It takes grit to elevate your marketing strategy, as Christina Del Villar knows. With over 30 years in Silicon Valley, Del Villar has experience working for start-ups and large enterprise public companies, including as marketing director for Wells Fargo, Bill.com, and Oracle. Today, she advises clients, including Fortune 500 tech companies, on how to elevate their go-to-market strategies through corporate workshops and audits.
In her recently published book, Sway, Del Villar shares how to use her G.R.I.T. Marketing Method to gain influence and drive corporate strategy. And with Senior Executive Media, she discussed how she developed the framework and lessons she’s learned from her time in Silicon Valley. Read on for edited excerpts from our exclusive interview.
Senior Executive Media: What is the G.R.I.T. marketing method, and why is it important?
Christina Del Villar: G.R.I.T. is an acronym for my methodology. The G stands for good market. The R stands for RPM (repeatable, predictable, and measurable). The I stands for intent. And the T stands for tools and technology. In my mind, if you are able to put all of these together, consider the go-to-market strategy and your customer journey, and align that with everything that you’re doing, the repeatable, predictable, and measurable really gets into being effective with what it is that you’re doing.
Data is critical. We cannot do our job without having that data, understanding the data, being able to articulate what that data means, showing our value and our impact. Having the tools and technology to be able to extrapolate that manipulate it and show what it is that we’re doing is really critical. That’s the G.R.I.T. marketing method.
“It’s really important to think about what it is that you’re doing and what that strategy is, because everything that you do, and everything that every single person in your company does, should be in alignment with that corporate strategy.”
Senior Executive Media: How do you build a go-to-market strategy? Could you give me a few steps to get started?
Christina Del Villar: In my mind, I feel like it should be a very intentional effort to build the strategy and then have an owner. The owner can be an individual, it can be a general manager, it could be the CEO, or it could be the CMO. Or you might develop an actual go-to-market team who is then responsible. Within that team, there might be folks from all of the different areas that are covered in your customer journey. If you have product marketing, sales, customer success, there might be coverage, and there should be coverage from all of those different organizations. People will say: ‘Well, who should own your go-to-market strategy?’ Every single company is going to be different, but it should be somebody who one, has a voice and the authority to get things done, and two, makes decisions and changes priorities. It also needs to be handed down from upper management as this is our mindset, this is our edict, this is what we’re doing as a corporation, so that they can always look back and say this is what this is, what we’re doing as a company, as a whole….it needs somebody to own it, and that owner needs to be known and held accountable.
Senior Executive Media: Why is building a go-to-market strategy especially important now in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Christina Del Villar: A go-to-market strategy has always been really critical and significant… Before the pandemic [the goal] was to do digital transformation, which was a two-month plan. It’s really important to think about what it is that you’re doing and what that strategy is, because everything that you do, and everything that every single person in your company does, should be in alignment with that corporate strategy. What I found was during the pandemic, we worked a lot more remotely and people just had different needs, different desires, different beliefs, and different ways of purchasing. All of this came into play, and it made companies realize that either they didn’t have a good market strategy, or they needed to update the go-to-market strategy that they had.
For those companies that think that they had a go-to-market strategy, a lot of them had trouble finding it. So they had to dig deep and figure out what that actual strategy was. I think some of the components to that are: Who owns that corporate strategy? If it’s the strategy that’s getting your entire company to those corporate goals, is that the CEO? But is the CEO, the one that’s actually going to implement it, being held accountable? Probably not. So then it gets delegated down to different layers. Sometimes it gets delegated out too far. It might be that everybody in an organization is responsible, but who at the end of the day is the true owner of that go-to-market strategy? People realized that they really needed to consider what that strategy was and align it with the customer journey and what the customers were asking for.
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Senior Executive Media: Tell me about some examples that you’ve encountered of companies that have successfully built and implemented a go-to-market strategy and any lessons learned.
