A go-to-market strategy is a way in which a company brings a product to market and generally speaking touches on three core components: your target audience, marketing plan, and sales strategy.
Every product and market’s different, which means every GTM strategy is unique, so with no blanket template in place, what have experts in the area learned when applying a strategy at their respective company?
As well as explaining how to build a go-to-market strategy, we’ll be bringing you expert GTM advice from:
- Priyanka Srinivasan, Director of Product Marketing at Qualia
- Michael Olson, Director of Product Marketing at New Relic, Inc.
- Holly Watson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Amazon Web Services
We’ll pick the brains of this trio of go-to-market experts, and explore:
- The essential elements of a go-to-market strategy
- If company size influences a go-to-market strategy
- The role of a go-to-market strategy in customer retention
- How to explain a go-to-market strategy to key stakeholders
How to build a go-to-market strategy
Step 1: understand your customers
First, you need to understand your target customers, i.e. your decision-makers and personas. If you don’t know the problem they’re trying to solve, it’s impossible to provide a solution.
According to Harvard Business Review, there are 6.8 people per B2B purchase involved in each B2B purchase process. Needless to say, it’s a pretty hefty number for one sale, but if you plan properly, you’ll charm them into buying your product in no time.
Let’s check out each person involved in the cycle, and their respective role:
Sometimes, job titles may have multiple roles. For example, your approver could also be the user, the initiator could also be the buyer, etc.
These positions aren’t set in stone and can vary from product to product and industry to industry.
If you’re in a B2C setting, this principle won’t apply. However, the customer ends up filling all seven roles - they hear about your product, they’ll be the ones using it, they convince themselves they need it, they decide whether to buy it, they’re in charge of their spending, they push the final button and they can talk themselves out of the purchase.
Top tip: be proactive
Call a team meeting and discuss which job titles apply to your product and market.
When you’ve identified those who hold particular relevance, it’s time to dig even deeper and get a more thorough understanding of what they do, what their goals are, and perhaps most importantly, what their pain points are.
Your product or service will be addressing what they perceive to be shortcomings in the market. So be sure to complete this research in-depth; if you rush, you could miss key information and create a go-to-market strategy that doesn’t address the full extent of your personas’ requirements.
Let’s put some meat on the bones and check out an example, where the product is a cloud phone system. After considering the role of each person in the cycle, it should look something like this:
Using the goals and pain points identified, you’ll be able to create the grand-daddy of messaging and strategies, and we’ll be treating you to an explanation of how to do this next.
If you’re a newbie to this process, here’s how to create buyer personas.
Step 2: messaging
Buyer personas? Check. ✅
Understanding of aims and pain points? Check. ✅
Now, you need to take your findings and create market messaging, like this:
Once you’ve done that, you’ll have to do it again for each of your personas.
Granted, it may seem a little repetitive, but you must get this spot on, so don’t rush it; one piece of incorrect messaging can lead to your company losing hundreds of sales, so take your time.
Step 3: message testing
Once you’re happy with your messaging, put it to the test and roll out some sample ads. You might decide to post a video on Twitter or run a PPC ad campaign.
Whatever your choice, now isn’t the time to dabble with the unknown; use something you’ve had previous success with. That said, it’s also important not to hamper future opportunities by focusing on your previous successes. There is a wealth of options available when marketing a product, so by all means explore, but only when the time is right.
Making a minimal change to how you deliver your messaging can have an overwhelming effect on your results. Consider:
- Platforms - In-app, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, TV, YouTube channels, etc.
- Target audiences.
- Content types - Video, text, images.
Irrespective of which methods you decide to introduce, it’s essential you track your progress. If something isn’t working - pull the plug. If something’s successful, don’t try fixing something that isn’t broken.
When you’re tracking metrics, patience truly is a virtue. If something isn’t working 24-hours in, don’t abandon the process too soon. However, don’t wait too long, as your time could be spent better elsewhere - it all boils down to timing and common sense.
You can gain more traction by targeting your material to specific audiences, focusing on job titles, genders, job roles, and so on.
Step 4: understand your journey
You need to understand the customer journey and your path to navigate your way to the final location.
First, we’ll focus on understanding the buyer's journey, before moving on to how to understand your own.
The buyer journey’s straightforward and the majority of the time will look like this: buyer uncovers a problem, buyer researches solution, buyer shortlists contenders, buyer discusses contenders with relevant teams, the buyer makes a decision.
