Go-To-Market Growth Process for a StartupMarTech Podcast

This is part 1 of my interview with Benjamin Shapiro on the MarTech Podcast.

overview

There is nothing more important for a startup founding team to get right than their go-to-market strategy. I’ve seen too many mistake the hiring of a few sales reps and a marketing team, as meeting their go-to-market requirement.

In this interview, I share my simple but effective four-step process for building the demand generation flywheel that is essential for scale. This is part one of a two-part interview. In this segment we discuss:

  • Defining what Go-To-Market is.
  • Go-To-Market process for product expansion.
  • The validation process for identifying your market.
  • Four steps that drive the demand generation flywheel that is the engine driving every successful Go-To-Market strategy.
  • Why the demand generation flywheel is especially significant in launching a new product.

quotes

“Go-To-Market is a process that spans far more than just marketing, and that gets overlooked. I firmly believe that part of the reason why you see so many startups that fail is because they didn’t get the Go-To-Market piece right. There wasn’t a whole strategy and a framework for what the problem is that they are solving.”

“If you can’t say that you fully understand who your market is and what the problem that they are facing, then you have to start there because to execute the steps (there are four), you’re going to be talking in the wrong direction to the market or you’re simply going to be talking about a problem that your market is either not facing or don’t know that they have.” – Mark Donnigan

  • I have created the Demand Generation Flywheel. It’s a process that I developed that is based on the jobs-to-be-done framework by Clayton Christensen. It doesn’t matter where we are whether we are in a very high-touch sale or low-touch sale, the buyer needs to fulfill a particular job.

  • The first step is problem identification. So I have a problem, now I am going to begin exploring. How do I solve this? I’ve identified my problem, now I’m looking for a solution, so I do a requirements building exercise. Then I am assimilating all this and saying, where do I go and what do I do?

  • The second step is to educate the market. What is the problem that you are addressing and what is your point of view? A major part of developing a category is developing a POV. A point of view is a statement that someone can hear and quickly say, ‘yes that’s me.’ You need to educate the market so those that are your target will raise their hand and express interest in your product or solution.

  • The third step is to engage the buyer. This becomes an amplification of the second step and is the process of bringing them in with intentional engagement.

  • Step four is to convert the buyer so that they take the conversion step that we want them to. 

“In the B2B sales process, marketing needs to own the conversion process and follow the customer all the way through from cradle to grave because there can be upsell opportunities and the impact on customer success is very real.” – Mark Donnigan

“You need to look at these four steps as a flywheel because the ‘convert stage’ is not the end. You literally might be cycling around the steps with even the same person, taking them from ‘convert’ to ‘educate’ and back, because you’re not finished when you throw the sales qualified lead (SQL) over the wall.”

“The market doesn’t care about us or our cool solution. What it cares about is the problem that it solves. This is why the very first thing in a Go-To-Market strategy is to clearly nail what the problem is and then label it.” – Mark Donnigan

transcript

Narrator (00:04):

From advertising to software as a service to data across all of our programs and clients, we’ve seen a 55 to 65% open rate, getting brands authentically integrated into content performs better than TV advertising. Typical life span of an article is about 24 to 36 hours. We’re reaching out to the right person with the right message and a clear call to action. That it’s just a matter of timing. Welcome to the Martec podcast. A Ben J Shap LLC production in this podcast, you’ll hear the stories of world-class marketers that use technology to drive business results and achieve career success. We’ll unearth the real world experiences of some of the brightest minds in the marketing and technology space. So you can learn the tools, tips, and tricks they’ve learned along the way. Now here’s the host of the Martec podcast, Benjamin Shapiro. Welcome to the Martec podcast. Today. We’re going to discuss how to build a go to market strategy.

Benjamin Shapiro (01:08):

Joining us is Mark Donnigan, who is programs that produce real business results for early and growth stage technology companies that need help launching their first product opening a new market or scaling further and faster sustainably. And today, Mark and I are going to talk about his go to market growth process. This podcast is brought to you by morphia. Let’s call it what it is marketing. As we know it, like most things has been turned upside down this year. We’re all inventing new ways to communicate, evaluate, and monitor our marketing campaigns. And that’s where morphine comes in. Morefield learns how your business operates and predicts your future performance. Their platform detects anomalies gives insights and helps you optimize your marketing campaign. So you could start looking forward instead of spending your time evaluating your past performance. They have an audience segmentation tool that automates conversion analysis.

