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050: Successful Go-To-Market Strategies with Alfie Marsh (Spendesk)

By February 10, 2022No Comments
Successful Go-To-Market Strategies with Alfie Marsh (Spendesk)

It’s our 50th episode! What a milestone. 

To celebrate, we’re giving away lifetime access to our Content Strategy Frameworks course to two winners. Congratulations Abass Sahrawi and Emma Fanning! We can’t thank you enough for listening. 

Now for this week’s episode. Finding career success is about more than just making more money. It’s about finding a career path where you’re motivated to put in hard work without crossing over into burnout. 

When you’re only in a job for the money, every challenge or difficult situation will push you to the brink. Alfie Marsh, head of U.S. GTM for Spendesk, said that the key to long-term success is finding work that aligns with your values and your skills. That way your goals and the job’s goals are in sync, and the hard times are manageable. 

In this episode, Alfie offers his wisdom about growing a career as well as his advice for companies using go-to-market strategies in new markets.

Show Topics

  • Start from scratch in new markets
  • Start with assumptions, but pay attention to feedback
  • Have ownership over what you create
  • Aim for outsize impact
  • Share knowledge
  • Align your work with your values

Check out Spendesk

Follow Alfie Marsh on LinkedIn or Twitter

Alfie’s Newsletter: Rocket GTM

Listen to the podcast

Watch the video

Key Takeaways

14:00 – Lean into the zero to one journey

Alfie helped build the Spendesk sales team and achieve the company’s first million dollars in revenue in the U.K. Next up was doing the same thing in the U.S.

“So I started off as an SDR and then went from SDR to then doing full cycle sales, closing. I was the first sales person in the team and then grew that team. Hired the first person, grew into the first million of revenue, and built the first kind of foundation nucleus of what would be the UK revenue team. So about six to eight people. And then at that point there was kind of a decision for me of, I’ve done that. I’ve done the zero to one in this market. I’ve got that up and running now. Do I lean into this and then go from the one to 10 journey and really kind of scale that up or do I do the same thing for Spendesk in the U.S. in a much bigger pond, if you like. And to me, I really liked the early stage of the company. I mean, a lot of the stuff I write about, a lot of conversations I have with other people like yourself, outside, how we met, is really about those early stages and figuring that part out and that’s really interesting to me. So I knew we were going to at some point open up in the U.S. and so I put my coin in the hat, so to speak. And a couple of years later here I am.”

15:45 – Start from scratch in new markets

Every new market you enter requires you to build your business from the ground up. Don’t assume that the process that worked in one area will work exactly the same again.

“Ultimately you need to build the company from scratch in any new market and take it from the ground up. Now that process might be accelerated for some companies and it may take longer if you haven’t got a product market fit, but ultimately you still need to understand the market, understand the target addressable market. How big is it there? What are your customers’ problems and how can you solve that? And does your product or solution actually respond to those problems well enough? From any go-to market, I think one of the mistakes that is made is we’ve got something that’s working in, let’s say the UK, is that going to work in the U.S.? And the assumption is, well, it works here, so let’s just replicate what we’re doing and just put money into it and expect results. And that’s never, never the case. And if that is the way that a go-to market is operated, it’s almost doomed for failure. So you have to take a beginner’s mindset and take the mindset that you’re building the company up from scratch from day one. Even if you’re a large corporation and that process will be accelerated, you still have to start with the basic principles.”

18:28 – Start with assumptions, but pay attention to feedback

It’s smart to start with assumptions of what will work based on a previous market, but you should be ready to change things based on the data you get.