However, complications can arise when we look at the journey from a non-consumer perspective, with many orgs using this marketing funnel as a guide:
Let’s have a look at how things work at the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel.
Create a funnel that’s tailored to your business’ lead generation and sales qualification process.
Consider how you can enhance your opportunities at the awareness and consideration stages and plan how to communicate with your sales teams to ensure the conversion stage is optimized.
Step 5: strategize
With all the necessary elements in place, it’s time to put them together and create your go-to-market strategy.
During this stage, there’ll be certain things dictating your strategy including:
- Market size,
- How your sales cycle works.
Consult your budget, revisit the points made so far, have your product positioning as a reference point, and answer the following key questions:
- Which channel was most effective during testing?
- Were some messages more impactful than others?
- Which channels didn’t work?
- Did certain target audiences get more traction than others?
- When in the cycle does a prospect qualify as a lead?
- How do prospects prefer to be communicated to?
- How can we help the sales team get more conversions?
- What can we do to remove the ‘gatekeepers’ uncertainty?
- What assets do we need to produce to target certain stages of the funnel?
Providing you do everything right, this will give you a clear-cut indication of:
- Ideal channels to use for your marketing
- Which messaging to use across each channel,
- Who your target personas should be,
- Whether they prefer to be spoken to in-person, over the phone, via email, etc.,
- The resources and contingencies you need to put in place for your sales team,
- The content you need to generate.
Communicate internally to align expectations and create a timeline to keep a rein on things and prevent anything from slipping under the net. This can be simple like our example below:
Step 6: write your content
Irrespective of whether it’s going to be sitting within the product marketing department itself, or marketing, you need to create a bank of content to help you create a successful go-to-market strategy.
Step 7: always measure success
So, there you have it! You have your GTM strategy in place.
But before we clip your wings, remember: you need to have an idea of how to measure success. Your hard work is pointless if you can’t clarify whether it’s been successful.
Set high, yet attainable goals to ensure you can track your performance consistently. If things aren’t working, don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate.
Look after the numbers, and the numbers will look after you. If you ignore them, you could turn your dream product into a nightmare.
Expert go-to-market strategy advice
Essential elements of a go-to-market strategy
Priyanka Srinivasan, Director of Marketing at Qualia is a highly skilled practitioner and was named among the top 50 Product Marketing mentors in 2021.
She’s earned her GTM stripes at the likes of Twitter and Gainsight and shared her perspectives on what she considers to be essential for a successful go-to-market strategy, and whether company size can influence the process.
Q: Go-to-market forms a huge part of your role. What do you think product marketers need to consider to nail their go-to-market strategy?
A: This is probably harking it a little bit back to my consulting days when good research methods were essential.
With strategic consulting, you're talking to industry experts, you're doing a lot of secondary research, you might do primary research in the form of surveys, you're collecting a lot of information to form a perspective on a market and how fast it's growing, the dynamics, where there's an opportunity and things like that, and then you advise your client.
I think it's similar, honestly, it's almost the same thing when it comes to go-to-market strategy. Certainly within Qualia, and broadly, at any company I've been at, to be good at go-to-market strategy and positioning and product messaging, you have to know the space well.
So I tell everyone on my team the things you should be doing are understanding the market that you're in, how fast it's growing, who the customers are, how to segment customers, are there any nuances about these different segments of customers that we should be aware of?
We also consider which we are best positioned to go after based on where we are today and where there's an opportunity. Add to that, you need to consider the other competitors in the market. All of these things are important to understand where we should go in terms of the product, the company and how we position the messaging, and what's going to resonate based on what we know.
Talking to customers, prospects, and testing messaging is an important piece of that. I think a lot of times, organizations can look at product marketing, and it can just be this receiving line from a product where you just slap some positioning and messaging on it, and then you bring it to market. It's very ‘playbooky’, that's just what you do.
I don't think that is what we do at Qualia and that’s one of the things that sets us apart, and it would set apart any go-to-market organization, is where we push ourselves to understand the market well, and what other folks are doing that are already in the market. That has helped us a lot.
Does company size influence a go-to-market strategy?
Before her role as Director of Marketing at Qualia, Priyanka Srinivasan was Manager of Business Operations at social media giant Twitter.
