How to Build a Go-to-Market Strategy: 7 Tips
Every business that strives for growth will find itself launching a new product or expanding into a new market sooner or later. While the prospect of widening your business’s reach is exciting, it’s imperative not to rush in without a plan. First, you need a go-to-market strategy.
What Is a Go-to-market Strategy?
A go-to-market (GTM) strategy is a business’s detailed plan for introducing a new product or entering a new market. An effective go-to-market strategy answers questions such as:
- Who is the target audience for the new launch?
- What kind of positioning will you use to appeal to your audience?
- How will you price the new product?
- What does the competitive landscape look like?
- Which distribution channels will you use?
Go-to-market strategies also commonly address factors like the timing of a new product release or the operational requirements of supplying the product to a new market. Developing a comprehensive plan before you take action can help you avoid common mistakes like launching your product in an already oversaturated market.
Go-to-market Strategy vs. Marketing Plan
Go-to-market strategies and marketing plans are cut from the same cloth — in fact, a GTM strategy is a type of marketing plan. Whereas your business’s general marketing plan outlines a strategy for marketing products throughout the whole product lifecycle, your go-to-market plan focuses solely on how you’ll market your product at launch. You can think of a go-to-market strategy as one piece of an entire marketing plan.
When to Create a Go-to-market Strategy
You need a GTM strategy any time you plan to launch a new product or expand into a new market. Here are a few examples of scenarios that require a go-to-market strategy:
Launching a new product in an old market
One of the most common scenarios is when a company launches a new product in the same market they’ve already been targeting. For example, a potato chip company might develop a go-to-market strategy to introduce a new flavor.
Launching an old product in a new market
Another time a business needs a go-to-market strategy is when re-targeting an existing product at a new audience. If the potato chip company in the previous example didn’t want to introduce a new flavor but rather wanted to start selling their current flavors in a new country, they would still need a go-to-market strategy.
Launching a new product in a new market
Sometimes, both the product and the market are new. A common example of launching a new product in a new market is a tech startup launching a new app that doesn’t match any existing software category. When you’re dealing with a new product and a new market at the same time, you need a go-to-market strategy more than ever.
How to Build a Go-to-Market Strategy
Every go-to-market strategy is different (if there was only one correct strategy, you wouldn’t need this article, would you?). Your go-to-market strategy should be tailored to the specific product and/or market involved in the launch you’re planning. This means that you will need to develop a fresh go-to-market strategy for each different launch or expansion.
You can use these seven steps to guide your process each time you need to create a go-to-market strategy:
1. Define your target audience
Understanding the customer is one of the most essential aspects of any go-to-market strategy — that’s why the first step on the list is to identify which customers you’re targeting. Consider the following characteristics to help you describe the group of buyers you want to target:
- Problems - What problems do your target customers experience that your product solves? The answer to this question should be a primary influence on the way you position your product for the first time.
- Demographics - What do the individuals you’re targeting have in common? Is there a common age range, income level, education level, or another defining attribute you can use to describe them? You should also consider the industry your product belongs within, especially if you’re marketing a B2B product.
- Location - In which geographic locations are your target customers located? Cultural and language-based factors should play a role in how you position your products.
- Budget - How much money is your target audience typically willing to spend on your products? Understanding your ideal customers’ financial situations will help you determine how to price your product.
- Decision factors - How do your target customers make decisions about which products to purchase? Do they listen to recommendations from friends and family? Do they see ads on social media? If the customer is a company, which role at the company is the primary decision-maker?
2. Research the competitive landscape
Unfortunately, your business and your target customers are not the only two parties involved in a given market. You also need to consider the influence of your competitors. What other businesses are targeting the same audience with similar products? Be wary of trying to launch a product in an oversaturated market. Even if demand is high, there may already be too much competition. Where there’s still room for your product, studying your competitors further can help you determine the best way to make your product stand out.
You can also use the competition’s successes and failures to inform your own strategy. For example, in which geographic areas do your competitors’ products sell well? Are there demographics numerous competitors have tried and failed to reach?
3. Define product positioning and price
The way you position your product dictates your potential customers’ automatic perception of it — especially in relation to other products like it. For example, Trader Joe’s positions their stores as friendlier, more affordable alternatives to supermarkets like Walmart or Kroger. Once you’ve researched the competitive landscape, you can identify something uniquely valuable about your product and use it to your advantage.
You also need to decide how much you’ll charge for your product. This decision depends on a multitude of factors like the value of the product, the geographic location of the market, the average income of your ideal customer, and more. Aim for a price that balances profitability with market perception; you don’t want to give your products away, but you also don’t want to create the poor first impression that your products are unreasonably expensive.
4. Explore entry options
Next, you need to decide how you’re going to start selling your product. Will you open a physical store? Add a product to existing stores? Partner with a distributor who will stock your products? Or maybe you won’t be selling your product physically at all, and instead you’ll set up an online store. If you’re selling a SaaS product, customers may simply subscribe to a platform or download an app directly from your website. Determine which of these formats makes the most sense for the product you’re going to begin selling and the market in which you’re going to begin selling it.
5. Outline the buyer’s journey
Mapping the journey your customers take on the way to a purchase decision can help you position your product to appeal to them at pivotal moments. The buyer’s journey is usually visualized as a funnel that encompasses three stages, beginning at the top and ending at the bottom. Your goal should be to customize this funnel to describe your ideal buyer’s specific journey as they consider your product in particular.
Top - The customer has a problem that they don’t know how to solve, so they begin to research possible solutions. At this point, you want the customer to know your product exists and belongs on their list of options.
Middle - The customer starts comparing potential solutions to narrow down their choices. At this point, you want the customer to see that your product is better than all the other options they’re considering.
Bottom - The customer concludes your product is the best and is now weighing the value of committing. At this point, you want the customer to recognize that your product is not only the most effective solution to their problem, but also worth the price (including both financial cost and effort required).
6. Create a sales strategy and supporting materials
Positioning your product effectively will make it more appealing to customers, but you still need a sales strategy to actually get them to buy the product. Ultimately, your go-to-market strategy should empower your sales team to hit the ground running with the new product or in the new market with as few growing pains as possible. You can use all the research that’s gone into your go-to-market strategy up to this point to train sales representatives on the techniques and talking points that will work best for the new launch. Then, you’ll need to develop the right materials to match your sales strategy, like product pages, blog posts, case studies, product demos, and more.
7. Define success metrics and refine your strategy with data
After you’ve put your go-to-market plan into action, you’ll surely want to measure whether or not it was successful. There is no single definition of a successful launch. It’s up to you to define success for your business’s specific GTM strategy. You can do this by determining an objective (or set of objectives) for your go-to-market strategy and tying those objectives to relevant, measurable metrics. For example, if you’re an app developer and your goal is to increase the size of your user base, you might define success based on the number of new users who download the new app within a certain period of time after launch. By tracking your chosen success metrics, you can course-correct your go-to-market strategy if you are not seeing the desired results.
Getting Started On Your First GTM Strategy
Developing a thorough go-to-market strategy is the best way to ensure a successful product launch or a smooth transition into a new market. Even if you don’t have much experience creating a GTM strategy, any preparation at all is much better than none. Customizing the seven steps we’ve outlined in this article is a great place to start. If you feel you need more guidance, consider asking a mentor to help you develop your plan further. Mentorship is one of the best ways for entrepreneurs of any experience level to hone their skills, improve their businesses, and make connections.