Alison is the founder and chief marketer at Trusted CMO, a marketing services firm that helps early stage startups with go-to-market strategy and execution.
Alison is a growth-focused marketing executive and entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience building and scaling global marketing teams in Silicon Valley and Europe. She had marketing executive roles in some of the best technology startups including SocialChorus, 6sense, and Verto Analytics.
I sat down with Alison to learn how she goes about helping startups define Go-To-Market and what insights she can share to help guide early stage entrepreneurs on the journey of growing a startup.
Tell me about your business, who do you target?
Alison went on to say that Trusted CMO was formed in early 2020, the intent of the company is to provide marketing services as strategy and hands on execution.
Alison specifically works with early stage startups. They tend to be seed-stage funded, don’t usually have a marketing person on board. But they know they need to drive market awareness and customers.
Trusted CMO evaluates where they are, what they do, how they're differentiated: their special reason for existence and what they could do better than everyone else. Then Trusted CMO creates the marketing strategy and supports the company with hands-on execution.
When a customer comes to you, what are some of their needs or challenges in defining Go-To-Market?
Alison went on to say that many founders are technologists, engineers or maybe they're a salesperson, a product person or a designer, they know that they need to do marketing but many times they don't know how. So they usually come with assumptions like “I think we need to start doing content.” But they don’t have a website yet. Most founders come to her saying “I think I need this but tell me if I really need it and how to do it”.
Alison almost always takes an initial meeting with founders to see where they are in their business, how serious they are about marketing, and if they are ready to get started.
Alison’s “intake audit” typically includes studying their target market and buyer, evaluating their competition, asking for customer or user feedback to shape their direction and product market fit.
Alison helps founders understand what marketing is and isn’t. Marketing is about developing a market for the company/product on a number of levels and using varied channels.
Alison wrote more about getting started with marketing in this Forbes article.
What kind of companies do you work with?
Alison works primarily with B2B companies, while SaaS mostly, about 75% have an enterprise sales motion. And some are product-led.
What kind of goals do you set with your clients?
Alison helps her clients develop goals based on two considerations:
- What is stopping them from gaining more awareness?
- What are their revenue goals? Because if marketing isn't contributing to revenue “we aren’t doing our job”.
After the initial analysis and goal setting, what are the marketing tactics that you tend to use?
Alison said that the tactics depend on the strategy , which is directly connected to the advantages and superpowers for that company. She looks at the objectives and then together with the clients they come up with a strategy that is defensible, measurable and worth doing for the company.
An example that Alison described: “One company that I worked at was in data insights around connecting consumers. They had a lot of very unique insights about data consumption and usage patterns in apps and software. This meant they could publish interesting research-oriented content and distribute that into the market. This powered their awareness strategy and also drove demand for their solution. The company went from five pieces of press to 638 in 18 months says Alison, “They got inbound leads all the time because they had found the one thing that no one else had.”
One thing to keep in mind is that things take time. “I see many product led founders who expect that they will see results instantly when they run a LinkedIn campaign. They want hundreds of hot leads, but it can take a while to really dial in the right message and offer."
What's the best way for marketing and sales to align?
Because founders need to think about how marketing, sales and even customer success (aka the GTM team) will be operating in alignment, especially with SaaS, Alison believes account-based marketing almost always is the best approach. What are the top accounts that you should win and know you can win? It helps everyone stay focused on wooing and landing the customers.
Creating your ideal customer profile is asking 'how can my product help this company do their job better?' In B2B, most often you have a handful of people, who have different roles that you need to educate and influence. It’s important to develop strategic messaging to communicate the value of your product and how it can specifically help each one of them.
Alison is a big fan of 6sense (where she was employee #11) to align the GTM team. The level of data about your target accounts and where they are in their buying journey is a much more holistic way to align everyone’s activity and focus. Questions to ask for example: is a late-stage target account now searching for your competitors or spending more time reviewing the product page on your website? What’s the right action for sales, marketing, and CS to take? You have the opportunity to act prescriptively.
Similarly, 6sense is a great tool for customer success. For SaaS companies, churn is a major metric to watch. Nobody wants to have a high churn. If your customers seem to be scouting around for other solutions, it’s a great reason to reach out and see if there’s an issue or possibly an opportunity to expand the account.
Increasing retention and adoption while minimizing churn need to be part of the model for go-to-market.
Alison wrote more about her thinking in the article A Winning GTM Model for the Post-Pandemic Era: Five ways to support customer success now.
The holistic way to think about marketing and cross functional team alignment is: The customer is in the middle:
- Marketing works to capture the buyer’s attention, help them understand the product, and create demand for it
- Sales supports prospects through the process of becoming a customer
- Then customer success gives customers a big hug at the finish line and makes sure they fall in love with the product
The cycle repeats with the team continuing to mature and nurture that customer so they become loyal, committed advocates.
This concludes my conversation with Alison. I learned a lot, and I hope you did too.