During her time at Twitter, Priyanka led go-to-market strategy for several products including Twitter Video, Twitter Audience Platform, and Twitter Customer Service, and was a member of a small, high-performance team that reported into a Chief Operating Officer.
We asked if she could see a tangible difference in how GTM is executed at companies of varying sizes:
Q: One company that immediately stands out on your CV is Twitter. Did you find the execution of the go-to-market process differed there in comparison to smaller companies you’d worked at previously?
A: I think in a lot of ways, what you'll find at companies is no matter what their size, you'll see the same sorts of principles around the teams. You have a sales team, you have a sales ops team, you're gonna have product marketing, you're gonna have demand gen, you're gonna have sales enablement, all these things you're going to have in most companies, especially in the SaaS world because things feel very ‘playbooky’ in SaaS.
I do think concerning my role at Twitter versus today, it is very different, being at a massive, massive company like that, like a Twitter, Facebook, or a Google versus being at a smaller company, because at a smaller company I see everything end to end, and I get to own a lot of things end to end.
Whereas when you're at a bigger company, you're in one slice of it, whether that's just working on one product only, or even just one specific project in, concerning one product. And so from that perspective, you don't get to see this full end-to-end thing.
When I moved over to Gainsight, I think this was the first time that I saw how everything fits together, like systems thinking kind of way, and that was helpful for me. I think you get different things from different companies, I think it's good to have experience of a larger company so you just know what that feels like.
But I like to see the entire system, and I like to have a hand in it. So I think, being at companies the size of Gainsight, or Qualia, where I’m at today, is kind of my sweet spot.
How can a go-to-market strategy support customer retention?
Michael Olson, Director of Product Marketing at New Relic, is also a PMM with a penchant for executing awesome go-to-market strategies.
A product marketer with over a decade in the industry, Michael has a breadth of experience, specializing in a range of areas such as positioning and messaging, go-to-market strategy, market analysis, sales enablement, and mentoring to name a few.
He gave his indispensable viewpoints on how role go-to-market can support customer retention:
Q: The customer buying process is not only centered on converting a prospect, but it's also about customer retention and trying to grow your brand and your customer base. As a product marketer with experience in creating and implementing go-to-market strategies, what principles do you apply to successfully guide people through the funnel?
A: I think product marketing plays a pretty instrumental role in every stage of the customer buying process or the customer journey. If you break it down into three main stages - top of the funnel, how do we drive reputation and awareness for our company to not only create the perceptions of our company in the market that we want to create but drive things like share our voice?
Product marketing plays a supercritical role in defining the positioning and messaging for your company. From a demand creation perspective there, is more middle of the funnel, product marketing is instrumental in enabling sales teams with the tools, the training, the sales messaging, the playbooks that they need to move prospects through a buying cycle. And then more bottom of funnel focused on customer adoption and advocacy.
I think increasingly for B2B companies that operate on either software as a service model or operate with sort of a renewal-based licensing model, that becomes more important than ever. Product marketing has an important role to play in driving successful adoption, usage, and advocacy of the products that we represent and shepherd as PMMs.
That means doing things like providing seamless customer onboarding content that enables a customer that your sales team signs to be able to quickly get up and running with your products, to see value quickly, to articulate how your products enable the jobs to be done that customers have and clarify the use cases in which your products can be most effectively used.
But it also means things like arming customer success teams, or sales teams that are responsible for renewals, and upsell and cross-sell opportunities with the tools and the training and the material and the messaging that they need to facilitate those types of opportunities, to make existing customers stickier and make them more likely to not only renew but to expand their relationship and their usage of your products over time.
I think this idea of the expanding marketing funnel is something that we've been talking about in our industry for a decade. And it holds that the job of a product marketer doesn't stop when a deal gets signed, it requires more of a holistic view as to once we acquire a customer, how do we expand that relationship and grow advocacy and loyalty over time?
How to explain a go-to-market strategy to key stakeholders
Go-to-market strategies require a lot of effort; product marketers who have been involved in the process will know how stressful they can be. But while PMMs know this, stakeholders can misinterpret and misunderstand the GTM process.
Holly Watson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Amazon Web Services and host of our specialist go-to-market podcast series Ready, Set, Go-to-Market, outlined how to explain your go-to-market strategy to primary stakeholders and introduce a GTM for all.
How to improve your go-to-market strategy
Before you can begin thinking about introducing a go-to-market strategy befitting your company, you need to understand the principles and best practices of the craft.
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