Benjamin Shapiro (02:05):

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Benjamin Shapiro (03:07):

Call Rail brings clarity to your marketing effort and improves your overall return on ad spend. If you’re ready to optimize your campaign, is it callrail.com to start a free trial? That’s C a L L R a I l.com. Call rail marketing attribution for businesses of all sizes. All right, here is my conversation with Mark Donnigan marketing and business growth consultant, Mark. Welcome to the Martec podcast. Hey Ben, it’s great to be here. So excited to have you on the show. We had a great conversation before we pressed the record button and part of it’s centered around. You’re an actual listener of the podcast. Thank you for being a member of our community.

Mark Donnigan (03:45):

Hey, you’re very welcome. I am an active listener. Really enjoy it. You bring so much value. So I’m really honored to be here. Ben,

Benjamin Shapiro (03:52):

It really is an honor and a privilege. We have a lot of guests that come on the show and most people are doing it to promote their products or services. Great to hear from somebody that’s here listening as well. You’re a business and a marketing consultant. I’ve been running a marketing consulting business for a couple of years. It’s on the back burner a little bit because this whole podcast thing that I started a couple of years ago, but I want to talk to you a little bit about your process. You are focused on big, go to market process. Talk to me a little bit about how you define what go to market.

Mark Donnigan (04:22):

My focus is primarily in technology oriented startups. And so mostly I’m working with, and I’m talking to founders who come out of product they’re engineers and they build something great. They have a great idea. They develop something really, truly innovative. And then they say, all right, we’re ready to sell it. Now let’s go get marketing. The problem is that go to market is a process that spans far more than just marketing and that gets overlooked. And I really firmly believe that a part of the reason why you see so many startups that fail is because they just didn’t get the go to market piece. And I really don’t believe that it’s because the product or the technology or the solution was not needed or valid, or it didn’t work. Of course, that can be a case for failure, obviously. But I think in too many cases, the go to market approach is just overlooked and maybe simplified. So what ends up happening is they run out and grab somebody. Who’s got some good marketing chops who knows how to run paid traffic and how to do all of the sort of blocking and tackling a marketing that might be required. But there isn’t a whole strategy and a framework for even what the problem is that they’re solving. Therefore you’re coming to market and it’s crickets. Nobody’s really listening to you.

Benjamin Shapiro (05:53):

What sticks out in my head that you said is people bring the marketers when the product is baked. And I think that there is a disconnect between how marketers think about marketing and what marketers think marketing is and what founders or engineers or non marketers think is. I think that the other half the non marketers probably think of marketing Morris, what we would think of as advertising, right? How do I spread the word of what my product is, as opposed to us marketers, think about the practice being about how do I understand who my customers are, what their needs are and how my product fills their needs. And then lastly, how do I get that message to them with the right reach frequency to drive conversions? Let’s do a little case study here because I want to go through your process. I’m going to be a little self serving.

Benjamin Shapiro (06:42):

So I apologize, but you’re a listener of the podcast. So hopefully this’ll help you and everyone else as well. That’s right. I talked a little bit about wanting to grow the MarTech community. And we’re thinking about, let’s say we’re going to grow a Slack community. We’re actually building it right now, but it’s an extension of our existing products. We have this audio content archive, and we’re trying to branch out into what would be a new product. Walk me through your go to market process for when you’re thinking about this type of product expansion, what, what are the steps that you would go through to validate that the audience wants it, put it together and actually make it work

Mark Donnigan (07:20):

For this case study, you already have a pretty clear picture of who your audience is, who the market is. And you also, probably in fact, I would say, because again, I’m an active listener to the show. You have a good understanding of what their needs are. So quote unquote, you know what we would say the problem is, and therefore what the solution is or you’re bringing to them and it’s this community. So those two things are really critical because not everybody has that. And so for the listeners who were thinking of their own situations, if you really can’t say that you fully understand who your market is and what the problem is that they are facing that your solution or your product or your technology is going to solve, then you have to start there because to execute the steps and really there’s four kind of basic steps that need to be followed to execute these. You’re either going to be, you’re going to be talking in the wrong direction, or you’re simply going to be talking about a problem that your market is either not facing or that they don’t know that they have.

