It’s not easy being the new kid.
Going into the unknown is scary. If you’re like me, you have a backup plan for your backup plan. Your product is your business, and your business is you. You have poured your heart and soul into it, and now it’s time to get it out there into the world.
When the new kid on the block is a product you worked so hard to develop, preparation is a necessity. A go-to-market strategy is your key to turning uncharted waters into smooth sailing.
Does all that make sense? Great! Let’s dive in!
What is a go-to-market strategy?
A go-to-market (GTM) strategy is the plan that a company creates for launching a new product or service into its target industry.
Companies use marketplace software to create and manage how they go to market in the virtual space. Marketplace solutions offer the tools to host an e-commerce website, communicate directly with vendors and customers, build listings for new products, and seamlessly integrate payment mechanisms.
A go-to-market strategy determines your company’s product placement, messaging, pricing strategy, and packaging. You also need to determine who your customers are and the channels you use to reach them. An effective go-to-market plan includes industry awareness, lead generation, store penetration, value proposition, and customer loyalty initiatives.
Types of GTM strategies
- Sales-led: leans on salespeople to generate leads and spread the word about their company.
- Product-led: lets the product do all the talking by making it so irresistible that users instantly recognize the benefits.
Is my product going to fit within the market? Will people really buy it? How do I prepare? If you’re asking yourself any of those questions, creating an effective GTM strategy answers them all.
Go-to-market strategy vs. marketing strategy
Throughout this article, you’ll see many instances where the importance of a marketing strategy is stressed when preparing a go-to-market strategy. These two terms are often mistaken for each other but have very different meanings.
A go-to-market strategy focuses on preparing for every element of a new product launch plan. No two GTM strategies will look the same because they’re tailored to the goals of one specific product and the needs of that product’s target audience. A GTM strategy technically ends when the product hits the market.
A marketing strategy focuses on how a company utilizes specific marketing techniques to capture the attention of its target audience. Marketing strategies are always ongoing and ever-changing. They require a permanent marketing team to successfully carry out duties.
Some companies developing a go-to-market strategy will work with marketing strategy agencies to outsource elements of the process. These agencies usually collaborate with the company to ensure marketing materials are always up to date and that their strategies and efforts continue to be effective within the target market.
Elements of a go-to-market strategy
Quite a few elements make up a go-to-market strategy. Each one is as important as the next and requires a lot of research and planning.
- Market fit: The first step to developing and launching any product is determining if there’s a space for you within the target industry. Identifying this “market fit” means conducting extensive research and maybe even surveys and focus groups to find out exactly where your product fits in the big picture.
- Target audience: Your product is a solution to a problem. Who needs your solution? What does that person like to do? Where do they like to shop? Studying consumer behavior gets you closer to launching your product in the way that your new customer expects.
- Demand planning: You know your product fits within the market and that there’s a possible audience in there somewhere, but how are you supposed to prepare your GTM plan when you don’t know exactly how much demand to expect? Demand planning is an integral part of your strategy that defines demand expectations and adjusts supply accordingly.
- Competition: It’s rare to be the first person to do something these days. More than likely, your product has competition within the target market from the get-go. Learning more about competitors not only helps you understand some potential roadblocks ahead but identifies what makes your product stand out.
- Distribution: You can’t exactly go to market if you don’t go to market, you know what I mean? How you intend to actually get your product out there is super important. Are you planning to create a physical brick-and-mortar? Do you intend to set up shop on an e-commerce platform? The possibilities are endless, but your target market surely has a preference.
- Customer retention: You never want your first launch to be your last. Longevity is just as important as that first sales boom. Once you know that your product is a good fit for the market, you also have to figure out whether you can retain those customers in the long term.
When do you need a go-to-market strategy?
You may be wondering if you really need to create a go-to-market strategy. If you relate to any of the scenarios below, you need a GTM strategy to get things started.
Launching a new product into the current market
A company that’s launching a new product into the current market needs a go-to-market strategy that combines several elements such as pricing, promotion, marketing communications, and fulfillment.
Their objectives are to increase the awareness of the new product, convince potential customers to try it, sell more of it from the beginning, and achieve maximum profit. A disciplined go-to-market strategy takes a lot of the guesswork out of launching.
Re-launching an existing product into the same market
Re-launching an existing product into the same market but utilizing different messaging, a brand new distribution channel, or a marketing campaign that is not effective can be a disaster. Planning ahead is a necessity to avoid failure. To ensure that doesn’t happen, you need to have a new go-to-market strategy in place.
When a company is ready to relaunch, they’ve most likely spent the time to finetune the product. A product’s re-launch into the same market is successful when the existing customers know and like a product already. When the company shows exactly how much they’ve improved the product based on feedback, they thoroughly increase their chance of success.
Creating a buzz around the improved product is important because it builds awareness of your company among current customers and also attracts potential new ones. A strong GTM strategy makes that buzz a lot easier to achieve.
