because it is fiscally irresponsible - and more expensive - not to.
You’re not managing budgets correctly and being reactionary instead of strategic
Which leads us to our final point and a big learning curve, even for the leadership team here at BIAS. We speak from experience! Too often, we’re all spending to meet needs rather than strategically hiring or adopting tech to get ahead and support business strategy.
You cannot hire people to solve problems. You get ahead of the problems by hiring the right people. The big thing here is: you can't do both. Recruitment must be a strategy and then that supports your growth goals. And that means remaining strong in the face of adversity.
You don't hire the right people to not continue the strategy and you definitely don't waver on the strategy because you lose a deal or two or something slightly derails you. That's normal. And this also includes technology.
If you’ve adopted a technology but you aren’t using it to its full potential, you’re using it to merely fulfil a current need - this is a waste of budget. For instance, if you’re only utilising your CRM to store contacts but not analysing the data and gleaning insights, you could find yourself in a situation where you’re overlooking sales patterns that directly impact your numbers.
This all costs you time, costs you revenue and you're going backwards.
By not planning, you're actually causing yourself more problems. It seems like a no-brainer but the amount of founders who do it is mind-boggling. Take a step back; often, you’re too close to everything that you can’t see the woods for the trees.
We get it. This shit’s hard. But there are ways you can make your life easier and your GTM more successful. And it starts with you.