A strong go-to-market (GTM) strategy is vital to ensure that your product is being sold correctly and effectively to your target market.

It also protects your company from using up valuable resources on a product that isn’t ready to launch, or won’t make a significant impact on the market.

In this article, we’ll discuss the most important elements of a successful go-to-market strategy, including:

What is a go-to-market strategy?

A go-to-market strategy is a multi-step plan that an organization puts in place to show their customers the unique value of their product to competing ones on the market. Ultimately, the goal is to optimize the customer experience by creating an invaluable product that they can’t get elsewhere.

The creation of this strategy relies on multiple factors, like customer intelligence, market research, and brand development, and requires a lot of focus and effort to get right.

Tune into the Ready, Set, Go-to-Market podcast series where Holly Watson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Amazon Web Services, teams up with many leading experts to discuss the intricacies of the process.

Questions a go-to-market strategy should address

Jeremy Castile, Senior Director of Product and Alliance Marketing at Docker, is a GTM expert, and shared how to optimize your go-to-market strategy, advice for overcoming common challenges and mistakes, and much more.

Q: What are the most important questions that a go-to-market strategy needs to address?

A: “How you approach go-to-market depends on a number of factors: which industry you're in, whether you’re part of a consumer-facing business,, or whether it’s more practitioner-based, like tech. What industry you're in helps dictate what your go-to-market should be.

“The other thing to consider is go-to-market starts long before you begin strategizing for a new product. I think some of the key questions that you want to ask early on are ‘have we done our market research?’, ‘Do we understand what the market needs?’, ‘What are the competitive dynamics?’, and ‘Are we clearly defining the persona?’

“You also need to consider the challenges, and pain points your product solves, and how you’ll define your personas to reach your target audience. For instance, Is the messaging clear and compelling? Does it have a strong story?

“I like to use the term bill of materials or bomb. So anytime you're looking at a GTM strategy, are you building out the right components that fit with this type of go-to-market strategy?

“It’s also fundamental to establish whether you’re using the right sales enablement, tools, capabilities, and training, things like that built out? There are so many different components to this strategy, it's very broad.

“You have to start  at the highest level and then drill down depending on what market you're in, your key persona, what target you're going after, and then craft your go-to-market strategy based on some of those factors.”

The difference between go-to-market and product launch

Q: How do go-to-market and product launches differ? Are they two separate entities entirely or are there similarities?

A: “I think they are two totally different things but there's some overlap.  A go-to-market strategy could be anything up to and including a product launch, but GTM could also be entering a new geography, taking existing products and features, and entering into a new market.

“It could be the introduction of a new pricing strategy - you see companies do that all the time. And that requires a whole go-to-market motion. If we're going to change our licensing, or we're gonna change our pricing, that's not a product launch, necessarily, but it definitely falls under the bracket of go-to-market.

“You have to do all the things you would do for go-to-market, you have to do all the sales enablement. It could be entering a new industry, going after a different vertical, or even new partnerships, thinking about new strategic partnerships, better-together stories, those are all go-to-market motions that are different from product launches.

“Product launches are just that; it’s a product launch. We've got a shiny new thing and we're bringing this to market and we're doing all the things to tell the story about this new product. So they do have some overlap but they're definitely distinct in terms of go-to-market versus a product launch.”

A visual guide to product launches
A product launch is one of the most exhilarating parts of being a product marketer; seeing an idea develop from an initial concept to a fully-fledged product is exhilarating - but it’s not without its challenges.

The most important components of a GTM strategy

Q: Irrespective of whether or not you're B2B, B2C, or SaaS, every product marketer wants the same thing and that's a successful go-to-market strategy. What would you consider to be the most important components of an effective go-to-market strategy that ticks the essential boxes?

A: “My experience and perspective come from the tech industry, but I do think you can apply it to other domains, for sure. In terms of go-to-market strategy, the process starts early.

“A good go-to-market strategy doesn’t start 30 days before your product launch is due, it starts early, and you need to work with your product teams and the engineering folks... and PMMs should be strategic. They should be involved in the strategic side of your business and work closely with the product management team.

“You need to collaborate with internal teams to answer key questions, such as: What are the customer challenges and pain points? What are the market trends? What's the competitive environment? I can’t stress the importance of working with the product and engineering teams as early as possible.

“Customers also play a critical role in the go-to-market process, especially if you think of your launches in terms of tiers. For example tier one may be the biggest launch your company can do, tier two would be medium, while tier three would be the smallest. If it's a large product launch, you should always have as many as three customers as a reference when you go-to-market with a new product or feature.

“Granted, you may not always have a customer to test your launch, but you should always have some form of third-party validation. This could be an analyst, a reporter who covers your area of expertise, or somebody with the knowledge and authority to speak about the topic with confidence and authority.