Entering a new market with an existing product
When a company enters or expands into new markets, how do they ensure that they’re delivering unique value for customers and positioning themselves as a new leader in the industry?
By developing a go-to-market plan that builds off of what already makes their brand great and setting clear expectations for how to win in these markets. Companies that have that built-in audience can utilize it to promote new ventures.
Testing a product’s potential for growth
Before making the investment in building additional products or developing brand awareness, you need to develop a go-to-market strategy. This scenario looks a bit different than your average GTM strategy because the company isn’t entirely ready to actually go to market. It’s hoping to gauge the possibility of success.
Determining whether growth is possible includes extensive research, market analysis, and testing to see if there is a need or demand for the product within the target industry.
Benefits of an effective go-to-market strategy
If you’ve come to the conclusion that you are someone who is going to need a strong go-to-market strategy, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Here are some benefits to show just how much your hard work can pay off.
- Enter the market quickly. If you haven’t gathered by now, a GTM strategy gets you into the market a lot more efficiently than the alternative of just jumping right into the deep end. Decreasing the time to market (TTM) allows companies to get a leg up on competitors and capture the attention of the target audience before the market gets too saturated.
- Stay on task. A strong go-to-market strategy framework has everything planned out in an organized and efficient manner. When the strategy is shared with all stakeholders and decision-makers, you can rest assured that everyone is on the same page and understands their role in the big picture.
- Avoid the repercussions of a failed launch. Putting yourself out there and failing is pretty embarrassing. Aside from the social perils, a failed launch is also very costly and time-consuming. Planning ahead prepares you for what’s ahead so you can handle any roadblocks along the way.
- Improve customer experience. The smoother your GTM strategy is, the better experience is for your audience. When customers have a strongly positive impression of a company, they’re more likely to invest time in providing feedback and constructive criticism to better the product. Responding to the feedback and using a GTM strategy to get improved products on the market faster increases customer satisfaction yet again.
- One-up your competitors. When you go through the process of studying how your competitors are performing within the target market, you’ll also notice where exactly they’re struggling to meet the wants and needs of their audience. Enter stage right: your product.
- Stay compliant. A GTM strategy helps to get all your ducks in a row and avoid legal risks that could not only slow down your TTM but stop it in its tracks. This includes acquiring licenses, locking down copyrights or trademarks, and managing contracts.
- Lay down the groundwork. Above all else, a strong go-to-market strategy helps carve out a game plan. It outlines what the product is going to be, how it will perform within the target market, and what changes need to be made after the findings are collected once the product is live. A GTM strategy doesn’t just help you go to market – it helps build a vision for the company as a whole.
Go-to-market strategy challenges
Not everything can be perfect. There are quite a few challenges that companies may face as they develop their go-to-market strategy.
- Not knowing your audience well is a death sentence for your product. Researching can be a grueling process but is absolutely necessary for your go-to-market strategy to succeed.
- The lengthy planning process can take up more time and money than a company is willing to budget for its GTM strategy.
- Ineffective customer profiles are a possibility, even with research and time spent studying the target market. Not all customers are created equal, so no matter how much work you put into understanding them, there’s a chance you may still miss the mark.
- Picking the wrong sales channel for your product can get you stuck in a rut. It also gets expensive to keep restructuring when things don’t work out. Companies that utilize an omnichannel strategy can allow their sales team to spread their attention out to different horizons at the same time. Focusing on an omnichannel supply chain method can be costly, but in the long run, it ensures your product is wherever any of your customers like to shop.
- The risk of overspending looms over companies as they work through their GTM strategy. Picking that wrong sales strategy, setting up in the wrong place, choosing an order fulfillment method that won’t do the job efficiently, or creating a marketing plan that doesn’t reach your audience means starting over. Every time you start over, so does your investment.
How to create a go-to-market strategy
Once you have everything in place, you’re ready to begin the go-to-market strategy process. The ten steps below outline exactly how to create an effective GTM strategy from beginning to end and beyond.
1. Choose the target market. If you’re starting to create a go-to-market strategy, you have more than likely already identified a problem within different industries. The right market for you is whichever one has a problem that your product can solve. Putting in the work to choose that perfect audience and product-market fit allows you to enter with confidence and a distinct purpose.
2. Study your customer’s journey. While most customers in a specific industry may have similar goals, each goes through a unique journey when deciding their final purchase. Companies should ensure they know who their target customer is by creating an ideal customer profile (ICP). An ICP should outline exactly who would be interested in your product based on known demographics. Where do they live? How much money do they make? What are their pain points? Most importantly, what solutions are they looking for? Collecting these customer journey analytics will also help with strategizing for the future.
3. Gather feedback. Can you think of anyone better to give you insight into your target audience than your target audience? A lot of companies start listening to their customers’ voices by conducting surveys, hosting focus groups, or just monitoring social media platforms and SEO data.
