Beyond the Customer Acquisition Funnel: New mindsets for GTM in the Web3 Era
Every company faces some version of the “cold start problem”: How do you get started from nothing? How do you acquire customers? How do you create network effects, where your product or service becomes more valuable to its users as more people use it, that create incentives for even more customers to sign up? In short, how do you “go to market” and convince potential customers to spend their money, time, and attention on your product or service?
The response by most organizations in web2 — the Internet era defined by large centralized products/services like Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and Twitter, in which the vast majority of value accrues to the platform itself rather than to the users — is to invest significantly in sales and marketing teams as part of a traditional go-to-market (GTM) strategy that focuses on generating leads and acquiring and retaining customers. But in recent years, a whole new model of organization-building has emerged. Rather than being controlled by corporations, with centralized leadership making all decisions about the product or service, even when using consumers’ data and free, user-generated content, this new model leverages decentralized technologies and brings users into the role of owners through the digital primitive known as tokens.
This new model, known as web3, changes the entire idea of GTM for these new kinds of companies. While some traditional customer acquisition frameworks are still relevant, the introduction of tokens and novel organizational structures such as decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) requires a variety of go-to-market approaches.
The catalyst of new go-to-market motions: tokens
The concept of the customer acquisition funnel is core to go-to-market, and is very familiar to most businesses: going from awareness and lead generation at the top of the funnel to converting and retaining customers at the bottom of the funnel. Traditional web2 go-to-market, therefore, attacks the cold-start problem through this very linear lens of customer acquisition, encompassing areas such as pricing, marketing, partnerships, sales channel mapping, and sales force optimization. Success metrics include time to close a lead, site click-through rate, and revenue per customer, among others.
Web3 changes the whole approach to bootstrapping new networks, since tokens offer an alternative to the traditional approach to the cold-start problem. Rather than spending funds on traditional marketing to entice and acquire potential customers, core developer teams can use tokens to bring in early users, who can then be rewarded for their early contributions when network effects weren’t yet obvious or started. Not only are those early users evangelists who bring more people into the network (who would like to similarly be rewarded for their contributions), but this essentially makes early users in web3 more powerful than the traditional business development or salespeople in web2.
As the web3 ecosystem continues to grow and evolve, it is important for organizations to consider the unique needs and motivations of their stakeholders when developing their go-to-market (GTM) strategies. While traditional GTM approaches, such as sales and marketing efforts, are still relevant for some web3 organizations, the introduction of tokens and decentralized structures like DAOs requires a more diverse range of approaches. This can include community building, decentralized crowdfunding, and other tactics that cater to the unique needs of web3 stakeholders.
It is also worth noting that the web3 GTM matrix presented in this article is not exhaustive, and there may be other factors at play that influence an organization’s GTM strategy. For example, the type of product or service being offered, the target market, and the stage of development may all play a role in determining the most effective GTM approach.
Ultimately, the key to successful GTM in the web3 era is to understand the motivations and needs of all stakeholders, and to craft a strategy that aligns with those needs. Whether through traditional marketing and sales efforts, community building, or decentralized crowdfunding, web3 organizations that are able to effectively communicate the value of their products and services to their stakeholders will be well-positioned to succeed in this rapidly evolving ecosystem.