3 Warning Signs to Avert GTM Misfires in 2021

3 Warning Signs to Avert Go-to-Market Misfires in 2021

As we start the new year, it’s a good time to take note of some red flags or “misfires” that you might have experienced last year. Has the risk of failure gone up because you’re being asked to do more with less?  Is your marketing team chronically stressed and maxed out?  Has the quality of your marketing efforts gone down?

Well, you’re not alone. We’ve seen these three issues occurring not just in 2020 but throughout our history starting in 2008 when we founded Aventi, and throughout our 700+ engagements with over 100 blue chip and pre-IPO technology firms. 

Why are these 3 go-to-market misfires more acute now than ever?

Three reasons:

  1. Economic slowdown: Two-thirds of CMOs were transforming their go-to-market (GTM) models in 2020 in light of the pandemic and corresponding economic slowdown. Source: June 2020 CMO Survey  
  2. Budget cuts: Almost half of CMOs (44%) were facing budget cuts in 2020 as a direct result of COVID-19. Source: Gartner’s Annual CMO Spent report  
  3. Pace of change: Spencer Stuart, an executive search firm, states that the average CMO tenure has dropped to a new low of 41 months. They assert that one of the reasons is that the pace of change due to customer, competitive and larger market forces make it impossible to keep up.

We can’t always do much about the economy or larger forces that are out of our immediate control, but we can work to improve GTM and more effective marketing. Let’s examine the three most common marketing leadership misfires that we must avoid in 2021.

Misfire #1: The consequences of failure are severe

Marketing is not just about delivering programs on time and on budget. Revenue attribution is being increasingly used to justify marketing spend. If revenue drops, it’s easy to point the finger at marketing.

The June 2020 CMO Survey showed that a 14.4% drop in revenue heightening the need by marketers to pivot and execute even more flawlessly on any GTM motion that will drive pipeline and bookings. With fewer resources comes the risk of failure and missed deadlines. 

“With fewer resources comes the risk of failure and missed deadlines.”


How do marketers deal with quality issues and deadlines? There’s an old expression that you can only have two non-negotiables out of these three: schedule, budget, and quality. 

If schedule can’t give, then either budget and/or quality has to give. 

So the options with regards to the commitments you’ve made to the business are:

  • Keep commitments– ensure your resources are optimized to deliver on the expected results which may mean augmenting your team with external resources to hit the goals and quality levels.
  • Break commitments – though sometimes painful, you may choose to de-prioritize in light of higher GTM priorities.
  • Renegotiate commitments– reduce the scope of the deliverables, and do fewer, better. 

Misfire #2: Your marketing team is stressed out and maxed out

The biggest potential consequence of a chronically stressed and maxed out team is lower quality delivery and diminished results (e.g. brand, pipeline, other KPIs). In turn, these can affect your personal reputation, your collaboration with peers, and ultimately your compensation and even your job security.

“Long-term stress is not sustainable”

Leaders know that long-term stress is not sustainable. Nor is operating continually at full steam. This kind of environment may lead your most upwardly mobile and capable performers to seek greener pastures, which will only exacerbate the problem. 

One way you’ll know your team is chronically stressed when your leaders are more forcefully negotiating with you (saying “no” more often) on what they can and cannot take on. That is an understandable response. More rigorous prioritization is warranted when demands far exceed capacity. 

You may also see tempers flare when it comes to extracting commitments on specific action items. Absenteeism is also a leading indicator of stress. Staff may be taking longer holiday breaks, sick leave, or vacation days off. Laughter, smiles, and good moods seem to be notably off. 

Your initiative to spin up new ideas, campaigns and programs meets with a“lead balloon” response from your team. These are all the red flags that we have observed and which our clients tell us are strong indicators that their GTM engine is not running on all cylinders.


One way our clients have dealt with this is to shift some of their budgets that traditionally go into industry trade shows and customer events towards more programmatic spending and outsourced services to take the pressure off the marketing staff.  This is borne out in industry stats, too. According to the June 2020 CMO Survey, 30.8% of B2B marketing executives increased their outsourced marketing spend to generate more output with fewer resources. 

Here at Aventi, we can confirm that this trend is real. We have seen a significant increase in our business in Q4 2020 as a direct reflection of the pandemic driving CMOs to engage more outside help for GTM motions.

Misfire #3: The quality of marketing outputs is falling

Sometimes marketers say it’s too hard to measure the quality of marketing execution, but there’s really no excuse given the wealth of data now available in your salesforce automation and martech stack. 

In fact, here are the top metrics that HubSpot recommends in their post “12 Key Marketing Metrics You Should Always Be Tracking.”  

These are:

  1. Qualified leads
  2. Number of comments
  3. Amount of content shared
  4. Customer acquisition cost
  5. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  6. Time spent on site
  7. Monthly recurring revenue
  8. Conversion rate
  9. Return on investment
  10. Bounce rate
  11. CLC/CAC ratio
  12. Number of trial signups

Examining the above metrics month over month will start to reveal trends in your business. If multiple of these metrics are trending downwards month over month, it could be a strong sign that your GTM motions are not working optimally. 

“Beware of multiple of these metrics trending downwards month over month.”

Yes, it is true that there may be several root causes that are outside of marketing’s direct control such as an erosion of product competitiveness, salesforce churn, disruption in the target market (e.g. pandemic), and more. 

However, the twelve metrics above are well within the control, or at least strong influence, of your GTM efforts.


A downward trend should trigger you to reassess your GTM plans and execution. Look into root causes and, depending on what you hypothesize are the core reasons for the drop-off, you should adjust your GTM plans accordingly and see how the metrics improve over the ensuing quarter.

Diagnosis always gives you the opportunity to address and improve results

We hope this article gives you some insight into what many of our clients, who are your peer marketing executives and leaders, are facing when it comes to GTM plans and executions. 

Our experience shows that it is these three areas which tend to be frequent culprits when the GTM misfires: 

  1. Deadlines and revenue targets are being missed 
  2. The Marketing team is maxed out and chronically stressed
  3. Marketing quality metrics are taking a hit 

The good news is that all three of these warning signs and symptoms can be resolved by strategically adding external resources to support your team.  The Aventi team is a world-class resource delivering expertise, speed, and results to help you drive better results and relieve stress.  

Contact us for a quick assessment of your GTM plan

Written By

Sridhar Ramanathan

Sridhar Ramanathan has 20+ years of experience in technology companies – from startups to blue chip firms. As the Marketing executive for Hewlett-Packard’s Managed Services business, he was responsible for marketing worldwide and managing the portfolio of HP services’ $1.1B unit. He also held profit & loss responsibility for electronic messaging outsourcing and e-service business units. Thanks to Sridhar’s efforts, HP became the #1 ERP Outsourcer and experienced growth in the data warehouse market, now well over a $1B revenue stream. Sridhar has played interim executive roles for a number of technology firms, leading their sales and marketing functions in the high growth phase. Sridhar holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business and a BS in Engineering Physics from U.C. Berkeley. He is active in non-profit work as Vice Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley, an organization that provides stability and hope to abused and neglected children.