Your company has poured its blood, sweat, and tears into building a new brand, creating a new service offering, or cultivating additional markets and customer segments. But all those efforts can go to waste if your organization does not plan for a successful product launch or service introduction.
Without thoughtful and strategic planning, it’s impossible to know whether you’re chasing after the wrong audience, you’re too late (or too early) in the market, or if the market is already oversaturated with similar solutions. To avoid these mistakes altogether, it’s important to craft a holistic, integrated go-to-market (GTM) strategy.
From startups to global brands to B2B business (and virtually any new venture you plan on launching), we’ll be walking you through everything you need to know to build a killer GTM strategy that bolsters performance.
What does a performance-driven GTM strategy look like?
Many people think a GTM strategy is all about the channels-to-market (e.g. paid search, social, direct sales, etc.), which is a key part, but it’s not the whole story. For instance, if you try to sell clunky, complex systems integration software to small businesses, you likely won’t succeed regardless of the channel utilized. This is because the product-market fit is misaligned, so the value proposition won’t resonate with your target audience. In fact, the number one reason startups fail is that they don’t have a product-market fit.
A holistic GTM strategy requires a deep and methodical understanding of markets, customer segments, channel strategies, offerings, value propositions, and a host of other enabling factors.
What it definitely is not is a quick-fix prescription for a current quarter pitfall; instead, you should focus on building a long-term strategy to decrease go-to-market costs, boost performance, and improve the overall customer experience.
The 4 components of an effective GTM strategy
Before we share our GTM strategy framework, here are four key components to get right, plus the questions you should be asking yourself before taking your ideas to market:
- Product-market fit: What problem(s) does your product or service solve?
- Target market/audience: Who is experiencing the problem that your product or service solves? How much are they willing to pay for a solution? What are the pain points and frustrations that you can alleviate?
- Competition and demand: Who already offers what you’re launching? Is there demand for the product, or is the market oversaturated?
- Distribution: What mediums will you use to sell the product or service? A website, an app, or a third-party distributor?
Your go-to-market strategy: a step-by-step guide
Here’s our step-by-step guide on how to successfully launch your GTM strategy, with guidance on how to iterate and optimize your plan as your company evolves:
Undoubtedly, one of the greatest strengths of a go-to-market strategy is its ability to determine whether or not your venture is feasible and will generate enough market interest to sustain production. This involves a thorough investigation of consumers, categories, competition, branding, historical learnings, and performance. Start with these first four steps:
- Identify your target audience: As cliché as it might seem, the first step when preparing your product for market is to consider your audience. By exploring customer options and selecting a single buyer or segment to focus on, you’re able to speak directly to a specific audience and avoid overgeneralization. Taking the time to get intimate with those customers’ needs, buying process, and sources of information will help you make educated decisions in other areas of your GTM strategy, including your messaging and channel plans. It will also enable you to keep the customer at the heart of every decision you make.
- Scope out the competition: Who are your competitors in the market, and how will they react to you waltzing in? A powerful go-to-market strategy must be flexible, constantly changing and adapting to the market. To succeed, you need a deep understanding of what the market looks like now as well as a pretty good idea of where it’ll be headed in the near future. What market trends are happening (or on the horizon) that will affect your launch and product success? Who are your main competitors, and how will they pivot to your launch? It’s also important to consider brands outside your immediate speciality that your customers love—because, ultimately, your competition includes any brand that delivers a best-in-class experience for your customers.
- Ensure a product-market fit: Ensuring your product or service meets a customer need or demand is essential. Enough people must both have a need and be willing to pay for what you’re offering—otherwise, even the cleverest marketing out there will not convince them. One way to help you gauge interest is by using a minimum viable product and getting pre-launch feedback through interviews, surveys, and testing to uncover your product’s strengths and potential weaknesses that can be addressed before going public.
- Leverage historical learnings: Historical analysis involves the study of past developments in marketing to inform current best practices. If you’ve run similar campaigns, or even campaigns tailored to similar audiences, you’ve already got some data to pull from. Don’t forget to look at your historical metrics to guide what will be most important for your go-to-market plan.
Your data is only as useful as your ability to understand and communicate it. Most companies sit on a wealth of information about their customers, partners, or products. However, many fail to use this information to gain actionable insights and a competitive advantage.
Too often, the data is siloed and inaccessible. Other times, the information is in different formats and cannot quickly form a clear, strategic path. This disconnect represents a clear missed opportunity. The first step toward change for any go-to-market leader is to bridge the information gap to uncover underlying truths related to how people think, feel, and act in relation to your brand or product. You can then draw conclusions that go far beyond basic observations and facts to address the challenges at hand. Here’s how you can get started:
- Consolidate and standardize disparate data
- To succeed in today’s cut-throat environment, marketers must break down the silos across departments, teams, and channels to have a unified view of the customer. By bringing data together, businesses are better able to understand and respond to their customer needs. Once data is structured around the customer, the next step is to measure and analyze across the full journey. That’s the beauty of having a data strategy—you can accurately measure marketing’s impact on your overall business, not just one product launch. And it gives all teams the same business-critical metrics to work toward.