Benjamin Shapiro (08:30):

Let me push back on it a little bit though. Actually the problem with the podcast medium, there are lots of benefits for being a podcaster, but the problem is you don’t really know who the audience is. I directionally have an understanding because I see who’s popping up on my LinkedIn feed, Mark guys, like you come on the podcast. Like I have a kind of a vague understanding of who the audience is, but in podcasts, there is no email subscription. I’m not onboarding anyone they’re going into the Apple app store. So I really don’t know the audience as well as I’d like to, which is one of the main reasons why we’re trying to build this community is to have a better understanding of who we’re serving. And I think that the other thing I’ll push back on is understanding the problem. I understand what the problem is for people having a need for MarTech related content. But the community is a different beast, right? People are going to be interacting with each other and, and I have to validate that there is a need. So the reason why I bring that up is when you’re thinking about your go to market strategy, you can make assumptions, Oh, I already know who the customers are. Oh, I already know what they want the product. How do you validate that stuff?

Mark Donnigan (09:39):

Let’s just look at the first step. So basically I have outlined that there’s really four main steps to follow, and I like to call it the demand generation fly wheels, so to speak. Now we can talk very quickly about a process that I have developed. And it’s really based around some work that was done years ago by Clayton Christianson, who was a very, very well renowned Harvard business school professor. And unfortunately passed away earlier this year, really great loss to the community, but he wrote a book called competing against luck. And what he talks about in this and the work that he laid is this jobs to be done framework. And what’s super interesting is is that whether we’re selling a community product, like what you’re planning to develop, or whether we’re selling seven or eight figure annual software licensing deals, or we have a $500 a month SAS product.

Mark Donnigan (10:37):

In other words, it doesn’t matter where we are, whether it’s a very high touch sale, a low touch sale, whether it can be done fully online or requires intensive. Multi-step lots of people involved in the buying process. It does not matter each one of those buyers for that particular sale needs to fulfill a particular job. And without going really, really deep on this, because gardener has done some excellent research and really defined it well, but let me articulate what these jobs are. And then we’re going to go through my process because it’s important to understand this framework. So give me the list of the jobs. So the first thing that the buyer’s going to do is they have to go through some process of problem identification. So in other words, I’m in pain now, what is that pain? Okay. So they identify that. So for example, for your case study, I’m a COO.

Mark Donnigan (11:30):

And I just feel like, I don’t know what my peers are thinking or doing. I’m giving my CEO all of this advice on telling them what we should be doing, but I’m not 100% certain. Okay. So that could be one problem right there. I’m still faking it until I make it. I’m faking it until I’m making it. And you know, what, if we’re all honest, I think at some point, regardless of where you are, if this is your third or fourth, run around the racetrack as a CMO, or it’s your first time or your VP of marketing, aspiring to grow, there’s going to be this. So I have a problem now I’m going to begin exploring how do I solve this? So I probably have friends, obviously I have my colleagues, but these people like work for me. And it’s a little weird for me to go to them and say, you know, even if I trust that, Hey, you know, these people could help me, like these are my employees, so I can’t go to them.

Mark Donnigan (12:23):

So I probably have some previous coworkers. So I’m going to start asking around, right? And I’m probably going to get told any number of things, go get yourself a mentor, go get yourself a coach. Hey, I worked with this person, boy. They really helped me. I’d be happy to refer you. So that’s kind of that mentor coach thing. Hey, join some consortium. It could be a marketing group. There could be startup focused. It might even be, Hey, go volunteer, go make yourself available as an advisor to start ups. So in other words, you’re gonna get all this feedback, right? So in other words, I’ve identified my problem. I’m looking for solutions. Then I’ve got to figure out, well, what is it I really need? So I do like a requirements building type exercise, and then I’m assimilating all this and saying, okay, where do I go? What do I do?

Benjamin Shapiro (13:11):

I understand the sort of need for people to have a professional network. And, and hopefully that’s the need that the MarTech community filling our example for how to build a go to market strategy. Phil’s you mentioned that there were four steps. Walk me through what those steps are to figure out the go to market strategy.

