Today, there are many ways a company can engage with buyers.
While most companies start with the traditional inbound marketing and outbound sales motions, these two go-to-market motions aren’t enough these days. Why? Because buyer trust has been steadily declining in businesses.
For example, sales and marketing messaging is becoming less effective in the highly-saturated market. Buyers now have 16 per cent more trust in indirect sources like partners and peers than vendors.
That’s why more companies are leveraging partner-led growth, and what's more, they’re using partners to complement their other go-to-market motions.
In this article, we’ll walk through the six go-to-market motions you should know in 2024 and share real-world examples of how partners support each motion.
What are go-to-market motions?
Gartner defines go-to-market as, “a plan that details how an organization can engage with customers to convince them to buy their product or service and to gain a competitive advantage.” In short, GTM motions are business strategies that promote sales of the vendor’s product or service.
GTM Partners has defined the six main go-to-market motions, their growth levers, and how to execute them, which we’ll be exploring in this article.
GTM Partners also surveyed go-to-market professionals to see how common each motion is and found the following:
- Inbound-led: 90%
- Outbound-led: 86%
- Partner-led: 66%
- Community-led: 52%
- Product-led: 41%
- Event-led: 38%
While partnerships are fair to look at as a standalone partner-led motion, there are also other ways in which partners can help support the other GTM motions.
The six essential GTM motions
Inbound-led is all about “pulling” a buyer toward your business. An inbound-based approach typically involves marketing teams creating content, optimizing it for search results, and capturing and nurturing those leads.
Inbound-led GTM in action
Looka is an example of a company that started with an inbound-first GTM strategy. Not long after its 2016 launch, Looka saw impressive results from its search engine optimization efforts. It ranked highly on search engines for terms with strong commercial intent, such as "logo maker" and "logo generator," which engaged a lot of prospects and converted them into customers.
However, a brand name change led to an 80 per cent drop in website traffic. Looka recognized the necessity of broadening its customer acquisition channels. Although there was an affiliate program in place, it was underperforming, as most enlisted affiliates were not successfully generating sales. Their new growth manager saw the potential in inactive affiliates acting as the “pull” they needed to fill the gap left by their SEO. Looka overhauled its affiliate strategy, introducing automated onboarding processes and implementing a structured rewards system and activated its partner base to drive 34 per cent of the company's gross profits.
Outbound-led is all about “pushing” a solution to a buyer. An outbound-based approach typically involves sales and business development teams contacting buyers directly to pitch their offering.
Outbound-led GTM in action
Close CRM was running an outbound (and inbound) led GTM motion when James Urie started as a sales rep at Close CRM, before there was anyone in a dedicated partnership role at the company. But Close was getting referrals, so James spent 20 per cent of his time working with these referral partners, yet these referrals were only bringing in less than four per cent of company revenue.
Seeing the potential for more partner-led growth, James shifted into a dedicated partner role. After 12 months, James was able to grow the partner-sourced revenue number to 10%— or a 150% growth rate in the proportion of partner-sourced revenue. Fast forward another year or so, and Close has 18% partner-sourced revenue and has its sights set on bringing that percentage to 30%.
Partner-led is all about “surrounding” your buyers with trusted partners. A partner-based approach can involve many teams: channel, marketing, sales, and product. They can activate partners in many ways: affiliates, referrals, resellers, marketplaces, and service providers.
Partner-led GTM in action
PandaDoc is a great example of a company that uses a partner-led motion by running multiple partner programs. They work with ISV partners, distributors, resellers, agencies and affiliates (and run it all on one platform, PartnerStack).
PandaDoc initially operated two separate partner programs: one for resellers and another for affiliates. Each was managed using a traditional channel model, complete with separate partner relationship management systems and distinct compensation plans per partner type. This approach created a disconnect between the programs and stifled innovation in other partnership areas, leading to missed opportunities for revenue growth.
To overcome this, PandaDoc aimed to establish a more unified and collaborative partner ecosystem. They fostered an environment where all partner types could thrive together, united by a shared set of key performance indicators and leveraging a singular platform. In doing so, they grew partner-sourced monthly recurring revenue by 47 per cent YoY.
Community-led is generally all about the customer, partners, analysts, employees, and others coming together around a company.
Community-led GTM in action
While HubSpot is known for inventing inbound, it’s evolved its go-to-market strategy to a point where it leverages all six GTM Motions, including community-led.
HubSpot runs community-led events that tap into the expertise of its community members and partners. HubSpot and PartnerStack teamed up in a way that provides a great example of how partners can support communities. HubSpot tapped into the affiliate marketing expertise of its app marketplace partner, PartnerStack. In doing so, HubSpot expanded beyond its inbound-led roots and expertise to help its customers learn how to also grow in a partner-led way (through affiliate marketing) — all while helping engage the community. A great way to leverage a partner base that delivers 40 per cent of HubSpot’s revenue through the channel.
Product-led is all about “try-before-you-buy”. A product-based approach typically involves a cross-functional team of product management, product marketing, growth marketing, and others to get more buyers in-app through interactive product demos, free trials and freemium solutions.
Product-led GTM in action
Unbounce, the code-free landing page builder for marketers and businesses, converts half of its free trials to paying customers. The challenge? Get even more people to try the product out.
While inbound and outbound may be the first GTM motion that comes to mind, the Unbounce team knew they could get more new trial starts with a partner referral program. But to launch it, they needed a PRM system that could split subscription revenue and pay partners automatically. Using PartnerStack, 25 per cent of Unbounce’s new trial starts (NTS) come through 5,000+ partners — without cannibalizing its other go-to-market channels like paid search.
Event-led is all about bringing the community together, in person or online, to learn from expert presenters. A surefire way to expand your event reach is through co-marketing it.
Event-led GTM in action
PartnerStack and PartnerHacker, a four-person media startup, pulled off the largest B2B software partnership event ever with over 1,500 registrants. How? They didn't go it alone. They did it together, as partners. You could also chalk this one up as community-led, as event co-lead Jared Fuller called it, “a very crafty use of influencers and superconnectors”. He continued by saying, “Don’t minimize the power of community, whether you have four people or 4,000.”
Either way, leveraging partners as co-marketers can help engage buyers to convince them to buy their product or service and to gain a competitive advantage — the ultimate objective of go-to-market.
Benefits of adopting a multi-motion approach
In conclusion, integrating partner-led strategies with traditional go-to-market motions is an efficient growth accelerant in today's challenging business environment. As demonstrated by Looka, Close CRM, PandaDoc, HubSpot, Unbounce, and the collaboration between PartnerStack and PartnerHacker, success now requires a blend of inbound, outbound, community, product, and event-led efforts, all bolstered by partnerships.
The examples discussed illustrate a clear trend: Leveraging partnerships to complement and enhance primary go-to-market strategies is innovative and advantageous for growth.
Companies that adapt to this multi-motion approach benefit from increased reach, customer trust, and resilience in the marketplace. As go-to-market dynamics continue to evolve, partner-led growth remains a cornerstone, driving the future of effective and comprehensive customer engagement strategies.