“We’re going to go to the same segment and we’re going to try with the same pitch and the same thing, because there’s a lot of data in there that is helpful and it’s a pretty good, accurate way to start. Even if you’re really wrong, it’s a really good place to start. The point where people go wrong is where they are fixated on that. And they stay too long in that segment if they don’t have product market fit. And the reason that happens is because they’re not looking to validate or nullify a hypothesis. What they’re trying to do is just get revenue off of a business model, which they are assuming works. And that’s the difference. You can start with what works, but you just have to be in that mindset of looking out for if it’s not. And if so, what are you doing? Are you getting the feedback? And one very clear example is if you’re too much in a sales mindset when you go to a new country, you’ll be trying to close the deal. You won’t be trying to learn why the deal isn’t closing if it doesn’t. And that’s a big distinction, because if you don’t have the data coming in the feedback loop, you won’t be able to iterate or change or change the positioning. What’s more important than getting revenue is learning why you’re getting it or why you’re not getting it. And so that’s why it helps to have this mindset from day one.”

20:33 – Combine outbound experience with content

Spendesk already had a lot of experience generating leads with an outbound approach, so they were able to transition that to the U.S. and play off the English language content for inbound.

“Outbound is a really hard thing to get started if you’ve never done it before. And it requires a very specific kind of skill set. And we were able to leverage that just to get meetings straight away. So we were never short of meetings with customers. We were always meeting with potential customers and learning from day one. But I think the most important thing is what’s the velocity of your pipeline in terms of how many people are you speaking with and for which types of segments and types of customers. So that was a really big help. The other one you mentioned was content. So we were lucky that we invested very early on, Spendesk is about five and a half years old. We invested very early on in content and SEO in particular. And a lot of that was in English for our UK market, which naturally corresponds to the U.S. And so just similar at the same time that we’re starting to pick up a bit of traction in terms of a product-market fit, that content was also producing results for the inbound in the U.S. And so that was kind of lucky. So I think that the biggest help is having a healthy way to find and interact with customers.”

23:13 – Have ownership over what you create

Hard work can bring you a certain amount of success, but to really have an outsized impact, you have to own what you create.

“It’s only really until I actually started working in the startup world where I realized that hard work is a prerequisite, I think, to be successful, but it’s actually not the thing. It’s not the most important thing. And you need to create things. And if you really want to have a big impact is to have ownership over what you’re creating, whether that’s you have shares in a company, of a startup, or you have your own business that you’re doing. To have that full ownership of that. Hard work is going to get you a lot of places, but there’s a lot of people that work really hard and aren’t necessarily having the biggest impact in the world. It’s very localized. So for me, I wanted to have an outsized impact, a leveraged impact. And I think the best way to do that is entrepreneurship. So for me, the end goal has really been to launch my own company, which is another reason why throughout my career path, I’ve really chosen those zero to one go-to-market phases, because I love that idea of I’m learning on someone else’s dime and I’m taking lots of risks on someone else’s money. And not only that, but I’m getting paid for it.”

27:36 – Aim for outsize impact

Alfie said his ambition used to be tied to financial independence, but now it’s more about how he can use his skillset to have a global impact.

“There’s something about having an outsized, leveraged impact in the world where you can do something that kind of transcends yourself. When I talk about the ambition from when I was younger, I think the difference between how I am now to when I was maybe 15, 16 is I wanted to be successful to make myself rich. To have money myself. Whereas I feel like that is obviously still a motivation, but I think that in itself it’s more to have a bigger impact. I know that I’ve got good skillsets in certain areas and it’s like, what’s the best application of that skill set? Is it in a local area where I just do something in my local community? Or could you have an impact with that set of skills that is unique to you on a global level? And I think, well, if you can have a global level impact, then why not? That’s amazing. So I want to leave a good footprint.”

29:08 – Share knowledge

Alfie writes his Rocket GTM newsletter because sharing knowledge helps other people and it gets the word out about the wins you’ve had in your own career.