Mark Donnigan (13:28):

So the first is, you know, you have to capture market attention. And this is as simple as I need people to know about me. I need people to know about the MarTech community, right. Awareness that’s right. But it goes beyond that you could kind of stop there and it would be incomplete. You know, that’s sort of almost like branding, right? So, Hey, I think I’ve heard of you guys. I think I’ve heard of that, but it goes beyond that it’s explaining even what it is and why you need to exist. And that goes right into the second step, which is educate what is the problem that you are addressing? And what is your point of view? There was an awesome book written, I guess, about four years ago now called play bigger. And it’s all about category design and a major part of category design is developing a POV or point of view and a point of view as a statement that someone can breed or someone can hear you say, and they can say, yes, that’s me. Like their hand automatically goes up or they go, nah, that’s not me. And that’s the whole purpose is you want to educate so that those who are your target, who might be in your group or who might really have a need for your solution, will then immediately raise their hand and say, that’s me. And for those who don’t that’s okay too, because you need to get past those people. So you can get through to the people who say that

Benjamin Shapiro (14:49):

I’m going to throw a monkey wrench in this little bit. Why are those two steps in that order? I would think that, you know, when I think of branding, I think of, you got to figure out who you are and what you want to say. Then you have to go introduce yourself to your audience. You’re kind of flipping that around, let them know who you are and tell them your point of view.

Mark Donnigan (15:10):

I think what I have found, the reason why they need to be in that order is, is that before anybody’s going to pay attention to you, which let’s face it. If they’re going to listen long enough or frequently enough to get educated as to your point of view, they have to pay attention to you. You have to go through an exercise and you have to deploy tactics, which are very well known to initially cause them to even want to pay attention to you. So if I’m just publishing a whole lot of really, really interesting content about the value of community and about how so many CMOs are disconnected and case studies and interviews, that’s really great. But if I’m just scrolling past you on my LinkedIn feed, because I’m not paying any attention, then it doesn’t do anything. So the first thing is I have to say, Hey, this MarTech guy, he’s always saying something kind of interesting. And I want to even stop. Even if I just pause for five seconds or I just read the first couple lines of a status update or of something you put on LinkedIn, it’s causing me to make mental notes. So that then the next time that I’m exposed to content, I might actually click through and actually read your entire blog posts. Or I might actually watch the entire video.

Benjamin Shapiro (16:31):

So grab some attention, have a point of view that you’re expressing when somebody gets there, those are sort of the first two steps.

Mark Donnigan (16:38):

Absolutely. And then the third step is to engage. Now, engage is sort of the amplification of really the second step, because initially I’m sort of scrolling, I’m reading five seconds, right? Or I’m watching the first 30 seconds of video and then I’m clicking away. And then I’m beginning to, as I say, Hey, this is meaningful to me. I identify with this problem, identify with what this person is saying. This meets a need. Or this is where my head is at at the moment. And I’m engaging more. Now there’s an amplification. So now it’s a whole process where we want to bring them in to intentional engagement, where they have gone to the website. And maybe they’ve given us an email address. Maybe they have opted in, in some way for us to be even that much more direct, if you will even like in terms of direct response, to be able to communicate with them because the first two steps, like we don’t even know who they are. So it’s kind of like the problem you described, you have a download, but you have no idea who that download is.

Benjamin Shapiro (17:44):

The way that I’m thinking of it is somebody has seen your advertisement, right? You’ve served impression that has actually got their attention too. They are consuming your content, right? They are actually reading well, not just getting the impression, but reading what’s in front of them. And then the third step is okay, maybe that got to your website, right? Maybe they’re giving you contact information. That’s what I’m thinking of. When you’re describing engagement, they are educating themselves on what it actually means to be a partner customer take advantage of your product offering.

Mark Donnigan (18:17):

Absolutely. So from a tools perspective, what this can look like now is, is now of course, it’d be beautiful if they give us their name and their phone number and their email and all their information, but we know that increasingly marketers, we want their firstborn. I’m just kidding. Yeah, exactly. We know increasingly that getting that is just so hard and a lot of times putting up those roadblocks, it’s not worth it, even though you say gap, but that email is so valuable. Yeah. But if someone clicks away and they never want to come back to your website, then it probably wasn’t worth that email. So this is where running like HubSpot or Salesforce or Marketo with like Clearbit, for example, where you can begin, even if it’s just a pixel, even if it’s just a Facebook pixel or if it’s a LinkedIn pixel or it’s some other pixel that then you can maybe retarget them with content. So the point is, is now they’re both engaging with us, but we’re able in some way to engage back with them. And that might be at a very kind of rudimentary level. It could be retargeted content. So we’re paying to put that content in front of them, but we believe that it’s very specific to what their interest is and that they will engage with that.