“Either way, you need to have validation that’ll help you enhance your go-to-market strategy so you’re not just speaking as a company, but for the product as a whole.

“The last thing is pretty straightforward but if it is a big launch, manage it like a project. Use a go-to-market bill of materials, assign owners for different tactics, pull in cross-functionally folks across the team, use a structure like RACI, which is who's responsible, who has authority, who's consulted, who's informed. Also, assign timelines to projects and build out a roadmap ahead of your launch.

“Essentially, you’re managing this burn-down sheet of all the things you need to do. Again, this ties back to some of the process work. But if you do some of those formulaic things ahead of a go-to-market launch, it will help you to be successful.”

How to develop an existing GTM strategy

Q: What advice would you give product marketers to help them develop an existing go-to-market strategy?

A: “Creating a process is essential when you’re creating a go-to-market strategy. Product marketing can often feel chaotic, but if you can create a GTM process, this’ll alleviate a ton of headaches down the road.

“I mentioned earlier a go-to-market bomb or bill of materials. That's one thing that helps to focus the GTM strategy: What are the different tactics? Who are the different owners? What are the different pieces of content and channels? All these different things, line by line in an organized GTM bomb, that you can create that essentially helps you have developed that process.

“These processes should be repeatable, help PMM communicate with the rest of the organization, and  set expectations in terms of what to expect from a go-to-market strategy.”

Go-to-market strategy challenges and how to overcome them

Q: What challenges have you previously faced when putting together a go-to-market strategy or working on a product launch? And more importantly, how did you overcome these obstacles to eventually achieve your desired goal?

A: “Working as a product marketing person, I think you're always in a little bit of a state of chaos. There are always new products, always new features, always new campaigns, new content, things that need to be cooking. But one of the challenges I think, that I've run into a lot, I'm sure other PMMs have, is just not having enough time.

“In the tech space, the pace of innovation is so fast, and we're constantly trying to come out with new features and new capabilities to meet users’ demands.

“There are another set of challenges that I could go into but with regards to not having enough time, because this one is so common, I think, for folks that run into this often, again, getting back to my earlier point, try and work as early as you can with the product and engineering team.

“But beyond that, let's say you have 30 days to go launch a major project or product that you just got told about. The number one thing is to stay focused, don't panic, but see if you can create an MVP, a minimum viable product, if you will, for this launch.

“Ask yourself: What are the must-haves? What are the things that you can trim to do post-launch? Because if you look at a launch list of all the things that you need to do for a launch, some things can be pushed, and other things are absolute must-haves for a go-to-market launch.

“So I would say that's one of the ways that I've been able to overcome the challenge of not having enough time. I’ve told myself:, "Okay, we have this long list of things that we need to do. Let's organize this by what's must-have, what's nice to have, and what can be pushed to post-launch".

“All of a sudden, you start finding all these things that you could go "Okay, we don't have to have that in 30 days", or whatever the short timeline is. So that's been super helpful.”

Advice for overcoming common mistakes

Q: Everyone needs to make mistakes to learn and develop. What are some of the common mistakes that you've seen product marketers make when putting together a strategy? And what advice would you give product marketers to help them avoid the same pitfalls?”

A: “I think one of the easiest traps to fall into as a product marketer, and I've fallen into this trap myself, is where your product, feature, brand, or company becomes the hero of your product launch’s narrative instead of the user or the customer.

“It’s a common pitfall where you see PMMs launching new products or features, and starting the story with, "here's a new feature and here are all the capabilities" or "here's what makes this feature cool". would say instead flip that.

“Instead of placing an emphasis on the product or company, go user in, and answer questions such as: what are the challenges that your user faces? What are their aspirations? What are their goals? Make the customer the hero of the story.  Who is that person? What are their goals? What do they want to achieve? How are they growing their business?

“This makes your narrative much stronger and more compelling. That's just one of the common pitfalls I've seen with PMMs, and it's easy to fall into because as a PMM, we are product marketing people. We're focused on the product, we buy into the story of the product, and we know everything about the product.

“We sometimes assume that our users already know all the background of this product and the story and the features behind it. But I think there's some education you have to do there in pulling your user back to the middle of the story, I think it's super important.”

Want to know more?

Get the most out of your go-to-market process by taking our Go-To-Market Masters: Certification course.

Taught by leading expert Yoni Solomon, Chief Marketing Officer at Uptime.com, you will learn everything there is to know about developing your go-to-market strategy to be the best product marketer you can be.

By the end of this course you’ll be able to:

🚀 Grasp a proven product launch formula that’s equal parts comprehensive, repeatable, creative, and collaborative.

🧠 Gain the expertise and know-how to build and tailor an ideal product blueprint of your own.

🛠 Equip yourself with templates to facilitate a seamless GTM process.

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