Christina Del Villar: When I was at Oracle evaluating which products or solutions we should actually develop, they brought everybody together. It was a week-long process, everyone was in the same room, and it was everybody involved. Everyone from the sales team, the product team, engineers and folks from finance were there because they needed to understand how the solution was going to be sold and what quotas might look like. Lawyers were there, marketing was there, everyone was in the same room really deciding on which solutions we were going to sell, and then how they were even going to be bundled, what they were going to look like, and what features and functionalities were going to be in each of the packages. All of that was decided on together and that strategy was written up. Everybody knew what their roles were. For example, the folks that were in that room might not ultimately have been the ones who were selling it or marketing it. But they were the ones who developed that plan in that process going forward, who’s going to own it, which teams are going to be involved short term and long term, what the cadence was for review, who was ultimately responsible, and what those metrics were that we were going to be measuring against.
Senior Executive Media: How do you approach defining and measuring goals when working with an organization on their go-to-market strategy? Walk me through a project.
Christina Del Villar: I’ll go into an organization and I’ll ask them to give me their go-to-market strategy. Nine times out of 10, they hand me a sales plan. What is the overall strategy? Usually they find that they actually don’t have one, or it was written years ago when the company started, and it’s either irrelevant or they can’t get their hands on it. Then it’s just a matter of identifying how to bring the right people together in a room to have the conversation to rebuild what it is that we’re doing. You have many cycles within your business, so it’s okay to rethink the strategy. It might end up being the same strategy, it might be a different strategy, but it’s okay to reset.
You want to make sure that everyone who is going to be involved in the execution of that strategy across that customer journey is represented. It might be that whoever is responsible for the strategy will just put a stake in the ground and say: ‘This is what we’re doing.’ That’s okay, but everybody needs to be part of that strategy building in the first place. As you’re going along, what you’re really trying to do is understand what it is that the overall corporate goal is and what you’re going to be focused on, because what happens a lot of times is you end up just getting siloed, it’s just the nature of the game. Then with COVID, particularly with remote work, it exacerbated that. You need to find ways to bring people back together and keep people on track.
The other component is that we have passion projects. These are the things that you love doing. But are they connected to that strategy? Are they going to get you to that strategy in the end? And one thing that I always ask anybody on my team or anybody else’s team, when they say things like: ‘Hey, can we do this? Or can your team do this for me?’ I will literally ask: ‘How is this going to help us with our overall corporate strategy?’ If they can’t answer it, they have to go back and try to understand how it fits in, or we’re just not going to do it.
Senior Executive Media: Are there any company lessons that you mention in your book?
Christina Del Villar: [I worked with one company that shared their Objectives and Key Results]… There were 150 people in this organization, and there were 154 OKRs. You need to have one OKR, and you might have one or two within that, and that’s fine. But that basically, 154 meant that nobody was aligned with anything that they were doing. It was just a matter of helping people understand that we might not get to this particular project, or this feature functionality or this program, or we might not be able to invest in this, you might have to divest in that. Just making sure that everybody understood the main end goal to drive towards that.
Senior Executive Media: You’ve done a lot of work in Silicon Valley, and you’ve worked with industry legends from Larry Ellison to Elon Musk. What are some takeaways from those experiences that you think other executives could learn from?
Christina Del Villar: One thing that always struck me was determination. Elon Musk, his philosophy was that nothing is impossible, and I think that it’s a really interesting way to do things. There are so many companies and CEOs that are risk averse. He was like: ‘Well, let’s try it. Let’s see if it works. Let’s not even let’s see if it works. We can make it work.’ He was so adamant about it. But what he also did that I felt was different from other leaders that I’ve worked with is he then gave us the tools and the resources to make it happen. It wasn’t just, go build a rocket and not give you any tools to do that. He would make sure that you had what you needed, whether it was skill sets or resources or the help that you needed. I think that that’s just a really important lesson for all leaders… I’ve kind of lived with that philosophy that there’s nothing I can’t do.
From Larry Ellison…If you needed resources, or you needed something in order to make something more successful, literally, all you had to do is ask, and he would make sure that that got taken care of. Again, I think that goes back to some of the things that Elon did — not just saying, ‘yes, let’s do this,’ but setting you up for success. I really appreciate that.