Benjamin Shapiro (19:31):

So step one, you’re getting their attention. Step two, you’re having a point of view that brings them in, hopefully drives engagement. Now we’re on to step four.

Mark Donnigan (19:40):

Yep. Step four. Convert is where whatever that conversion step looks like for us, which might be getting their email address and giving us permission to opt them in to our list. It might be for them to sign up for a free trial. It might be even to pay for something that’s the convert step, but one of the important things, and I’m now going to step a little bit out of our case study and go more into kind of a B to B context, because I don’t want to lose this. I think it’s so, so important. Is it for marketing? It’s really easy to think in terms of MQL or SQLs. So marketing qualified leads or sales qualified leads. And the problem is, is that what ends up happening is we kind of think is our job being done as, Hey, we’ve walked into a process.

Mark Donnigan (20:28):

I can now show you through my marketing automation platforms and all my data telemetry that this how much someone’s engaged. This is where they’ve engaged. Hey, we have a hot one here. This is a hot SQL. My job’s done. And then marketing kind of goes on to start the process over. I do not believe that that is the right way, especially for a B2B sale that has a long buying process. I believe that marketing needs to own this conversion process all the way through, from glide cradle to grave, because there can be upsell opportunities. There can be customer success opportunities. And in other words, marketing’s job does not end either when yeah, we made that first sale. So Hey, marketing attribution to revenue, you know, we hit our number, yay for marketing, or we had enough SQLs. We threw over the wall, yay for marketing. It really needs to go all the way through. So that from the moment a customer first becomes our customer or engages with us on a process. That’s going to make them, our customer all the way to when they stop being our customer, that marketing owns that entire time, which in some businesses could be years, years, and years and years. And so I have a little bit of a, I don’t want to say contrarian view cause I don’t think anybody would fundamentally disagree with what I just said.

Benjamin Shapiro (21:49):

I think you’re, you’re highlighting a trend that’s been happening. And I think what we’re seeing it as in job titles, you’re saying companies abandon the CMO and they’re hiring CROs, chief revenue officers, which is really the merger of marketing and sales. And so the KPIs are shared amongst both of those organizations. That’s right. Going back to talking about the go to market strategy, you know, I think of it being a product launch you’re going into, Oh great. We have this product now. How do we understand who the customers are? And you walk sort of through the four stages of awareness, consideration, initial conversion sale. I know you had different names for them, but that’s kind of the four steps that I’m thinking through. Zach can be used as a set of four steps for really every marketer’s goal along the entire process, new product or old. What makes that the special process specifically for when you’re launching a new product?

Mark Donnigan (22:48):

So first of all, I want to make this comment, these four steps capture, educate, engage, convert. There’s absolutely nothing magic about that. Everyone was probably like, yeah, well that’s very straightforward.

Benjamin Shapiro (23:00):

It’s true. And it’s great advice for how to market

Mark Donnigan (23:03):

It’s great advice, but there’s one thing is that this is a flywheel. And again, what has changed so much as the buyer journey has gotten just incredibly fragmented and I’m speaking, I think it’s very clear, you know, my background and primarily I’m working in B to B typically pretty complex sales cycles. You know that in other words, this isn’t sort of self serve or medium serve SAS, nothing wrong with that at all. But this is where you need to engage. There’s probably a level of even some custom engineering there’s integration involved. So what ends up happening is the reason why you need to look at this as a fly wheel so that when you go through capture, educate, engage, convert, convert is not the end. You literally might just be cycling right back around with even the same person. Now you’re not going to go from step four to step one, because if they have fully converted, you don’t really need to capture their attention again.