“One of the reasons why I write newsletters or post on LinkedIn or produce content is a lot of the work that you do within a company often stays within the company. And no one else can either know about, learn about, or benefit from what you’ve learned, unless it’s shared externally. And that’s also going towards your career growth as well. People only in your surroundings know about how you’ve helped that company grow, then you’ll see it’s better if more people are aware of that for your own personal benefit. So it also overlaps there. But something that I’ve found since I moved to San Francisco is I’ve done way more calls with other entrepreneurs or people doing similar go-to-market things and just sharing knowledge and consulting with one another. And I think that kind of knowledge sharing, I love that. I really enjoy having a conversation, unlocking some sort of thing in the way a company is positioning their products. Three weeks later, three months later, they have a significant change in their pipeline or their revenue because of something that you’ve discussed together. That brings me joy.” 

32:39 – Align your work with your values

Burnout can happen if your work isn’t aligned with your true goals and motivations. Your work will only go well when there are no challenges.

“Ultimately what I learned is what was driving me, my goals, my motivations were actually misaligned with who I was as a person when I was at Bloomberg. Like I said to you, when I grew up, I was thinking of financial freedom, success, and investment banking and making money and it’s all me, me, me individualistic thinking. And ultimately, you chase that, it goes well and if you’re getting promoted and make money, then you’re happy and you’re fine. But as soon as you encounter challenges or difficult situations, it goes wrong very quickly because you’re not there for the right reasons. And so it only goes well when it’s going well. And so you need to find something where, when it’s not going well, it’s still aligned with your values, your morals, your true motivations. And I think that gives you the ability to drive through those tough times basically. And I found that pivot personally in my career that made a huge difference. So I think firstly, if you’re experiencing burnout at least part of it is you’ve got to look at are you in the right place in the first place is a big part of it. And then there’s obviously a lot of different ways that you can kind of manage on a symptom basis. But prevention is always better than cure.”

35:21 – Discover your strengths

Alfie said the book “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham helped him to figure out how his skills could be used to their full potential.

“This book effectively states that everybody has their natural talents. And the best thing to do is figure out what your talents are or your strengths, and then build skills on top of those naturally occurring talents. So if I’m not naturally good at math,  I can build skills on top of that. Like I studied accounting and finance. I’m not that great at math, but you can build that skill. But is that the best way? No, because I’m not naturally talented at that. But I’m naturally talented at speaking with people and interacting with people that I don’t know. And I really get energy from that sort of situation. That might just be a natural talent or a strength. But what’s a skillset that I could build on top of that? Well, negotiation, sales, so and so forth. And so reading that book, they break it down into about 30, 32, I think, different strengths. You read it and be like, oh, that’s me. Oh, that’s really not me. And then you get a picture of who you are and that’s a really good basis to then be like, okay, where should I then build a career on top of that and what sort of skills and assets should I try and build?”

39:43 – Change yourself to make the world better

Making internal changes is often a better way to make things better than trying to change external things you can’t control.

“I think most problems in the world can be solved by starting with yourself and taking ownership over your input. And rather than kind of externally trying to change things, I spend more of my time trying to change myself than I think trying to change other things outside. And it’s not so much I think that people would consciously disagree with that. But in terms of a lot of people’s actions, I think many people, their actions would indicate that they’re trying to change the external things rather than focusing on what they can do about it. And I think that creates a lot less friction if you start with a man in the mirror.”


Past guests on The Long Game podcast include: Morgan Brown (Shopify), Ryan Law (Animalz), Dan Shure (Evolving SEO), Kaleigh Moore (freelancer), Eric Siu (Clickflow), Peep Laja (CXL), Chelsea Castle (Chili Piper), Tracey Wallace (Klaviyo), Tim Soulo (Ahrefs), Sean Blanda (Crossbeam), Ilona Abramova (AppSumo), and many more.

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Karissa Barcelo

Karissa Barcelo

Karissa is a Content Growth Marketer at Omniscient Digital. She enjoys producing and repurposing content with a killer marketing strategy behind it. She has a diverse background in video production, content strategy, and writing B2B blogs and customer success stories. Karissa has a passion for storytelling and turning complex ideas into relatable material. She lives in Las Vegas with her fiance, Sam.