GTM Flow: The Optimal State for Subscription Businesses

For enterprise subscription businesses, go-to-market flow is the paragon of operational efficiency. When you achieve it, every part of the business aligns, accelerating employee satisfaction and company growth.

Anyone who has experienced go-to-market (GTM) flow remembers it as their most satisfying work experience. In a frequently chaotic and anxious business culture, flow feels safe and predictable:

  • The product team builds a differentiated offering that fits the market’s needs
  • Marketing makes customers understand why they want and need your product
  • Sales walks precisely-curated prospects through a comfortable, cohesive buying journey
  • Customer success ensures customers realize the potential value you offer
  • Handoffs between departments happen smoothly and comfortably, with each team confident in the others’ success

To employees, flow feels like the smooth actualization of purpose. Work is effective, not merely killing time. Flow feels like the entire company will succeed–not just some individuals. It fosters a safe environment in which creativity abounds. It’s the foundation for breakout growth, and is achievable in any organization.

Who Needs GTM Flow

While every company lists customer satisfaction as a top priority, it is particularly important for enterprise subscription businesses as their entire survival depends on sustained customer satisfaction. These businesses must earn customers again and again, so they must re-satisfy them at every juncture.

Despite every realtor or car salesperson wanting repeat business, those items are purchased infrequently. Similarly, if you’re selling high-cost technology with large implementation and change costs, year two and three utilization of your solution is less important to your bottom line.

Companies that sell one-off individual goods or goods with high switching costs can succeed with a few high-quality performers and less internal alignment. However, if you offer a subscription product with low switching costs, flow is a must. 

Flow is also not the highest priority for early-stage companies that have yet to create a minimum viable product. Before turning their attention to internal operations, these subscription businesses should invest their effort into creating a product that satisfies everyone in their viable category. Only after developing that satisfactory product are they ready to pursue minimum viable repeatability and create a scalable go-to-market process. (For those familiar with the Traction Gap model of revenue, flow is a priority when a company is ready to reach minimum viable repeatability.)

How to Achieve Flow

GTM flow is the alignment of every element in your organization. If the organization is not yet aligned, getting to flow can be messy. You’re aligning broken bones, a process that takes strength, effort, expertise, and time.

Practically, flow first requires an interested internal mindset and then organizational structures that promote alignment.

Contribution and Growth Mindset

Flow is a shift from siloed activity to teamwork. It requires team members to see themselves as contributing parts of the whole, not merely leaders of individual activities.

To be interested in contributing, your organizational leaders must recognize that flow is the most exciting and efficient way to execute go-to-market activities and benefits them personally with increased job satisfaction, greater expertise, more wealth, and faster career progression.

The leaders who thrive in flow are those who have a growth mindset. They see misalignments as opportunities for systemic change, not as personal failures.

A flowing team feels like many parts of a restaurant operating in concert to create a beautiful meal. If one dish tastes funny because an ingredient was undercooked, uncover what caused this issue instead of apportioning blame. While it’s possible the chef merely made a mistake, it’s also possible that the chef felt time-pressured because the host seated more people than planned, or that the purchasing office bought a type of ingredient that requires more cooking time than the chef expected.

Alignment is the mantra of a flow-based leader, not blame. Every team member can always improve their ability to help the overall organization and focus on delivering the best possible and profitable customer experience.

Structural Shifts

As an entirely different method of activity from siloed optimization, flow demands updated approaches and metrics.

If you continue to measure siloed metrics, you’ll continue to optimize for siloed functions:

  • If you measure how many leads marketing delivers to sales, your marketing team will optimize for delivering leads… regardless of those leads’ quality.
  • If you measure how many bugs the product team resolved, you might find more resolutions… but not the desired improvement in customer satisfaction.

Subscription businesses need measurements that analyze the entire system. Shared metrics can help, including win rate, churn, revenue growth, and customer share. These shared metrics provide a vantage point into the company’s overall health. However, they’re generally trailing indicators that fail to highlight the right areas to improve. In measuring flow itself, I have found one new metric to be particularly helpful.

Revenue Flow Score: A New Leading Indicator of Go To Market Effectiveness

Revenue Flow Score (RFS) measures a company’s level of flow while simultaneously diagnosing its areas for improvement. After surveying different team members and weighing their perception of strengths and weaknesses, it outputs a simple score that measures the alignment between teams, key areas of strength and concern with detailed analysis highlighting areas to improve.

An accurate view of alignment means turning opinion- or emotion-driven assessments into data. After spending two decades optimizing revenue for many tech companies, I noticed that the practice still lacked a single leading indicator to objectively determine where the organization needed improved operations. Now, much like Net Promoter Score or the MEDDIC sales process, RFS makes tangible what was formerly perceived as artistry or devolved into emotional arguments. It offers an objective measure across personnel and over time. Instead of merely guessing at your overall effectiveness, RFS informs you whether your entire organization is moving forward or backward, and at what speed. It also tells you how to improve, both in times of crisis and while the company thrives.

Going Forward

How much does your company require continuous systemic improvement? For businesses with simple mechanics or one-off sales strategies, flow may not be necessary to achieve your goals. For subscription businesses, it’s an increasingly important state in our hyper-competitive subscription environment.

Currently, most company GTM functions assume the artistry of expert leaders, plan for alignment merely by hoping, and only reflect on their effectiveness after a sales cycle ends. GTM inefficiencies are far more expensive and less effective when fixed at the end. By continually focusing on flow and analyzing it through objective metrics, we can measure and optimize for success as a whole, improving every aspect of the company and powering its growth.

Interested in measuring and improving your company’s flow? Learn more today.

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