4. Study your competitors. Before entering a market, you have to determine who your competitors are and how your product differs. Some companies conduct a full competitive analysis to find out where they can fit in. Researching where competitors are slacking also gives you insight into what the audience is demanding. If you position yourself accordingly, you could be exactly what they’re looking for.
Tip: Your go-to-market strategy dream team should be made up of members who specialize in product marketing, sales, finance, customer success, and project management.
5. Identify your branding goals. Before you get out into the world, you have to organize how you intend to get noticed. This includes visual branding like colors, fonts, and aesthetics, and product messaging like how you plan to solve a customer’s problem. You may create different strategies for different buyer personas depending on their unique wants and needs.
6. Create a budget. You know what they say: you have to spend money to make money. Creating a strong but realistic budget is essential in carrying out everything you’ve planned thus far. Work with professional financial planners to lock down exactly how much you need to get the job done.
7. Explore all entry options. As discussed earlier, there are a lot of different ways to enter a market. You can create a physical store to connect with customers in person. You can build a virtual storefront to make buying your product as easy as clicking a few buttons. You could create a hybrid to serve clients near and far. Identify what your market’s preferred method of purchasing is and go with it.
8. Develop a strong marketing campaign. Marketing to your customer is an endless process. It includes finding where they hang out online and in real life. At this stage, you want to excite them about your product and its potential benefits. For the campaign, you may want to invest in content marketing to produce social media posts, webinars, case studies, and blogs. It all depends on where your buyers are and how they like to absorb content.
9. Get in there! At this point, you’ve developed a full-fledged go-to-market strategy tailored to fit the needs of your potential customer base. The market is recognizing your presence, and it’s up to you and your salespeople to finally get out there and start selling.
10. Collect data. Your go-to-market strategy doesn’t entirely end once you start making sales. Collecting data during and beyond the GTM strategy allows you to prepare for the future. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews and honest feedback. Every suggestion creates the potential to optimize your product.
Go-to-market strategy best practices
Jumping into the process of creating a go-to-market strategy isn’t easy, so keep some best practices in mind along the way.
- Lean into what makes your product unique. Customers don’t like copycats. When entering a new market, you want to show potential buyers exactly why they need your product. After studying your competitors, you can use marketing efforts to explain what makes your product different and better than the rest.
- Embrace adaptability. As much as you plan, you simply cannot prepare for everything. The key to staying above water while going to market is to go with the flow. A lot of trials and tribulations can come up at any stage of the process so being open to switching things up along the way is essential. Welcome change and move with the tides.
- Invest in marketing. No one will know about your product unless you capture their attention. Create a strong budget and plan for marketing campaigns to really get your name out there.
- Trust automation tools. When in doubt, rely on the right software to digitize different elements of your GTM strategy. Using software tools minimizes the chances of human error and bridges communication gaps.
Real go-to-market strategy examples
Every company has had to develop a go-to-market strategy at least once. And like anything, there are ups and downs. Here are real-life examples of successful and not-so-successful GTM strategies.
Go-to-market strategy success
Netflix is a huge example of getting in on a market at the right moment. Netflix started as a mail-order company that shipped DVDs to users. When companies like Redbox started offering rental DVDs on the spot with kiosks in grocery stores and malls, Netflix had to pivot.
They noticed a small rise in streaming services and decided to get in on the action. In 2008, they launched their unlimited video-on-demand system to existing customers. Different from streaming platforms like YouTube, Netflix offered high definition, popular content, and even went on to produce original shows and movies that users couldn’t find anywhere else.
Today, it boasts over 220 million subscribers. Even so, they continue to utilize GTM strategies in the form of incentives. Although their success could speak for itself, their “one-month free trial” gives skeptical visitors a taste of the platform. If they’re like me, they’ll probably get so sucked into a Netflix Original that they have to stick around.
Go-to-market strategy failure
Even the most well-known and successful companies can fail if they don’t strategize effectively. Pepsi ran into a bit of trouble when they tried to introduce a new product to a market that frankly didn’t want it.
In 1992, they launched Crystal Pepsi, a clear version of their popular cola. Pepsi assumed that the clear drink would come across as “more healthy” than the original and hoped that curiosity would pull people in. They even invested in a Super Bowl commercial to get the word out there. Why did they fail? Well, in this instance, Pepsi learned that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Crystal Pepsi was marketed as basically the same thing as regular Pepsi but colorless. Since the product didn’t offer anything that made it different besides a visual change, audiences had no problem ignoring it and sticking to the dark brown cola they know. In this scenario, Pepsi didn’t do the necessary go-to-market strategy research to determine if the market really wanted this product.
Jumping into something new isn’t a game. With so many moving parts involved, creating a go-to-market strategy can quickly become very overwhelming and time-consuming. But with the right tools and preparation, you can truly push your product and company to the next level.
Ready to start strategizing? Learn more about how to start identifying potential market opportunities.