You may know Aneel Lakhani, a long-time startup marketing executive, from his daily ritual of posting his morning coffee on Twitter. Often it’s from his Brooklyn apartment, but now that he’s not tied to a desk he’s often posting from remote locations. The morning coffee ritual is to get him prepared for his new job. He’s a Go-to-Market therapist for founders.
— Aneel ✊🏽 (@aneel) October 4, 2020
“Good morning America”
From Software Engineer to Software Marketer
Aneel is a computer scientist by training and spent the first part of his career as an engineer and product manager. Somewhere along the line, he recognized that he had a talent for transforming the complex into the simple. He then naturally gravitated towards the marketing side and became the first marketing hire for five different enterprise startups, including SignalFx which sold to Splunk for $1bn and more recently at Honeycomb.io.
Aneel recently took some time off to advise a handful of friends who were all battling with the same startup problem: the inability to clearly share the right message with the right user and close more deals. They lacked any kind of sales repeatability and were stuck in what David Sacks calls the Wilderness Period (which for top down enterprise sales can be much longer than bottom up SaaS sales).
Tell Me About your Childhood
Aneel is sitting on one of his daily Zoom calls from his apartment in Brooklyn (they span from Tokyo to Berlin on a typical day).
Aneel: “How can I help?”
Founder: “We have 5 killer use cases across 3 verticals and sort of 2 GTM strategies right now.”
Aneel: “And how’s that working out?”
Founder: “We’ve been stuck at $1m ARR for a year. Even though we’re adding a ton of value to our existing customers, VCs don’t want to invest as they say they want to see more velocity.”
Aneel: “Well of course, you’re selling into the largest companies in the world. Let’s think about what doing less would mean for your focus and for your team. In my experience, 1 use case and 1 persona equals a 10x story improvement and more clarity on the GTM focus.”
Failure is a result of not creating a product that customers are desperate for. The vast majority of our investments at Crane are in complex technical products that often take 6-18 months to sell into large organizations. So these companies often need a slightly longer runway (and patient investors who understand this).
Many founders (and investors!) worry about execution and metrics way too early. The most important thing to focus on is figuring out what your unique value is to customers and which customers need this problem solved today.
This is precisely where Aneel’s expertise around product marketing, positioning and storytelling come in.
The Uncomfortable Truths on the Path to Market
If building a product for large and demanding enterprise customers is a science, designing the go-to-market strategy is an art. Aneel recently shared his experiences bringing enterprise software products to market with the Crane community at our annual Flight Summit.
As Aneel often tells founders, “the customer story is more important than your story. Where is the pain in their story? What is the new story they’re going to live? How does your story transform their story?”
If we had to sum up the magic of what Aneel helps founders with, it’s narrowing their focus to the one thing that makes customers need them and then how to simply tell that story to the right end user.
We are beyond excited to welcome Aneel onto the Crane team as our newest Advisor.