Mark Donnigan (24:00):

But you probably would go from convert to educate. Because remember what I said is that you’re not finished when you throw the SQL over the wall. So at that point we might be trying to go for an upsale. There might be some adjacent business opportunity that we need to educate them on, or we want to educate them on. And I think that this is a little bit unique and it’s a very important way to kind of look at these four steps, which again, people are like, yeah, those are obvious. Everyone’s basically following that. They might call them different things, but you know, it’s the same steps. But in my observation, in my experience, what I’ve seen is, is too many marketing words are sort of following through is okay, check step one, two, three, four, all right, we’re onto the next client, the next customer, the next target, rather than saying, Hey, this is a flywheel. And I may even have to run this with 20 different people inside the same organization before I’m going to get the whole deal done. So that’s a very important distinction.

Benjamin Shapiro (25:00):

You’re saying that the buyer journey is not linear and that sometimes you’re going to have customers that you’re going to want to continue to market to whether it be to drive some sort of [inaudible] some referrals, upsells just retention. But when you’re doing something new and the flywheel hasn’t started moving, then what do you do?

Mark Donnigan (25:22):

The first thing is, unfortunately, the market doesn’t care about us. Doesn’t care about our coolest solution. What it cares about is the problem that we solve and the problem that we solve for them. But here’s where it gets really tricky. So this is why the very first thing and a go to market strategy is to clearly nail what the problem is and then how you label it. So you might have a particular technology that, you know, solves a certain need in the market. And usually it comes down to it solves it better. Maybe more efficiently doesn’t require as much compute power. Somehow it can do it just faster. And therefore that usually translates to a lower cost. So there’s a cost benefit. So it’s some version of better, faster, cheaper. So the temptation is to say, Hey, there’s already a reference there’s solutions or there’s people out there offering these solutions.

Mark Donnigan (26:21):

We’re better, faster, cheaper. We just need to say this louder and more frequently. And everybody’s going to come to us. What gets missed a lot is that that may or may not be perceived as a sufficient enough reason, this better, faster, cheaper for whatever this problem is for someone to switch from whatever it is they’re doing now to what you’re proposing. So this whole notion of defining the problem is so critical because it’s not just holding up, what is the standard practice of the day or the other competitive solutions than saying, Hey, here’s a performance graph to show how we’re twice as fast and we’re half as much. So why would you not use us? What gets missed is an exercise where you have to really dive into what that customer is doing to understand. Is there sufficient pain for them to switch from what they’re doing?

Mark Donnigan (27:15):

And in my observation, this is often where some of the initial assumptions about what market opportunities are or TAM popular. Hey, our Tam is this big. What gets missed is, is that yes, there are solutions in the market. Yes, we have a better technology, but the need is not so great for someone to switch from what they’re doing to ours. So what is just super, super critical is to identify the problem, to name it and then to go into the market with a very, very clear explanation. That is understandable. That’s simple. That’s easy to understand so that when somebody hears it, they can say yes to it.

Benjamin Shapiro (28:01):

I think that’s really, really important. And the first thing that I think about, and I mentioned this before marketing is not advertising. Before you start placing, I’m thinking B2C your Facebook ads, right before you start doing whatever advertising channel your outreach channel before you’re building the awareness.

Mark Donnigan (28:19):

Yes, none of that matters unless you know

Benjamin Shapiro (28:22):

Who your customer is, unless you know what the pain point is, unless you have a unique perspective on how you’re going to solve that pain. And really, you know, to me, the go to market strategy, the key to being success in the go to market strategy is the foundational work. It’s the homework that you do before you get into the outreach. You know, that that flywheel that you talked about, you got to go do your homework. You got to understand your pain, go do your surveys or your qualitative, your quantitative research. And the more you can understand who your customer is and how you could solve their problems, the better shot you’re going to have at actually reaching that market when you do get out there. And that wraps up this episode of the Martec podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Mark Donnigan marketing and business growth consultant in part two of this interview, which we’re going to publish tomorrow.

Benjamin Shapiro (29:08):

Mark and I are going to talk about engineering’s role in marketing for your go to market plans. If you can’t wait until our next episode, and you’d like to learn more about Mark, you can click on the link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes, you can also contact him on Twitter

 

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Mark’s contribution as head of marketing was foundational to our success. He gave Beamr a presence and impact in the market that provided the trust and exposure we needed to win business. Mark is creative, resourceful, a doer, and he knows how to lead a team to get the most impact. Mark’s cross-functional approach working with our head of sales and head of product ensured that we had brand, PR, and messaging unity across all our go-to-market.

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