- Share information regularly throughout the organization
- Avoid the temptation to hoard insights; instead, make sure you’re consistently sharing data across the organization and connecting insights to your platforms. This will help you build rich audience segments to create and deliver seamless, personalized customer experiences. Once you have a consolidated single source of truth, you’ll be able to 1) improve your team’s agility and flexibility, 2) communicate effectively with stakeholders and senior management, and 3) increase your go-to-market efficiency.
- Use technology to take your data to the next level
- Current technological tools allow you to elevate data gathering to the next level: artificial intelligence (AI) drives better decision making, machine learning improves effectiveness, and automation boosts efficiency. Simply put, all three help you accomplish more with less, which can ultimately help you enhance market research and deepen customer insights. Additionally, these new technologies are more accessible to the typical business leader than ever before.
Your strategy is formed by leveraging all of your gathered information and insights, and distilling them into a concise, inspired statement or framework. This serves as the directive for your ongoing media strategy. It may also be accompanied by a set of guiding principles on how your GTM strategy will be brought to life. Some of the things you should cover here include:
- Unique value proposition: What makes you stand out from the competition? Why would someone choose to buy your product/service over what’s already available in the market?
- Brand Positioning: Where does your product/service fit in the market? How do you want people to view you in relation to other products/service offerings out there? (i.e. you’re a “luxury Airbnb” or “a more streamlined, affordable version of Zoom”)
- Brand Messaging: How do you talk about the value you create? Don’t get overwhelmed here. It’s enough to just pick 3 pain points you solve for users or benefits you provide.
- Sales and supporting materials: What is necessary to support and sell your product/service? What resources, tools, and support do you need?
- Customer journey: How many stages are there in your customer’s buying journey, and what are the behaviors they take before and after purchasing? How much should people already know about you when they engage with the product/service?
- Personas: Who uses your product? What are their specific characteristics and behaviors? Try to narrow this down to one or two user personas, and don’t be afraid to get specific.
- Use Cases: How will those people use the product/service? How can you help them see the benefits and value of becoming a customer of your brand?
The goal is to paint a clear picture of where your new product sits in the market, and how you’ll talk about it. You’ll be going into more depth in each of these categories as you dive deeper into your GTM strategy execution.
This step involves identifying the ideal budget, media channels, partner selection, rationale, and flighting (including seasonality or key moments of receptivity) that will bring your GTM strategy to life. It may also serve to demonstrate the connections between all marketing touchpoints. This starts with:
- Goal setting: After you know who you’re marketing to, you need to start creating goals. These goals could be monetary or data-driven, but the end result should be the same: attracting a specific type of customer and being able to measure the results.
- Strategy alignment: Now that you have a specific set of goals, and data that aligns with what your ideal customer looks like, it’s all a matter of aligning these with your channel strategy. It’s about finding out who your ideal customer is, and engaging them on the platforms they’re already using. Through careful customization of targeting options, you’ll be able to boost customer acquisition across the funnel.
- Budget setting: After you create the initial roadmap for your go-to-market strategy, and an idea of what your target audience looks like, you’ll need to outline how much you’re willing to spend on each channel in order to reach them. There are a lot of ways you can go from here, such as splitting the spend equally amongst several channels and testing the results (raising the spend on the best performing platforms over time), or choosing to invest the bulk of spend on platforms that have already proven to be successful.
Your ability to execute is as important as your ability to plan—but it’s quite tough to do it well. This step involves laying out specific and detailed tactical plans for the channel strategy outlined in the planning phase, with a clear rationale provided for each recommendation.
It’s true that, in today’s marketing world, channel specialization will only take you so far. But channel experts are still an essential part of this process: they own their specific part of the overall game plan, and are responsible for translating the strategy into the channel-specific tactics you’ll need to deploy to reach your goals. We recommend the following tips:
- Rethink your engagement strategies: One of the biggest goals of your go-to-market strategy should be establishing and building relevance with your customers—and to provide them with value. It needs to focus on creating long-term, high-impact customer relationships that help boost bottom-line performance. Each element of your channel planning and activation should always be pushing your audience to specific, measurable outcomes.
- Test, tweak, and analyze: Digital marketing is always changing and re-defining itself in real time, and the work isn’t done once you go live. It’s equally important to monitor launch data to see what’s working and what’s not—keeping an eye on feedback to bring important information back to product and marketing teams. For instance, monitoring the demographics of your traffic can also help gauge if your targeting was accurate, creative performance can inform if messaging is succeeding, and reviewing sales by channel can help you determine if your distribution plan is working.
In order to comprehensively measure success, you must have alignment on the capture, orchestration, and analysis of real-time data. This may also include a learning agenda, testing roadmap, or optimization roadmap.
Start by deciding on key success metrics: what is the main purpose of this new product/service launch, and how will you know if it’s a success? Every go-to-market strategy needs a success metric—something you can look at and judge whether or not your product is doing what you wanted it to do. These metrics should be:
- Meaningful: Is it tied to a specific business goal that most people can agree on?
- Measurable: Is there a number attached to it or some way to quantify the results?
- Operational: Will you be able to quickly see the effects of your changes?
- Motivational: Is it something you and your team want to work on?
It’s a good idea to think of this in the same terms as OKRs (objectives and key results), a goal-setting technique popularized by tech giants like Google and Intel. With OKRs, the “goal” isn’t to hit 100% success every time, but to have an acceptable margin of success. This way, your teams are inspired to work hard, but understand that the best case scenario is just that.